Rodger and Mary Heglar
One was a quiet scholar; the other was a feisty “folk-singing, guitar-playing, beer-slinging” type of gal. At the beginning of their relationship, some said they wouldn’t last six months because of their differences. But they had one underlying foundation that was solid as a rock: love.
On Valentine’s Day this year, Rodger and Mary Heglar will celebrate their 53rd anniversary together, defying the odds their fellow graduate student colleagues gambled against them — and by quite a margin.
The duo met at the University of Michigan in 1959.
“She snuck up on me,” Rodger said. “I hadn’t left Seattle for a whole year yet, and bam! I was married.”
Mary, an undergraduate journalism major and anthropology minor, and Rodger, who was working on his anthropology doctorate at the time, frequented the same lounge on campus where they met.
“I walked in and there he was. He was studying for his doctorate, and he hung out in the lounge,” said Mary. “Pretty soon, I started hanging out in the lounge.”
After getting married on an icy, cold Valentine’s Day by the county court judge in Ann Arbor, the duo finished up school, took their honeymoon in August, and began their lives together — eventually landing at San Francisco State University.
“Rodger was one of the pioneers of forensic anthropology. We were connected to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office, so he would teach in the daytime, and at nighttime, he’d go out on these homicide cases,” Mary said. “When we came down here [to San Diego] in ’88, he was connected here to the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office for years. He still gets cold cases.”
Mary, too, was a pioneer in her own right as one of only two female reporters at the time to cover Formula One racing — even publishing a book, “The Grand Prix Champions.”
“It worked out very well, thanks to Rodger,” she said. “Talk about teamwork — he made sure our daughter got to school and did all the house stuff when I was off with these people.”
More than 23 years ago, the couple retired — White Sands in La Jolla beckoned them in from the minute they walked through the door — and both remain active on the Residents’ Association, where they have each served terms as president and vice president.
Rodger spends his time capturing ever-changing scenes around La Jolla with the tip of his paintbrush, working on plein-air creations. He also teaches art classes to residents and small private parties. Mary, meanwhile, enjoys watching sports like football, basketball and attending events like the Festival of Sail.
The qualities Rodger and Mary saw in each other more than 50 years ago remain alive and still growing today.
“It was her openness and her intelligence,” said Rodger, turning to his wife. “I thought, ‘This is one sharp person.’ Still are. Always will be. Very well read, very educated. Realistic. There didn’t seem to be anyone quite like you amongst everyone I knew.”
“It’s not an easy thing to express,” said Mary. “You were well-grounded. I like the way you approached whatever you were doing. You were fully engaged. The sexual attraction was there, of course, but it was the way you approached your work. It was the way you were with your buddies. You just had style.”
Even after 53 years of marriage, the two are still discovering more about each other.
“New things come up all the time,” Mary said. “We don’t stagnate. We are always pushing the envelope, so we always learn about each other.”
As for what advice they can offer to newlyweds?
“Learn to communicate. Don’t let things build up or nag at you. Talk things out and figure out your priorities — what’s really important. So the toothpaste is squeezed from the bottom and you do it from the top — how important is that?” Mary said. “Communication is a priority.”
“Even in our written marriage vows, it said there would be space between us, but respect for each other,” Rodger said. “I can’t imagine any other person, I really can’t. The wrinkles are coming, some things aren’t working quite right, but we’re equal in that, and it’s understood. If something happens to one person, the other person absorbs that, then helps or worries about that without hovering over each other.”
And in the end, all you need is love.
“Of course love is at the base,” said Mary. “Once you’ve got that, it’s a given.”
Yu Xie and Will Collins
Newlyweds Yu Xie, 28, and Will Collins, 30, are certainly open to sound advice, while also forging their own path — a life that will undoubtedly contain many years of good food, fine wine and each other’s company.
The two first met at UC San Francisco as medical students. A year and a half ago, they moved together from San Francisco to start their internal medicine residencies at UC San Diego.
Collins said Xie was the “prettiest girl in the room, and she always seemed to be laughing and smiling,” a trait that couldn’t help but catch his eye.
Xie said she was taken by Collins’ kindness to her and everyone he encountered.
In October last year, the two made their love official by tying the knot in an oceanfront wedding ceremony at the La Jolla Country Club.
“The ceremony was outdoors on the first fairway overlooking the ocean. It was a perfect day — most are in La Jolla — and there were even whale sightings that day,” Xie said.
Collins’ brother-in-law officiated the 120-guest ceremony, and the family dog, Downy, served as the couple’s ring-bearer.
After escaping to the beach at sunset for photos, Xie changed into a traditional Chinese dress for the reception, and the two showed off their dancing skills with a choreographed dance from a YouTube video.
“We think we did a good job because afterward people asked if we took dance lessons,” Xie said.
In addition to chemistry and partnership on the dance floor, Xie and Collins share the same sensibility, as well as an understanding for each other’s demanding work schedules.
“We both enjoy talking to the other. We laugh at the same jokes,” Xie said. “We are doing our residency together, so we can be supportive and understanding of the stressful schedule. We can also share stories with each other about the patients or experiences that really affected us.”
When the two are not working, they enjoy hiking and playing tennis, and both emphasize family as a top priority.
“We try to have dinner with our families regularly and go back to China once a year to see Yu Xie’s family,” said Collins. “I am trying to learn Mandarin so I can talk to Yu Xie’s family when we go back to China.”
Calling each other husband and wife is new and exhilarating, said Xie.
The two intend to keep that excitement up by celebrating their monthly anniversary on the eighth day of each month, trying a new restaurant around town they have never tried before.
The two will spend their first Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife over sushi, a movie and a mini-version of their wedding cake for dessert — and the anticipation of the next 50 years together, built up from a solid foundation of love.