Widowed after long and happy marriages, the two Omahans weren't looking for a relationship. They hadn't even dated.
But then Bruce Lauritzen, chairman of First National Bank of Omaha, attended a dinner party and sat next to Gerry Morrow. In a sense, it's the old story — boy meets girl.
Except in this case, they aren't kids. After nearly two years of dating, they became engaged on Valentine's Day this year. And on Aug. 13, Lauritzen, 68, and Morrow, 64, will marry.
"I basically had decided I never was going to date," Lauritzen said. "I had a wonderful 42-year marriage and felt my life was full."
Morrow, after a 35-year marriage, said her life was full, too, with volunteer work and good friends who often invited her to dinners or movies.
"You're usually the odd man out," she said, "but you don't realize how lonely you are. And so you don't think about it."
Only after someone special comes into your life again, she said, do you realize "how much you had missed and how wonderful it was."
Gerry and Bruce have enjoyed sharing warm and often humorous stories of their accomplished spouses, Tom Morrow and Kimball Lauritzen.
Thomas J. Morrow, an Omaha native and retired president of Time Warner Communications, died of cancer July 12, 2007. He was 60.
Kimball Lauritzen, a Tennessee native, a longtime Omaha volunteer and a recipient of numerous honors, died of cancer on Jan. 14, 2008. She was 63.
Their spouses, families and friends mourned and then soldiered on. Bruce said he often worked until 7 or 7:30 at night, went home to a glass of wine and reading and then went to bed.
But a bank colleague's wife, Barbara Stone, invited him to a May 20, 2009, dinner purchased at a charity auction to benefit Fontenelle Forest. It was at the home of Gerry Morrow, a forest association board member.
Bruce rode the elevator with Barbara and husband Cris to the 11th-floor penthouse at the Paxton condominiums, a renovated 1928 hotel at 14th and Farnam Streets. Gerry greeted everyone; Bruce says he was immediately intrigued by her, and had a great evening.
After a three-day business trip, he told his colleague he would like to call Gerry, but didn't know her last name or how to contact her.
She was hardly sitting home waiting for his call. Although Bruce is a widely known civic leader, Gerry recalls with a smile only that she "knew his name" and that "he worked at a bank."
They went for a walk to the riverfront and the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. That night they saw the Henry Fonda movie "Mister Roberts" at Film Streams.
Over the next two weeks they dated and Bruce introduced her to friends. Before leaving on a long-planned trip to London and Paris, she teased him by saying, "You never know, I might find a Frenchman."
Having just begun to date, Gerry said, she didn't know if she and Bruce were a couple or what the future held. Returning to Omaha, she planned to catch a cab home from the airport.
Instead, she was touched to see Bruce waiting for her. The courtship was on.
Born in Minnesota, Geraldine "Gerry" Dougherty was the oldest of five children of a Chicago & North Western railroad man and his wife. Gerry graduated from high school in Missouri Valley, Iowa, attended college and met Tom Morrow when both worked for Northwestern Bell.
A graduate of Omaha Creighton Prep and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Tom rose in the industry and helped established business in such places as Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and Hungary.
The Morrow family, including sons Christopher and Mark, moved around, including Omaha, Denver and Stamford, Conn. Gerry enjoyed taking trains to Grand Central Terminal and seeing Broadway shows.
Upon Tom's retirement in 1997, the couple moved to a lake home in northern Minnesota. His cancer was diagnosed in 2006, and they moved back to Omaha.
Bruce Lauritzen's ancestors date to the 1854 founding of Omaha. The 154-year-old First National, now in its sixth generation of family involvement, is the largest privately held bank in the nation. The 44-story First National Tower at 16th and Dodge Streets, which opened in 2002, is the tallest building between Chicago and Denver.
Bruce graduated from Princeton University and met his wife on a blind date. They raised three children — Margaret Dodge, Blair Gogel and Clark Lauritzen.
For the family's civic contributions, Bruce was named the 2001 king of Ak-Sar-Ben by the Omaha philanthropic group of that name. Kimball, among many other honors, received the Nebraska Medical Center's 2004 "Star of Courage" award.
Omaha's botanical center, where she was active and where the Garden of Memories is dedicated to her, is named for the family — Lauritzen Gardens.
The Aug. 13 wedding of Bruce Lauritzen and Gerry Morrow will take place at the downtown Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. (Its cornerstone was laid in 1880 by Bishop Robert Clarkson, another of Bruce's ancestors.) Co-officiating will be the Very Rev. Thomas Hurley, dean of the cathedral, and the Rev. John Schlegel, recently retired president of Creighton University.
Gerry's two sons and Bruce's son and daughters will be in the wedding party. The combined 10 grandchildren will have roles, too. "Family," Gerry said, "is No. 1 in our lives."
The couple will remain vitally involved in the community. Gerry, who once worked on Republican campaigns, switched her registration to independent and voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but said she is pleased with neither the president nor Congress.
Bruce, a Republican, said last week that the protracted debate in Washington, D.C., over the debt ceiling is embarrassing. "People are not acting like adults and getting this compromised. It's just a shame."
The couple have found much in common, including her interest in Fontenelle Forest and his in Lauritzen Gardens. Quipped Gerry: "He saves the flowers, I save the trees."
Now they move forward as a couple with a new life together while honoring their past.
"We've just been so blessed," Gerry said. "It's not like we're starting over. But we have a wonderful past behind us, and we can share that with others."
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