As told to Frances Murphy (Toni) Draper
He was a widower of two years who had been married for 70 years. He was a devoted caregiver for his late wife for more than 12 years.
She was a widow of 17 years who had been married for 39 years. She was fiercely independent, happy and led a fulfilling life as an art consultant, writer and competitive swimmer.
She believed she never wanted to be married again.
After George Johnson complained to his granddaughter that he was lonely and wanted a companion, all changed. When his granddaughter asked a mutual friend to recommend an appropriate woman for her grandfather, the friend responded, “Do you know Madeline Murphy Rabb?”
In fact, Johnson’s granddaughter was familiar with Rabb because she knew Rabb’s son. “I’ll ask my grandfather if he would like to meet her,” she responded. When she told her grandfather the name, he exclaimed, “Madeline Murphy Rabb! I’ve known her for more than 50 years! Get me her phone number!” After badgering his granddaughter to give him the number and waiting impatiently for three hours, he Googled her.
“Madeline Rabb, this is George E Johnson. Are you looking for a companion like I am?”
Though she doesn’t remember what she said, Rabb was charmed and disarmed by the deep baritone voice of a confident, secure man who did not play games, who was being totally transparent. He immediately invited her to dinner at his home in a condo directly across the park from hers.
Three days later, they reconnected over a lovely dinner. They talked for three hours straight like dear old friends. It was easy, familiar…authentic, and natural. She realized she was with a man who was not intimidated or threatened by her standing or accomplishments. They had common values-love of family, spiritual grounding, philanthropy, politics, food, travel and the arts.
Johnson believes their meeting was divinely ordained. He knew within 30 days he didn’t want a girlfriend, and he wanted to marry her. But she had to be persuaded. He was relentless in his pursuit of her. And without knowing it, she fell in love with him. Then she realized that love like this is precious and rare at their ages. And they had to grab the moment. They decided to marry without fanfare in a small ceremony on March 30th.
They hope the love they found will be an inspiration to other mature adults like them.
Madeline Murphy Rabb
A native Baltimorean, Rabb is the daughter of the late Judge William and Mrs. Madeline Murphy; and the sister of Attorney William “Billy” Murphy, Jr., Laura Murphy, Houston Murphy, and the late Arthur Murphy. Rabb has been active in the art world for more than 50 years as a painter and printmaker, arts administrator, jewelry designer, collector, curatorial activist and writer. She has curated numerous important African American art collections, including Ariel Capital Management and Brown Capital Management. Rabb has lent work from her extensive African American art collection to national and international museums and conducted private tours of her art collection. She has served on the boards of Columbia College Chicago, the DuSable Museum of African American Art, the Hyde Park Art Center, and the Woman’s Board of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is completing her memoir, “Curating a Life.”
George Ellis Johnson, Sr.
Johnson is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Johnson Products Company, an international cosmetics empire that was headquartered in Chicago, Ill. for 44 years. The company created iconic products such as Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen. Johnson Products established Soul Train on national TV in 1971, and it was the first African American-owned company to be listed on the American Stock Exchange in 1971. During his career, Johnson has received numerous honors for the contributions of the George E. Johnson Foundation and the George E. Johnson Educational Fund. He served on the boards of the Chicago Urban League, Commonwealth Edison, The Lyric Opera, Northwestern University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Operation Push. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from nine universities.
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