Couples across campus: Barbara & Fred

James Vaughn

A brown wood-carved cuckoo clock hung on the wall in Barbara Kalvelage’s office.

She asked her husband Fred Kalvelage to take a look at it because it seemed to have lost some time.

“He’s tall so he can fix it,” Barbara joked as Fred attempted to change the settings by moving the pinecones that hung from the clock up and down.

She said she would have to stand on a step stool to fix it.

The couple has a history with clocks. While they were dating, Fred bought Barbara a “special clock.” It hangs on the wall in their house and every time it chimes, whoever hears it has to go find and give the other a kiss, she said.

“Even if we’re mad at each other, we call a truce and we kiss,” she said.

Barbara has been a biology instructor at USI for 14 years while Fred has been a staff architect and construction manager at the university for 12 years.

“He came here because I was here,” Barbara said. “I drew him in.”

Fred lived in Omaha, Neb., and Barbara lived in Evansville when they separately decided to take a course at Georgia Tech University, which is where they met. Their shared love for environmental work brought the two together to work on various projects.

“I knew him as a friend before I knew him as anything else,” Barbara said.

They met on June 18, 1990, in an Atlanta classroom and married on June 18, 1994, in Florida.

“He’s very romantic, so he remembered the day,” Barbara said.

They’ve been on a hot air balloon ride over St. Louis. They’ve been hang-gliding and skydiving. They often go canoeing and kayaking. Up until 2002, Fred was an active pilot.

“She would go places with me,” he said. “We would fly someplace just to eat dinner.”

Barbara said the only obstacles they’ve really had to overcome as a couple was establishing that she leads when they dance, and the fact she can’t cook.

“We often use our kitchen as a dance floor,” she said.

Barbara said Fred is a good cook, though. He cooks roasts and “goes all out” when he prepares breakfast.

She likes that he is an old-school gentleman who finishes her sentences and never loses his temper, she said.

“We had a lot in common,” Barbara said. “In fact, it’s almost as though I’ve known him all my life. He grew up in a family similar to mine, so things that were important to me were also important to him.”

Fred and Barbara are both Christians with strong faith and they both believe in discipline, she said.

“They say when two people get married, they become one,” Barbara said. “But it doesn’t happen when you get married. It happens as you grow together. Every year we get closer.”

Fred said he likes to surprise Barbara on Valentine’s Day. One year, he made her a heart-shaped music box out of rare wood that was red. He made it in a wood shop next to their house.

Barbara has no idea how he kept it hidden, she said.

“It held my jewelry, too,” Barbara said. “It was just beautiful. Everyone who sees it just loves it.”

Fred doesn’t want Barbara to figure out what he has in store for this year just yet.

But it doesn’t take a detective to see they each have their quirks.

Fred said he likes that they’re unique as a couple. They enjoy watching “detective mysteries” and British TV.

“He’s seen ‘Apollo 13’ like 100 times,” Barbara said. “That is just beyond me.”

Barbara often dresses in a clown costume.

“My clown name is Smarty Pants,” she said. “I told him I wanted to be the USI clown because I dress out in red, white and blue. I could go to ball games and stuff.”

They both agree it’s nice having each other on campus.

“If something’s wrong, I’ll just call him up and be like, ‘Fred, can you come help me?’” Barbara said.

Fred will retire at the end of the spring semester. Barbara said she doesn’t know what she’s going to do then because she doesn’t intend on retiring until she can no longer teach.