It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1968, and a blizzard raged outside the terminals of O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
The storm stranded a group of college students returning to Purdue University.
Two students in that group didn't know it, but they were about to get a chance to meet.
As it turned out, they didn't connect that time.
But they would get a second chance.
John Cooke was a 19-year-old sophomore from Omaha. He was studying business management at Purdue so he could return home to run his family's 125-year-old business, J.P. Cooke Co.
Nancy lived in New Jersey and was an 18-year-old Purdue freshman.
As the blizzard blew, the group of students figured they were stuck for the night at the airport. All flights out of Chicago were canceled.
Cooke had an idea. He called a limousine service in the Yellow Pages. He found a driver who would take them that night to Purdue's campus in West Lafayette, Ind., for $180.
Eight students chipped in about $22 each and they set out on the road. None of them knew each other.
Cooke sat in the front seat to keep the driver awake.
Nancy sat in the back.
John and Nancy never talked on the drive. When the limo arrived at campus, they didn't say a word to each other. Because they were bundled up with hats and coats, they didn't get a good look at each other.
About a year later, John and Nancy were set up on a blind date by friends.
John walked up to the front door of Nancy's sorority house. When Nancy arrived at the door, John knew she was the girl he would marry.
He's not sure why. Maybe it was her pretty white dress or her bright smile.
Neither realized they had taken the limo ride together.
On that first date they enjoyed hot fudge sundaes at Howard Johnson's and played ping-pong at John's fraternity house.
Nancy thought the 6-foot-1-inch John was tall and handsome. She loved his curly blond hair and how he opened doors for her.
At the end of the night John walked Nancy to her sorority house. As they stood on the front porch he wanted to kiss her but felt shy. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
A romance began. After a few months of dating one of them happened to bring up that Thanksgiving weekend blizzard the year before.
As they talked about the storm, they realized they were both on that limo ride from Chicago to West Lafayette.
“Our jaws dropped,” John said. “We couldn't believe it.”
Over the next few years they courted. They caught concerts on campus by the Supremes and other groups. They laughed together watching comedian Jack Benny. They cheered at Purdue Boilermakers football games.
They discovered they had a lot in common, such as knowing the importance of business. John's family ran a business and Nancy's father was a high-level manager with Dupont.
On June 10, 1972, they married. They celebrated their 40th anniversary this month and have four children and five grandchildren.
John thinks God brought them together, and gave them a first chance to meet on that limo ride.
“I was so happy,” John said, “I got a second chance.”
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