Eternal Flames

They knew each other from the start at Illinois. Figuring out the future took a little longer

portraits of Pam and Kevin Paradies, then and now Illini Couple Pam and Kevin Paradies return to the Eternal Flame, where they kissed as freshmen. Despite taking an extended “gap year or two” in their relationship, the couple reunited and wed after graduation. Proof that the Flame’s legend—if you kiss there, you will marry—is never wrong. (Images by Mary Timmins; Courtesy of Pamela Paradies)
They knew each other from the start at Illinois. Figuring out the future took a little longer

Their romance began even before school did, at a summer orientation for incoming freshmen. Over the next couple of years, they blossomed together, becoming finance majors, members of rival business fraternities and regulars at C.O. Daniel’s, a vintage campus bar in the heart of campus.

The future seemed to be a clear, straight path for Kevin Paradies, ’94 BUS, and Pam Katsules Paradies, ’94 BUS, now long married with careers in banking, a home in Glenview, Ill., and two kids.

But back in the day, it wasn’t all that clear or straight. As juniors, they took a break from one another, a gap year that turned into two. Breakup notwithstanding, they stayed friends, went to one another’s Greek dances and still hung out at C.O. Daniels (now long gone). On graduation day, their families—well acquainted from happier times—collided before the ceremony, then sat together.

“My parents thought, ‘Okay, this is a little awkward,’” recalls Pam. “Then they saw the two of us walk in and graduate together. They said, ‘Wow! They’re together. We’re all together.’”

That fall, love took root again. Out in the world they found themselves working a couple of blocks apart. Lunches ensued, passion returned and, as Kevin puts it, “The rest is history.”

But. Funny story. Way back in freshman year, the future Mr. and Mrs. Paradies were walking one evening by the English Building. They sat down beneath a lovely tall light on a handsome curved bench with a view of the Quad. Happy words flowed into a warm little peck on the lips.

Only later did Pam find out what she’d done.

“I was a pledge in my sorority and the older girls told me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t sit with a boy on that bench by the forever flame,’” recalls Pam. (It is actually the Eternal Flame, gift of the Class of 1912.) “Because if you do and if you kiss him, you’re gonna get married.

“I broke out in a sweat,” she says. “I was, like, ‘Oh my gosh! I didn’t mean that! I’m only 18!’ Then, when we broke up, I’m, like, ‘See? That story is all fake.’ But here we are.”

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