A Laurier love story

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

50 years ago, George Vasiloff looked across the dining hall and saw Cecilia Selkirk for the very first time. He turned to his friend and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

It was 1964 and Wilfrid Laurier University was known as Waterloo Lutheran University.  Now, after 48 years of marriage, the Vasiloffs sit across from me in Veritas Café, adjacent to the very building George first laid eyes on his future wife.

“It took me a while to get up enough nerve to sit down and talk with her,” George said. “That happened one Saturday afternoon. You and Diane — her roommate — were sitting alone and my roommate and I came in and I said, ‘This is the time.’ So we went over and sat down.”

“Not beside me! I thought he was going after [Diane] — she was beautiful,” Cecilia laughed.

The next time George worked up the courage to speak to her, they were in Willison Hall, which at that time housed the library.

“She was over studying — probably the only time,” he joked. “I saw her there and went over and said hello to her.”

“I thought maybe we’d go for a little walk, but then he was gone!” Cecilia laughed.

With beaming smiles on their faces, the couple recounted their love story. Cecilia was an English student living in the women’s residence where, according to George, there were “very firm restrictions.”

“They had the vestibule, it was called the fishbowl, and that’s when you were saying good night to your girlfriend, that’s where it would take place,” he continued.

When asked if boys were allowed into the residence, he quickly responded, “Oh, god no!”

George was studying geography and lived in Willison Hall. When Cecilia’s don noticed she had been spending a lot of time with him, she suggested she focus on her studies instead.

“She saw Cec wasn’t doing very well and she also noticed we had been walking together a lot on campus … she suggested that perhaps she should lay off her boyfriend and study a little bit,” George explained.

Looking at his wife he said, “You took her advice with a grain of salt. Your marks did improve a bit. We saw probably more of each other after that.”

The couple frequently joked about Cecilia’s studies while at Laurier, noting that she wasn’t the best student.

“Back then, Lutheran had a reputation of being easy to get into but tough to graduate from. And it’s true. Back then — I don’t know about now — but back then the standards were really high,” George said.

George often found himself helping Cecilia study when she felt like giving up. As they told one of their most treasured stories they could barely contain their laughter.

“We took the economics course together — I loved that class. I was carrying a B+ average and Cec was barely getting 50,” George recounted. “Come the final exam, I had everything just nailed. Cec never cracked her book.”

Cecilia continued, “I said, ‘I’m not gonna do this.’”

“So the final exam comes up and she says, ‘I don’t know a darnn thing.’ And she didn’t,” George said.

He said he was quite close with the professor and had seen what was potentially going to be on the exam, so he told Cecilia he would help her study. The night before the exam they stayed up and crammed and he showed up to the exam feeling confident.

“I said to Cec, ‘What did you think?’ And she said, ‘I didn’t know what I was doing in there … I did my best.’”

The exam period ended and the two went to their respective homes – George to Niagara Falls and Cecilia to Kenora. When their final marks came in the mail they called each other, anxious to hear how the other did.

George asked her what she got in economics, “She said a B. I said, ‘B?’ She said ‘What’d you get?’ And I said, ‘D!’”
Smiling, George continued, “Mathematically it would have been impossible for me to get a D and for her to get a B.” Because he was close with the professor he thought he was playing a practical joke with them.

“I said, ‘I’m going to complain; I’m going back, I know I got at least a B.’ She said, ‘If you go, that’s it. I’m not going to marry you.’ ”

Cecilia laughed as George said, “To this day she thinks she got a B in economics and I know I didn’t get a D in economics. Do you hear a little rancor in my voice?”

So George accepted his mark and the two did eventually get married in 1966. On the day of their wedding, George started getting anxious at the thought of being married while still in school.

“I started getting cold feet. I said, ‘What the heck am I doing? I don’t have any money, I don’t have a job and still going to school. What business have I got taking on the responsibility of being a married man?’ Jeeze, I started to sweat,” he said.

“My friend said to my dad, ‘Quick, get him a shot of whiskey.’ So he gave me a shot of whiskey and that calmed me down. I think I had two shots. The rest is history.”

The two moved into a one-bedroom apartment on Hazel Street, which often housed friends staying over for dances and Homecoming. The next year Cecilia graduated and George followed the year after that. They eventually moved around to Milverton and Toronto and eventually settled in Mississauga.

George’s memory of their time at WLU is so strong he could tell me the names of professors he had and what they learned in class.

“I remember everything,” he smiled.

“He does, honestly,” Cecilia continued.

However, Cecilia is beginning to lose her memory. She suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s and George often had to help her remember during our time together.

They returned to campus on Sept. 4 of 2014, 50 years after meeting here, to reminisce and reflect on the time they spent here together.

In past years to celebrate their anniversary, which was the day before their visit here, the two have travelled to California and New York City. However, this year they decided to keep it simple.

“Cec’s favourite eating place is McDonalds,” George said. “So we went to McDonald’s and each had a Big Mac and ice cream cones after.”

After 48 years of marriage and despite Cecilia’s condition, the couple still looked at each other as if they were newlyweds all throughout our time together.

They laughed, smiled and joked as they told me their love story — all because George noticed the beautiful girl across the dining hall and worked up the courage to say “hello”.

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