July 4th Parade Grand Marshals George and Linda Kristo’s love continues after 42 years of marriage
Editor’s note: Linda Kristo was not available for photos or to be interviewed for this story because of medical conditions. Since this story was written and sent to the press, we were saddened to hear Linda passed away. Her obituary can be found at https://youarecurrent.com/dr-linda-l-kristo-june-26-1936-june-21-2012
George and Linda Kristo have been married for 42 years, but their story began in Detroit in 1958.
George had moved from a coal-mining town in Kentucky to Michigan’s largest city after graduating high school in 1956. He moved north to Detroit and joined his older brother, who helped him find a job. After graduating from Michigan State University, Linda came to Detroit to find a job in 1958. The two lived in a boarding house with 22 other people.
“We all got friendly – ate breakfast and dinner together or had a cup of coffee,” George recalled.
Linda moved away when she was offered a job as a teacher. George said he thought that was the last time he’d see Linda, until fate stepped in two years later.
“I was walking down a major avenue in Detroit and saw a car parked in the middle of the street. I thought this was some dumb person who ran out of gas,” he said. “It was Linda waiting for AAA. She ran out of gas.”
The two talked and waited for help, and George asked Linda out for a cup of coffee.
“We went together for a few years before being married,” George said with a smile.
The newlyweds were relocated to Denver as George worked for Blue Cross. They would later move to San Francisco then Toledo, Ohio, for work.
During their marriage, the Kristos went 16 years without a car. George said they wanted to improve their health by walking more and Linda wanted to be more environmentally friendly. The couple walked, rode bicycles or used mass transit to get around.
“It started out for six months and ended up being 16 years,” George said.
While in Toledo, George worked for Blue Cross and taught at the University of Toledo. He said the couple lived three and a half miles from the campus.
“If you left school angry, by the time you got home you weren’t frustrated anymore,” George said of walking home.
After earning a library science degree from Michigan University, Linda wrote a book in 1978 – “What you should know about IRA accounts.” At the age of 42, Linda began working on a doctorate in psychology.
George lost his job as Blue Cross downsized, so the two moved to Indianapolis in February 1988, where George helped run an HMO. After living in the city for two years, they looked to relocate so Linda could open her own practice.
“We drove all over central Indiana and found we liked Noblesville,” George said.
While visiting the Hamilton East Public Library Noblesville branch, fate stepped in again. George went and browsed the book sale as Linda used the restroom.
“The very first book in the very first box was her book,” said George. “Linda said, ‘that’s sign No. 1.’”
Then, as the two were leaving, they were unsure what street they were on when they came to a stoplight.
“It was (Ind.) 32 and Cumberland Road. I grew up in Cumberland, Ky. This is when Linda said we’re moving to Noblesville,” George said.
After moving to the city, Linda began a psychology practice in the Adler Building, and George helped set up doctor practices during the day and assisted Linda at night. George has been heading the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs for the past 18 years.
“We both grew up in small towns and told ourselves we were going to live in big cities. We lived in downtown Detroit, Denver, San Francisco and Toledo. Once we came here, we wanted to settle down in a small town – go back to our roots,” George said.
The Kristos became known in Noblesville for several reasons – the two love to volunteer, Linda had a local newspaper column, they served ice cream and homemade brownies at the Hamilton County Judicial Center during election nights for several years – but if you were looking for the couple, there was always one spot to start: Burger King.
For 10 years, the Kristos ended their days with coffee from Burger King.
“We’d go in and get coffee then sit in the parking lot with the car pointed at (Ind.) 37,” said George. “Ninety percent of her columns were written on napkins in the Burger King parking lot.”
George said that sometimes the two would sit there for three or four hours. With the radio turned off, the two would just sit and talk.
“We could take the winters, they were much better than the summers,” he said, adding that Linda was not a big fan of air conditioning and the bees were annoying during the hotter months. “We never missed more than 10 nights (in that 10-year span).”
Linda saw her last patient in January 2010. A temporary break became permanent because of her memory problems.
“She was going to take a year off and things got progressively worse,” George explained.
For the past three years, the Kristos have been using various methods to improve memory and brain function. George purchased two dictionaries that they would read to each other. As Linda’s ability to read declined, George read her the newspaper and the two would discuss columns and events.
“Linda was a verbal type of person anyways,” he explained. “We don’t own a TV; she likes to talk.”
George said the two now mainly talk about politics and values.
“I try to not discuss anything we know about,” he said. “That would not get her brain to work harder. I want her to think in a different way.”
During that beginning period of Linda’s memory problems, the two spent “hours upon hours upon hours talking to one another.”
“We talked about what we did right and what we would do differently if we did it over,” said George. “What that did was draw us even closer than we ever had been.”
“We’re not going to concentrate on what I don’t have but who I still am,” Linda told George.
On Valentine’s Day, Mayor John Ditslear announced that the Kristos would serve as the grand marshals for the 2012 Noblesville July 4th Parade and Fireworks Festival. However, a side effect to the medications Linda takes is that she eats less and is now down to 78 pounds.
“That was our goal – to have her ready for the parade, but she’s declining,” said George. “It’s a hard disease. You see them failing and she knows she is.”
When George realized that Linda was going to be unable to participate, he began to rethink serving as grand marshal without his wife.
“My first reaction was not to do it when I saw she couldn’t do it. I can’t do it without her,” he said. “I told (city officials) you can find somebody else and they said ‘no, we’re honoring both of you.’”
Linda now stays in a senior living center, which George visits every day.