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In August 2015, shortly after Margaret Lu Eginton moved into a new house in Iowa City, Iowa, she began frequenting a nearby restaurant named Apres — and became curious about a man she would see sitting at the bar.
“Is he single?” she said she had wondered to herself. “There really aren’t many single men his age in Iowa City.”
Gregory Richard Carmichael, 69, was in fact a widower, and his son was the owner of Apres, which has since closed. As regulars, Mr. Carmichael and Ms. Eginton, 66, would each often come after work and eat alone at the bar, where they struck up what she described as “neighborly” conversation, but nothing more.
“These were not dates, they were not planned, and we never walked in together as a couple,” said Ms. Eginton, who has an adult daughter from her first marriage, which ended in divorce, and is a somatic movement therapist and the owner of a dance studio, Movement for All, in Iowa City. She added: “That’s not to say I didn’t want to date Greg. He was very handsome and extremely smart, and always a gentleman.”
Ms. Eginton, a former stage and screen actress who danced with Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman” and co-starred on Broadway in the Bill Irwin play “Largely New York,” was “brilliant and extremely well-spoken,” Mr. Carmichael said.
“She was also incredibly beautiful, and obviously a woman of many talents,” added Mr. Carmichael, who is a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa, and the chairman of the scientific advisory group for the Global Atmospheric Watch program run by the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
In February 2016, Mr. Carmichael invited Ms. Eginton to a special Valentine’s Day meal that Apres was featuring. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was a date, but he did walk her home.
Although they enjoyed each other’s company, Mr. Carmichael seemed to have a fear of commitment. Unbeknown to Ms. Eginton, in the 11 years since his wife had died, he had only (briefly) dated one other person. He also frequently traveled for work, sometimes as far as China and India.
The two went out on about “one date a year,” Ms. Eginton said, for the next three years: One included seeing “At Eternity’s Gate,” a movie about van Gogh; another time, she accompanied him to a speech he made at the University of Iowa. The sporadic encounters were mostly fine with her, as she was intensely focused on her clients and trying to save money to purchase her current studio space, which she bought in 2018.
The following year, in August, Ms. Eginton threw a party at her studio and invited the whole neighborhood, including Mr. Carmichael. “He danced in a corner and stayed until 1:30 to help me clean up,” she said.
Afterward, Ms. Eginton didn’t hear from Mr. Carmichael, who would often fall out of touch in between their dates over the years. Fed up, she decided she was done talking to him.
In late September, though, they both ended up at Apres. Seeing her there, Mr. Carmichael said, made him realize that “I didn’t want to let this chance of ‘us’ pass.” He walked over to Ms. Eginton’s table and put his hand out on it; she put her hand in his, and finally, he came clean about his fear of dating.
“What if we break up?” he asked her. In reply, she said, “I guess we will just have to avoid each other’s lockers; you know, like high school.”
But a breakup never came. Instead, the two began to spend more time together as they navigated their busy schedules, and later, the pandemic. On Feb. 17, 2021 they became engaged.
A year later, on Feb. 19, they were married at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Iowa City. The Rev. Diana Smith, a Unitarian Universalist minister, officiated before about 200 vaccinated guests. The following day, the newlyweds moved into a new Iowa City home overlooking the Iowa River.
For a man who had once “seemed nervous just driving me home to our shared neighborhood,” as Ms. Eginton put it, it was a big day.
Said Mr. Carmichael, “Step by step I just let myself realize how much I was in love with her and how much I trusted her.”