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Roommates then, friends till the end

December 08, 2017

The way their lives intertwine today, it’s hard to believe Lucas Dykstra ’16 and Garrett Fales ’16 were complete strangers until move-in day.

“We clicked right away,” says Garrett, “and I feel like we basically did life together all four years.”

They lived together throughout college: three years in Joseph Johnson Residence Hall, then an off-campus house shared with other friends as seniors. But calling those two roommates undersells the connection they formed.

They were pranksters. Hiding a balloon under whipped frosting, the two accomplices rigged a friend’s birthday cake to “explode.” They were also known to induce a bad hair day by refilling a shampoo bottle with chocolate sauce.

Lucas Dykstra and Garrett Fales (Class of 2016)Lucas Dykstra and Garrett Fales (Class of 2016)They were spiritual brothers. A self-described “sheltered private school kid who grew up in the Church,” Lucas initially felt isolated in the college atmosphere. Garrett had turned to God more recently, and they leaned heavily on each other in their respective faith journeys.

They were wingmen. Although Lucas first met his wife, Shannon (Black) Dykstra ’16, through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, he credits Garrett with a big assist.

The “huge ‘bro’ move” came during a planned beach outing, Lucas says, after the nighttime chill had scared off everyone except Shannon and the two roommates: “Naturally, Garrett saw an opportunity and was also ‘too cold’.”

They were counterbalances. Garrett considers himself the “touchy-feely type,” in contrast to Lucas’ rational personality.

“By living with each other,” he says, “we’ve actually evened each other out a bit.”

They were classmates and co-workers. After majoring in environmental science, both men secured their first post-graduation jobs at the McHenry County (Illinois) Conservation District. Lucas still works there as a habitat technician, while Garrett has moved on to MPC Inc., where he’s an environmental health and safety specialist.

They were (and still are) best friends. Their wives have grown close, too — a valuable thing, considering they’re the guys’ permanent roommates.

Their story isn’t unique, of course. Plenty of new students each year enter residence halls for the first time, plunk down boxes of their stuff, and shake hands with a virtual stranger who then becomes a lifelong friend.

A few Carthaginians spanning two campuses and nearly 70 years shared their stories with us.

Plan B gets an ‘A’

As Marilyn tells it, in September 1949 her assigned roommate failed to show up to the third floor of the women’s dormitory. Her parents quickly filled the vacancy.

In the corridor of Denhart Hall on Carthage’s Illinois campus, they ran into some old acquaintances whose daughter was also newly enrolled. By the end of the conversation, the couples agreed their two freshmen should room together.

In the parents’ minds, it was supposed to be a one-year arrangement; after that, the young women would branch out. The daughters had other ideas.

“Carole and I got along so well together, we kept it going for four years,” Marilyn said. “We have been best friends ever since.”

Both are retired after long teaching careers in separate states. Marilyn lives in Lombard, Illinois, several hours west of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Carole’s hometown.

They always shared a wavelength. Marilyn remembers the two of them being equally conservative — not in the political sense, but in their approach to life.

“We knew our patterns so well that we didn’t talk to each other in the morning,” she said.

They served as maid and matron of honor at each other’s weddings. For many years, they made a point to get together semi-annually — often at an Amish-style resort in northern Indiana.

If only every backup plan worked out that well.

Sisterhood at Oaks 6

Cami Christopulos and Chelsea Reuter-Seng (Class of 2016)Cami Christopulos and Chelsea Reuter-Seng (Class of 2016)Where lasting friendships are concerned, early impressions are usually right on the money. They were for Cami and Chelsea.

“I distinctly remember Cami telling me, months after it happened, that she knew we would be friends after she heard me playing the Carly Rae Jepsen song ‘Call Me Maybe’ in our dorm room one of the first days of classes,” says Chelsea.

The bond between Cami and Chelsea grew during an Honors Program trip that first month. They continued to share a room in the Oaks Residential Village through junior year, then an off-campus apartment.

Graduation sent them in opposite directions. Cami, a business analyst for Citi, lives in Round Lake, Illinois. Naturally, when her former roommate got married in 2016, she was part of the wedding party. Chelsea, of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, attends graduate school on a path toward a career as a physician assistant.

Their relationship has never been confined to Kenosha’s city limits or Carthage’s academic calendar.

“When I was going through a tough family situation, Chelsea and her parents opened their hearts and home to me during the summers of 2014 and 2015. I lived with Chelsea year-round those two years, and we worked at the same day camp during the summers,” Cami says. “We bickered like sisters, but we provided support for one another.”

And that sisterhood stems from a chance, last-minute housing assignment.

“We didn’t even know we were going to be roommates until the night before move-in day, because both of our originally selected roommates changed plans at the last minute,” says Chelsea. “We got to know each other better and better, spending many hours on our window sills of Oaks 6 talking about school, life and everything

in between.”

‘Comfortable shoe’ lasts a lifetime

How far does the compatibility of roommates-turned-besties Monika and Carol go? All the way to their rhyming married names: Beyer and Meyer.

“I always get the biggest kick out of that,” Monika says. 

Over their final 2½ years at Carthage, she and Carol shared a room on the fourth floor of Henry Denhart Residence Hall. Similarly equipped with patience and a thirst for knowledge, they meshed from the start, even if their interests didn’t always align.

“I had to have a clean dorm room,” Monika says, “and she would rather go out and watch the football game.”

Sharing a passion for education, the budding teachers shared an apartment between their respective schools in the Chicago suburbs. When her parents opted to return to their native Germany, Monika — an only child — relied on her roommate’s family as surrogates.

Over the years, Carol continued to visit, even as the destination frequently changed. Monika and her late husband, a high-ranking U.S. Army officer, moved 24 times.

She has settled in Tacoma, Washington, near both of her children. Carol lives in Aurora, Illinois, continuing to provide tutoring for ACT/SAT preparation.

Now grandparents, they have a bond that Monika likens to a comfortable shoe. It’s become an annual spring tradition for them to meet up for five days at the Meyers’ vacation home in Phoenix.

“We are each other’s sounding board,” Monika said. “Very seldom do you ever get a friendship where you don’t have to worry about what that person thinks of you.”

Two generations of roomies

In hindsight, it’s amazing how much institutional influence was concentrated in one Illinois dorm room. Eventually reuniting as employees on the Kenosha campus, Alan and Bob ultimately surpassed 60 years of combined service to the College.

Alan worked his way up the administrative ranks to become Carthage’s 20th president, and Bob taught a generation of physics students. They owned houses on the same Racine street.

Although Alan always insisted there was no grand plan behind it all, their sons also became Carthage roommates in 1971. The fraternity brothers lived on a floor reserved for Delta Omega Nu in what’s now Madrigrano Family Residence Hall.

John says he and Ross were guided by similar values. Together, they celebrated milestones, coped with “emotionally jarring” events, and concocted elaborate pranks — like releasing a bunch of monarch butterflies in a friend’s room.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” John says. “Carthage was on a migration route, and they were easy to catch.”

A retired anesthesiologist from Akron, Ohio, John has completed more than two dozen missions to Peru to “treat the poorest of the poor.” Getting one-upped by Ross, a prominent Milwaukee tax attorney who majored in history, thankfully didn’t dissuade him from a medical career.

“I tutored him in chemistry, and he got a better grade than I did,” John says, feigning annoyance. “That was appalling.”

When Bob died on Sept. 29 of this year, it was 9 years to the day of Alan’s death.

The roommate streak stopped after two generations, but both families maintain strong ties to the College.

A double room for three

Scientific research wasn’t their chosen field, yet a sort of experiment in the late 1950s allowed a permanent friendship to blossom among Ann, Shyla, and Florence. 

When Ann, a physical education major, found herself without a roommate for sophomore year on the Illinois campus, the two elementary education majors volunteered to help out their new friend. But a couple of hurdles remained.

Shyla (Gitter) Carbone, Florence (Seiden) Guthrie and Ann (Mullins) Tindall (Class of 1962)Shyla (Gitter) Carbone, Florence (Seiden) Guthrie and Ann (Mullins) Tindall (Class of 1962)“First, we would need more space than a regular two-person room,” recalls Ann. “Plus, the dean was skeptical that three girls could live together without eventually having some conflict.”

The resulting experiment helped to shape the lives of all three women.

“The three of us guaranteed the dean that we would be compatible, and that’s what we were for two years,” Ann explains. “A large parlor just inside the main entrance of Denhart Hall was transformed into a dorm room for us.
Because of the very large space, it became a center for group activities —
and maybe some shenanigans!”

After Florence married graduating senior Bill Guthrie ’61, the other two “downsized” to a regular room on the third floor. Over the decades, the three women helped one another through hard times.

“We were all affected by the death of Shyla’s oldest daughter, and then the cancer diagnosis that eventually took Florence’s life in 1993,” Ann says. “Though separated by miles, we shared each other’s pain.”

Both surviving roommates retired in the 1990s after teaching in Illinois. Ann moved to Largo, Florida.

“Shyla and I now meet every year on my summer trips up north from Florida,” she says, “and we check up on each other with phone calls.

“We are thankful for our Carthage days together and will be best friends forever.”