Discover the captivating tale of love and nostalgia within the walls of Mankato's historic Old Main building. Now transformed into a senior living community managed by The Goodman Group, the memories of its vibrant past still echo within its corridors. 2023 Mankato graduate Kathryn Petzel unveils the heartwarming story of a couple who now reside in the very spot where their love story began.
OLD MAIN LOVE STORY: LIVING WHERE THEY LEARNED
Old Main Village is a senior living community in a section of Mankato where Minnesota State Mankato operated before the migration to the hilltop area. Known affectionately as Old Main, the building was a center of student life where, in 1955, Genevieve S. first took notice of Charles R.
Today, nearly 70 years later, it’s where the couple live.
Genevieve was a sophomore just leaving the Dean of Women’s office when she spotted standing in the hallway a tall, good-looking guy. She thought to herself ‘I think I’d like to know him better.’
Not long after, a mutual friend of the two introduced them in a lab where Genevieve worked across the street from Old Main.
“I believe the lab coat I was wearing at the time may have also caught the eye of Charles,” Genevieve said.
At the lab, they found themselves assigned to sit next to each other in a chemistry course. Genevieve believes the teacher was aware of her interest in Charles in assigning them as lab partners.
They soon found they had much in common. Along with a passion for science, they both had been raised on a farm. They were also members of the Newman Club, a Catholic organization on campus, and started going to meetings together.
They also shared a love to dance.
“I think that was probably the beginning of the spark,” Genevieve said, referring to him asking her out to a dance on one of their earlier dates. “I think that convinced him too, because we really did well dancing together.”
As with most people their age at the time, they frequently went to the Kato Ballroom for live swing music and the Lindy Hop, as well as various juke joints on the edge of town. They also liked to dance the waltz and polka with bands that would roll into town from New Ulm.
“She was a good dance leader if I was having trouble,” Charles said with a chuckle.
Once Charles went to graduate school at the University of Rochester in New York they started corresponding with one another long-distance. During a visit home for Christmas, he proposed to Genevieve while she was sitting on the couch in her apartment on Marsh Street. It had been almost a year since they first started dating.
Upon him finishing his first master’s degree in science for radiation biology, the two married in Minnesota. From there they loaded their belongings into their Chevrolet coupe and headed for the east coast, where they would spend the summer in Long Island while Charles finished his practicum. After moving several times around the east coast, they eventually moved to Florida, where Charles received his Ph.D in Environmental Engineering at the University of Florida in 1967.
Genevieve was a year shy of graduating from Minnesota State Mankato before she moved with Charles. She stayed out of school for several years, raising their seven children, until she eventually decided it was time to finish her education. She would receive a Ph.D in radiological sciences, with an emphasis in math at the University of Florida in 1972.
BRINGING IT BACK HOME
Sitting together in their second-floor apartment at Old Main Village, both can still recall the range of classes they attended in the building where they now live.
Looking out of the same window that was there 67 years ago, Genevieve can still imagine herself giving a presentation for a speech class. This and other feelings of nostalgia happen often while living at Old Main.
Originally, the two intended to age in place at their country home in Elysian, located on the property of the family farm. But after Charles had a few falls and Genevieve did not want to face the winter, she started to investigate senior independent living and scheduling tours.
“As I came into Old Main Village, I was so impressed because I like historic things,” Genevieve said. “Everything seemed so cheerful and there was such a classic elegance to the building. I really appreciated the way they had taken the academic building and turned it into a senior living community.” She particularly liked the wide hallways and how the window boxes made the space feel welcoming.
Though the decision to leave the farm was tough for Charles in 2022, he said that living in Old Main Village is working well for them.
“We have a lot of family around and we’ve got kids, grandkids, and great grandkids in town, so we go out a lot,” said Charles.
Though they don’t have time to utilize all the activities the facility plans for its residents, they are appreciative of the options. They get great care and support from staff, they said, which has allowed them to continue to live a more independent lifestyle.
Overall, though, the biggest perk is being able to vividly stroll through yesteryear.
“The memories," Genevieve said, "are what’s nice for us.”
On behalf of The Goodman Group and Old Main Village, we thank Kathryn Petzel for sharing this story. For more content like this, subscribe to The Goodman Group blog and get inspiring resident stories and valuable senior living resources delivered straight to your inbox.