2007: The Summer of Love
- Sam Bennett
- Lake Oswego Review - News
Tom and Lita Grigg fall in love again after 46 years
For Tom and Lita Grigg, this is the Summer of Love.
A time to reminisce, to look forward and, above all, to celebrate fate and a little luck.
After a long break, the high school sweethearts are together again.
'People say you never forget your first love and I never did,' said Lita. 'Forty-six years have gone by, but the moment we re-connected again it's as if it was yesterday.'
Last weekend, the couple gathered with dozens of their best friends for boat rides on Oswego Lake, soirees at lake-side homes and dinner and drinks at Lake House Restaurant.
The couple returned to Lake Oswego - where it all began - to retire and live the rest of their fairy tale romance.
They married just three months ago in a pastoral setting in Southern California.
But their romance bloomed along the shores of Oswego Lake.
Lita Schiel met Tom Grigg when she was a sophomore and he was a junior at Lake Oswego High School.
He was captain and center of the football team and she was a cheerleader.
Their best memories revolve around life on the lake. As a member of the Lake Oswego Ski Club, Lita practiced and performed water-skiing tricks on the lake and Willamette River near George Rogers Park.
Tom would come to watch Lita perform as part of the Ski Follies.
'Romance was in full bloom,' Lita said.
Tom was no slouch on water skis, and was known to go sideways up the water-ski ramp near Robinson's Point on the south side of the lake.
For those fleeting years, love was in the air and on the water, as both had parents with homes on the lake.
'Tom would come over in his boat, 'Mom's Worry,' and we would spend a lot of time skiing,' Lita said. 'It was really an innocent time and a lot of fun for us.'
But when Tom graduated, 'We went our different ways' and lost touch, he said. He went off to college at Pacific University and Lita to Oregon State.
In 1966, she became Miss Lake Oswego and then Miss Oregon, and appeared as one of four Miss America contestants on the 'Johnny Carson Show.' Lita became a flight attendant, got married and went on to raise three children.
Meanwhile, Tom also got married, worked as a football coach and manufactured fishing rods and reels for his father's Lake Oswego company W.W. Grigg, selling them to chain stores. He married and had four children.
Tom's wife died three years ago, and Lita divorced 18 years ago.
For those years, Lita said she was 'OK with being single,' and described herself as independent and adventurous. After raising her children, she went back to being a flight attendant and traveled the world. For the last 10 years, she has been with Delta.
In their wildest imagination, neither thought they would be re-united.
Everything changed with a simple twist of fate.
Tom's best friend had a chance meeting with Lita's best friend near the clubhouse at the Black Butte Ranch golf course last July.
That meeting led to Tom e-mailing Lita.
'My heart skipped a beat when I saw his e-mail,' she said.
'When I heard Lita was out there and still available, it sent chills through me,' he said.
They began speaking on the phone, and soon Lita sent Tom an invitation to meet her at a friend's 40th wedding anniversary party in Sacramento in November.
'I walked through the door and saw the smile on her face and it was like it was yesterday,' Tom said. 'It didn't take long before we had the same feelings we had years and years ago. I knew she was the girl I wanted to be with.'
Although she had been independent for many years, Lita said Tom wore down any resistance she had left after their first meeting.
In April, they planned to spend a week together at the ranch estate of Hollywood actor John Forsythe in Santa Ynez, Calif., near Santa Barbara. Lita's close friend, Nicole Forsythe, encouraged the vacation and schemed to have a surprise wedding.
'She said, 'You're getting married and we're going to do this now,'' Lita was told once she reached the Forsythe estate.
Tom, who was on-board with the idea, prodded Lita by saying 'Time's a wastin.'' Also attending the wedding was Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV, and Ed Ames, who was a singer and actor on the 'Daniel Boone' show.
The couple's next big decision was where to live: Santa Monica, Seattle or Lake Oswego.
Tom, who has been retired for two years, lives in the Lake Grove area. Lita, who will retire in a year, agreed that they should buy a home in Lake Oswego. They're house-hunting in First Addition.
Last Thursday, the Griggs and nine close friends from Lake Oswego High School took a ride down memory lane, as they toured the lake for the first time in decades.
'Now, this is where Tom and I made out,' laughed Lita, as the boat rounded a bend and entered a shady cove near her former home on 112 North Shore Circle. 'We would come to this cove and kiss.'
Like a tour director, Lita pointed out memorable spots: The dock where Martha Dent Schollander, the mother of Don Schollander (the Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer) taught Lita's water ballet team; the home which actor Yul Brynner often visited and used as a launching point for water skiing; and the area where, one year, the whole Fourth of July fireworks show exploded in 30 seconds.
Men told fish stories: Pointing out the island where the lake's 'sea serpent' (a nine-foot sturgeon) was displayed after being caught and later buried. Tom recalled catching the largest black bass in state records.
It was the early 1960s, the golden era for skiing on the lake: When Chris-Craft boats ruled and skiers were allowed to make dock starts.
Tom and Lita would ski the shoreline, taking to the water in the morning when the lake was smooth as glass. It was also a time when lake-front homes went for $25,000 and Halvorson Island sold for $150,000.
Drawing a sip from a glass of champagne during the lake tour, Lita said quietly 'It's been a lot of years since I've seen the lake. It's amazing what a sunset, a boat and young love … ' her voice trailed off. 'Yes, we were in love.'
Also on the boat were Suzanne Carson Maust, another cheerleader from Lita's class and the friend who ran into Tom's friend Rodger Dwight at Black Butte Ranch.
'It's too beautiful,' Maust said. 'You guys really are a fairy tale.'
'I have such beautiful memories of Tom,' said Lita. 'We just knew we were in love. That's all I remember from my childhood.'