THE BLAZIERS HAVE A SPECIAL SPARK
One of McHenry County’s most well-known couples is Rosemary and Bob Blazier. Their names are etched on several buildings, and they have both served tirelessly to demonstrate love for their community. Yet, many people know little about their 73-year romance.
Bob Blazier met Rosemary Riva in 1946 while both were college students at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Bob asked a friend to arrange a meeting, but the encounter ended abruptly because Rosemary was dating someone else. In the fall of his sophomore year, Bob saw Rosemary cross the street heading for a movie. He left his fraternity brothers across the street and re-introduced himself to her. That meetingwent much better. The couple went on their first date on September 9th, and Bob stole a kiss. “He was fast,” laughed Rosemary. After that, she was
The couple had much in common. Both Physical Education majors, they loved music, good food, and good books. Bob gave Rosemary his fraternity pin that first year. “The second summer, I worked hard loading freight train cars and made enough money to purchase a tiny diamond ring,” said Bob. “It was a beautiful ring and I loved it,” gushed Rosemary.
The wedding was in June 1949, one week after their college graduation. It was held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Spring Valley where Rosemary and her parents were members. Employment was the next priority and Rosemary was the link to Bob’s first teaching job in Jacksonville, Illinois. Then known for its very progressive P.E. program, Jacksonville schools had a P.E. teacher for each school.
Once settled in their two-room Jacksonville apartment, Rosemary was recruited by the Illinois School for the Deaf. She quickly learned sign language and did it so well the other teachers complimented her on her ability to communicate. Bob and Rosemary advanced quickly in their careers. Bob taught four years in P.E. and was promoted to Assistant Principal after completing his graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. Bob’s impressive resume was circulated by a search firm as an example of candidates needed for Crystal Lake Public Schools. As a result, he was asked to come to Crystal Lake in 1962 to serve as principal at Lundahl Middle School.
Jacksonville had been home to Rosemary for 13 years. She had her work and her many friends, and she was also quite a talent in competitive golf and bridge. Leaving was difficult. In recruiting Bob to Crystal Lake, the school board offered Rosemary a position as physical education teacher, a career she truly enjoyed. She served as a P.E. teacher until 1968, then became a Girl’s Counselor until her retirement in 1984. Life’s journey is full of unexpected twists, and the Blaziers’ turn at parenting was different than most. In 1965, Bob shared with Rosemary an article he read in the Chicago Daily News about several “unadoptable” children. The couple had earlier filed a request for adoption of an infant, but the story had them thinking about the older children who were left behind. “It was heartbreaking to read,” says Rosemary.
An idea had sparked to life, and it turned to action when Bob was at the Chicago Public Schools Administration Center for
a meeting: while waiting for a colleague, Bob came across the CPS newsletter which featured an ad for adopting a seven-year-old boy who was in the foster system.
“I came home and told Rosemary I felt that we should make the call,” Bob said. They spoke with social worker Laura Epstein, who cut the red tape and made the connection with 7-year-old John. “It was John who interviewed us, and we were hooked,” remembers Rosemary.
John had been in the foster system since he was 18-months old. After two-months of visiting the Blaziers on weekends in their Crystal Lake home, the adoption was finalized on July 1, 1965. “Having been in many foster homes in his short life, John handled his adversity well. He never spoke negatively about the people who may have treated him poorly,” explains Rosemary.
“John was, and is, a great athlete, and a wonderful blessing to us,” said Bob. The family thrived in Crystal Lake. Bob and Rosemary serving on many committees and boards, and giving mtime, talent, and treasure to many organizations. John grew up and married Amy Fantner, his high-school sweetheart.
The young Blaziers have followed the example of John’s parents’ marriage, and are approaching their own 35th wedding anniversary. Over the decades, Bob and Rosemary served the community in many roles. Bob went from school district leadership to hospital administration. He was Vice President of Northern Illinois Medical Center in McHenry, which evolved into Centegra and now is Northwestern Medicine. Rosemary was instrumental in forming the Women’s Cancer Care Complex, now known as the Sage Cancer Center.
In the 1990s, Bob took on the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and led as President for 17 years. He retired from the Chamber in 2008 – but was not ready to fully retire. Home State Bank recruited Bob and he continues to work there. Three years ago, on her birthday, Rosemary suffered a stroke which kept her in the hospital for 100 days. Bob, John, Amy, Blaziers’ granddaughters, and many friends spent countless hours giving Rosemary encouragement and love.
“Recovery and rehabilitation are a slow process that can be frustrating,” Rosemary sighs. Bob, her greatest cheerleader, says “She is a fighter and has great faith. Her physical therapists were happy to have her because she was always smiling, enjoyed the exercises, and never lost her ‘spark’! She can always light up the room.”
Today, Bob and Rosemary count their many blessings: family, friends, community, fun, music and laughter. They share seven decades of life’s journey, and although there are ups and downs, they have kept calm and carried on – a personal mantra for them. Spending time with the Blaziers, talking about life, family, and romance instills renewed faith in long-lasting love. Bob and Rosemary will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this June, continuing the joyful journey they have shared together.
Photograph by Nancy Merkling