1973-1978 – The Wheeling, Illinois Years.

Actually, we both believe that it was the hand of God that brought Sandy & me together. In the spring of 1973, after graduating from The University of Iowa, I quickly signed a contract for a high school band director’s position in Chariton, IA – a small school district south of Des Moines – and Sandy – living in Skokie, IL at the time – was finishing a horrible first year of teaching as a choral music director at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL. It turned out that the head of the music department there was nothing short of a verbal abuser, leaving Sandy, who had great references from Northwestern, thrilled when she was offered a new elementary music job in the Wheeling, Illinois School District #21.

By mid-summer of 1973, I had been offered a associate band director job in Wheeling as well, so I graciously got out of my contract in Chariton and signed on to teach band in the Wheeling elementary & jr. high schools beginning that fall. As it turned out, these decisions to take new jobs in the northwest suburbs of Chicago not only changed our job assignments for 1973, but also impacted our entire lives!

Beginning in August of 1973, I was an associate band director at Jack London Jr. High, working alongside another director, and was covering several elementary feeder schools as well. Sandy was a general music teacher at one of those feeder schools, Eugene Field Elementary, located directly across the street from London.

We first met at a music contest in Round Lake, IL in March, 1974. My fellow band director at London, and mutual friend of both of us, Jack Major, introduced us. Sandy was doing piano accompaniment for some of our band students at contest that day, and later that spring, she also accompanied one of my students at our year-end band concert. As I recall, before the evening’s festivities began, I struck up a friendly conversation which included snappy questions like – Where do you live? and What kind of car do you drive?

Great pick up lines, don’t you think?

Well, I found out this great-looking gal lived in Skokie, and that we both drove Chevy Novas – hers was green and mine was yellow. So, I believe my closing line before the concert began was – If you ever move from Skokie to Wheeling, let me know!

Hmm. Gotta work on my lines…

It was not until that fall of 1974, when we ran into each other again when Sandy peeked her head in our band office at London and during the conversation confessed that she had moved to Wheeling over the summer. According to Sandy’s recollection, I replied, “Great – maybe I’ll give you a call!” That night, I got up enough nerve to do just that – asking for a date, and by that weekend we headed for dinner and then we took in the movie, Earthquake. It was the mid-1970’s and those disaster-thriller movies with sound-surround was the real rage. I’m not sure if it was the movie or just being around Sandy, but I felt the earth move under my feet, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, there is a bit of uncertainty at this point in the story. The fact is, I didn’t call Sandy for another date for nearly a month. She obviously thought I was not interested, but that certainly was not the case. I simply can’t defend myself here and don’t know why I delayed, but the good news is that I eventually saw the light and picked up the phone, asking for date #2. After that, things moved along pretty quickly – with dates #3 – #4 – #5, etc. By May, we were we;; on our way toward marriage, making the rounds with our parents – (above – Carpenters tickets in South Bend).

By January 1975, things were moving along much faster and I started attending Sandy’s church in Skokie, IL. I had been attending a Presbyterian church in Wheeling, but there just was no match for my pursuit of this pretty gal! The only problem was that she was attending an Assembly of God church and I had no experience of such things. It seems that a neat campus minister from North Shore Assembly of God visited Northwestern while Sandy was attending there. Both his easy-going personality and his contemporary style of ministry attracted many students on campus to begin attending North Shore in nearby Skokie.

Now, in one fell swoop, Sandy’s Lutheran background and my Presbyterian roots began to find a real home in the midst of this Spirit-filled, yet gently charismatic church community. While the hands raised in worship was a new one on me, and the occasional tongue-speaking was a mystery, I was wooed by the relaxed atmosphere, the loving and caring people, and most of all, the music. I had never heard ‘contemporary Christian music’ before and it was so fun to sing these folk songs to the accompaniment of guitars and hand clapping rather than the traditional pipe organ and chancel choir.

I was hooked. God, enjoyable music, and a good-looking woman who seemed to like me! So on July 12, 1975 – two days after my 24th birthday – Sandy & I were married at North Shore Assembly of God church on Gross Point Road in Skokie, IL. What an unbelievably wonderful day!

Just a little side note here. You know that wedding picture of Sandy and me, where we’re sitting in the back seat of my brother Eric’s Toyota as we were on our way from the church to our reception? You know the one I mean. That goofy shot of the smiley girl and the cool 70’s dude with the photo-gray glasses?

There are not many times in your life when you can remember precisely what you were thinking or feeling when you see yourself in a photo. In this case, however, I do. I recall a depth of feelings that I’d never felt before in my 24 years of life, and in all honesty, don’t recall since. In truth, I believe it was the most overwhelming joy of heart I’ve ever experienced. At that moment of time, I was filled to the brim with a deep joy and an appreciative gladness that God had brought Sandy into my life and that the three of us – God, Sandy and me – were meant to be together as a team for the rest of our lives!

The Unrue family (above) – Mary Holm, Jack & LaVonne, Kristin, S&M, Cletus & Violet Unrue, Janice, LuAnn & David. The Boller family (below) Eric & Marlene Boller, S&M, George & Dixie, Edie Boyer, and John Dill & Francis Hulme.

Another interesting tidbit to throw in here before we leave this wedding theme is Sandy’s little God-whisper, heard back in 1974 when we first met. On that spring day in 1974 when she was riding home on a school bus from that music contest I mentioned earlier, she heard a little voice whispering in her ear, “You’re going to be Mrs. Boller someday!” I find it interesting that both my mom – Dixie (Boyer) Boller – and Sandy experienced that little “voice” upon meeting their future husbands! Suffice to say, both my dad, George Boller, and I are glad for those little nudges from the Lord – encouraging our future spouse to lean in toward the crazy idea of marrying a Hawkeye!

As Sandy and I settled down as a married couple in our nice Oak Creek apartment unit in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, we assumed we’d probably be music teachers for the remainder of our careers. But God had another idea that He started developing in us almost immediately. In 1975, our little Assembly of God church in Skokie, IL was starting to change. The wonderful pastor, Larry Hurtado, who married us, suddenly left the church and was replaced by a very traditional old-school Assembly of God pastor who promptly came in and shut down all the small groups and lay ministries.

For so many of us twenty-somethings who had flocked to the church because of its desire to reach young people, it was now a huge step backward to a church setting none of us could really appreciate. As we tried diligently to work through some of the issues with the church leadership, we thought we were making progress. Then one Sunday in the fall of 1975, the head elder got up in the middle of a Sunday worship service and announced, “We know there are a number of you who are desiring to see some changes here at the church. We truly appreciate your concerns, but the church board has decided that there will be no changes and we’re asking all of you who want those changes to leave the church…right now!”

We were shocked, not only at their decision to ignore our input, but at their strange request that we leave the church immediately. So, yes, it’s true, your Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Marty are indeed troublemakers and along with about 25 others, we were kicked out of North Shore Assembly of God in the fall of 1975!

A new church begins. That’s Sandy & me in the middle of the pic.

Well, by January 1976, most of us who’d been kicked out of church hadn’t really found a suitable new church home. So, a few of the young leaders from Evanston called and said, “It’s official, we’ve decided to start a new church in Evanston called Christ Church of the North Shore.” Our first meeting was held at Kendall College in Evanston (45 minutes from Buffalo Grove) but Sandy and I decided the life we found there was worth the drive, so we were there on that first Sunday and made it our church home until we moved to Iowa in 1987.

Oh, I should also mention that before we got married in 1975, we both had traded in our Chevy Novas. Sandy bought a red 1974 Ford Maverick with a white vinyl top, while I went with a sporty 1975 Buick Skyhawk. I’m guessing it’s this bright orange set of wheels that helped Sandy say yes to my marriage proposal. Whadayathink?

Either way, we ended up selling Sandy’s hot wheels in order to pay for our 10-day honeymoon to California and Washington state – a transaction Sandy, to this day, still has second thoughts about!

Not the honeymoon – but the sale of her nice car!


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Local Happenings, Mount Pleasant News, August 7, 1973, p 3

July 12, 1975, BestOfDate.com


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