A marriage others said ‘would never work’ still going 42 years later

Amy Thompson on a trip on Amtrak's Acela to New York City in 2001:
Dec. 15, 2021 makes 42 years of marriage for Amy and I -- a union that many felt could not last for more than a year or two.

Forty-two years ago, Amy Lee Seiber joined me in the living room of the home of The Rev. Larry Jackman as he married us with their two children, plus their pets served as witnesses. It would be a second marriage for both of us, and one that many of our friends said had no chance of lasting.

Both of us had said many times that we have no desire of marrying again. I had been single for seven years, and she had divorced a couple of years before our marriage. During my single time in Alton, Illinois, I had developed a reputation as a womanizer who considered a long weekend as enough of a relationship.

Her mother, who lived in another town in another county, had heard stories she didn’t like about me and asked Amy: “Do you know what you are doing?”

“I love him,” she told her mother. “He makes me laugh. Besides, he has a great butt.”

Amy had doubts when we first met at a party in the Tower Lake Apartments area of Southern Illinois University two years earlier. She didn’t care for the woman who brought me to the party, another student, and felt that “if that is the type of woman he prefers, then he’s the kind of man I want nothing to do with.”

To make matters worse, I had reviewed a stage show at SIUE, where she, as a drama major, had a role, and she felt my analysis was too critical for the wrong reasons. Fate, however, has its own agenda.

In 1977, the Alton Little Theater drama troupe staged a summer benefit show. It was a melodrama, and they brought in Amy, who was the resident heroine on the Goldenrod Showboat on the Mississippi Riverfront in St. Louis, to be the professional anchor of the cast, and I was asked to be the villain because of my flamboyant, and controversial, columns for the paper where I worked as a newspaperman, photographer, and columnist.

Amy as the heroine in the melodrama where we got together. Yes, that was her future husband in the lower left photo. It was the first time the villain won over the heroine in a melodrama.

She was cool towards me until one night after rehearsal when her car would not start, and I offered to take her home. We stopped at a popular neighborhood bar and spent more than three hours talking and getting to know each other and something sparked between us, and we were dating by the show’s end.

Two years later, we married. Some had a “pool” going on how long the union might last. No one bet we would be together longer than a couple of years.

We left Alton in 1981, so I could become press secretary to Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois in his office in Washington, followed by a term as senior communications director to Rep. Manual Lujan of New Mexico, then chief of staff for Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana and, finally, a return to Lujan as his Special Assistant to the Ranking Member of the House, Science and Technology Committee. Amy continued to work as an actress and director of stage plays, most on the road, and spent time in New York City on projects, including a highly-praised tribute to the late legendary acting mentor Lee Strasberg, where she worked with Al Pacino to develop and produce the event at Lincoln Center.

Amy on a camel ride in Israel.

She took a break from acting and directing to stay home and became a buyer for The May Company’s offices in Washington, while I became Vice President of Political Programs for The National Association of Realtors. We lived well and traveled a lot, but working in politics became something I could only do if I was drinking. She was considering leaving me in 1994 because of my alcoholism but helped stage an “intervention” that got my attention. I attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous on June 6, 1994, and haven’t had a drink since.

I also returned to journalism as a contract photojournalist and writer for wire services, newspapers, magazines and online media outlets. My work has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and other publications along with video work for CNN and MSNBC. I covered the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with other hot spots around the world.

Amy, hobbled by Epstein-Barr Syndrome, cut back on her schedule but became a juror at “mock trials” staged by DC-area law firms and helped with analysis of jurors and witnesses. Unfortunately, time on the road had me traveling as much as 300 days a year a lot, including one year when I was in another part of the country or the world 352 days out of 365.

In 2003, she asked me to now accept another assignment to cover fighting in Iraq. “I have a bad feeling about you going back over there,” she said. I learned long ago to trust her “bad feelings” and I turned down the assignment. A photojournalist who replaced me died there. We have no way to know if I would have been at the same place at the same time, but it was also considered as a warning to slow down.

In 2003, we came to Floyd County, where I spent my high school years, to shoot a documentary on the Friday Night Jamboree. After completing it, we decided it was time to leave our home of 23 years in Arlington and bought our current house on Dec. 1, 2004. In 2005, The Floyd Press asked me to shoot photos of high school sporting events and cover Circuit Court and meetings of the Board of Supervisors.

So much for slowing down, but Amy and I can celebrate 42 years together as man and wife. Not bad for a couple that many predicted would not last for more than two years together.

Whatever happened to the money in the “pool” that bet against us?

© 2004-2021 Blue Ridge Muse

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