Barney Lykins saw his future wife walk by him at an Ohio church when they were only teens.
He whispered to his two buddies that he was going to marry her some day.
His prediction came true six years later after a stint in the military.
When they met, Carolyn was 14, and Barney was 17.
“When we started dating, his sisters would go with us because my mother didn’t want me to be alone with him,” Carolyn says. “We’d go to the Dairy Queen after church, and that’s where he gave me his class ring. I was just starting high school.”
Love through the ages
After he graduated from high school, Barney couldn’t find a job, so he signed up for the military. He left to go overseas to Japan for two and a half years.
“His mother wanted us to get married, but I was only 15 at the time,” Carolyn says. “My family wanted me to graduate from high school first, and so did I.”
After being gone so long from his dream girl, Barney wrote Carolyn a “Dear Jane” letter, breaking up with her and telling her not to write him any more letters.
“He was lonesome,” Carolyn says. “He told me to date other guys, but I never found anyone quite like him.”
Out of the blue, Carolyn made a call to Barney’s parents in November 1960 to see how they were doing. Barney answered the phone. He had returned home two days before. They were engaged by the spring of 1961 and married May 12, 1962.
“We didn’t have any money when we got married,” Carolyn says. “We went to Kentucky for our honeymoon, but we couldn’t do anything.”
Barney doesn’t even remember proposing to Carolyn. But he’s glad she agreed to marry him.
“We renewed our vows after 50 years last spring,” he says. “It was just something I wanted to do, and we had quite a party afterwards. Most of the people there were the people that we spend a lot of time with at church.”
The Lykins, who live in Elburn, have been members and volunteers since 2006 at the First Congregational Church in St. Charles.
“Their vow renewal was very emotional for me, especially since I didn’t know [my dad would] make it this far with all his medical problems,” says the Lykins’ daughter, Amanda Lykins-Kanter of Yorkville. “It was really motivating and inspirational for me because it happened three months before my own wedding.”
Getting through the hard times
When the Lykins first got married, Barney worked three jobs. He eventually used his computer training from the military to work at International Harvester — now Navistar — where his daughter works.
Carolyn worked at a finance company until 1965 when their son was born.
But for years, Barney’s job transferred him and his family from Ohio to Indiana then to Illinois.
“We only lived four months in one place and then [were] transferred,” Carolyn says. “I kept dragging the baby furniture all over the place.”
Fifteen years after their first child, the Lykins had their daughter. It wasn’t easy for Carolyn because her son had been diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome. Children with this congenital disease have an intense craving for food and will do almost anything to get it. They also can have other problems along the way.
“He’s really not low functioning, but he can be very manipulative and very stubborn,” Carolyn says. “Families of Prader-Willi children have a huge divorce rate. But I’m just plain stubborn and didn’t want my kids not to be around their dad. They say God won’t give you something you can’t handle ... [I] just wish he wouldn’t have trusted me so much.”
With Barney traveling so much with his job, Carolyn says she felt overwhelmed at times with dealing with a baby by herself and trying to handle a teenage son who would throw tantrums because of his disease. With great consideration, the couple decided to place their son in a group home when he was in his early 20s to let him get the care and expertise he needed.
Their son now lives in a facility north of Lake Geneva that is renowned for helping those with Prader-Willi.
Through the years, Barney has had medical problems. Carolyn believes a lot of it was brought on by the stress of his job. Sometimes, he would be on 13 flights in one week.
Besides suffering a heart attack in 1997 and a collapsed lung in 2003, Barney had a stroke Nov. 15 last year.
“They said it was a full stroke, but I was lucky,” Barney says. “Three of my fingers on my right hand and a little part above my waist are still numb.”
His daughter agrees that he is a very lucky man.
“The day he had the stroke didn’t look very promising,” Lykins-Kanter says. “This is amazing how it all came out.”
She is now carrying her parents’ first grandchild. Watching them through the years as a couple and as parents has taught her a lot about life and love.
“I learned that a parent will do anything for their child,” she says. “And I also learned that if a couple argues, that that is OK. It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. It’s better to get it out instead of letting it fester.” kc