Pam’s and Dave’s yearbook pictures in the ’97-’98 school year—the year they first met (The Witzigs)
Pam’s and Dave’s yearbook pictures in the ’97-’98 school year—the year they first met

The Witzigs

A Storybook Romance

Feb 14, 2023

He was the youngest of five siblings—the self-proclaimed baby of the family. 

She—the oldest of four.

He grew up in Morton, Illinois—a rural town with a population of under 14,000. 

She went to high school in the suburbs of Chicago—graduating in a class of 500. 

He was an athlete, picking up his first basketball mere months after he learned to walk.

She was an artist, dreaming of teaching the subject ever since she was five.

Both found a home for their lifelong passions at Community: he, as a basketball coach, and she, realizing her dream of inspiring young artists.

They started the school year as strangers. 

By January, they were engaged. 

Come July, they were husband and wife.

This summer, Dave and Pam Witzig will celebrate a quarter-century of marriage.

Over the past 25 years, the Witzigs have traveled across the country, the world and through life together

While tales of romance—from “Romeo and Juliet” to the latest gossip of celebrity and student couples alike—often frequent Community’s classrooms, the Witzig’s love story remains largely untold. 

Once Upon a Time

“Hey, do you need help with the copy machine?”

Mr. Dave Witzig and Ms. Pam Osborn met eyes across the room, his first words to the new teacher ringing in the air. 

 “Do I look like I need help?” she thought.

This is how the story of the Witzig’s whirlwind romance begins — the young suitor’s “opening move.”

The twenty-six-year old was subtle in his advances.

After three years of eating lunch in the basketball coach’s office, Dave began eating in the teacher’s lounge, the lone male at a table full of ladies — Pam among them.

Each day, he’d slowly work his way down the table, moving his seat ever closer toward Pam’s.

He was suave. 

Or, at least, he thought.

Pam noticed. Immediately. 

One day, “he was over at the other table,” she said, “then [my] table, then a little bit closer, gradually easing his way toward me.”

Not very smooth, in her eyes. 

Despite Dave’s flirtatious flounder, the twenty-four-year-old felt a connection with him. 

It was September, no, October of 1997. 

Looking back now, it’s hard to remember exactly. 

What’s easy to remember — once Dave made his way down the table and the two young teachers started to casually talk at work — was his effect. 

 “It just felt comfortable,” Pam said. “I felt like I knew him.”

Even though she didn’t, she said, she quickly grew to.

It just felt comfortable, I felt like I knew him.

November 1 — their first date. Their first real date, at least. Sure, they ate lunch together every day, but this was different. This was away from their co-workers — away from Community. 

Realizing that Pam, like himself, was a Christian, Dave invited her to a service at his church. 

There, and during dinner afterwards, the couple began exploring an essential part of that comfortability — their shared faith.

“It was obvious right off the bat that something was different…from all the other dates I’d been on,” Dave said, and from that point on, the couple was practically inseparable.

They saw each other every day — during lunch in the Teacher’s Lounge, dinner after basketball practice, over the weekend on dates. 

Along the way they discovered a second shared love — that of family — and they both decided to introduce each other to their parents as soon as they could.

A few weeks later, Pam was finishing up her dinner before a double date with Dave. 

He’d planned the night: they would grab dinner with one of Dave’s best friends — fellow teacher, Dana Starkey — who had gotten married the year before, and then cheer on the Lady Iron at a post-season volleyball game.

When Dave showed up to pick Pam up, however, she learned that he had forgotten to mention one very important detail: their double-date was actually a triple date — with Dave and Pam, the Starkeys…and Dave’s parents.

While she was caught off guard — and dressed in an Ironman sweatshirt and jeans — she agreed to the change in plans.

That drive to Morton is something Pam, Dave, and the Starkeys remember to this day. 

Even behind the wheel, Dave couldn’t stop talking to Pam — his eyes never seemed to leave hers.

Which meant, they weren’t on the road.

“I had a stick shift car, and [the Starkeys] were in the back,” Dave said, “and I guess I was all over the [road] cause I kept looking at [Pam] and doing stick shift stuff.”

The driving was bad enough, Pam said, that “to this day, Starkey makes fun of [Dave’s] driving.”

Regardless, the couple safely arrived, and Pam was a hit in the Witzig household.

By the end of the month — when they had dinner with Pam’s parents — the Osborns felt the same way about Dave. 

Full Steam Ahead

As the relationship progressed, Pam and Dave began feeling more and more certain of their feelings for each other. 

Both were in their mid-20s. They’d had boyfriends, girlfriends. By now, they knew what they were looking for. 

About a month after that first date, on a chilly December night, Dave made the first mention of the couple spending the rest of their lives together. 

They had just finished their dinner, when he — subtle as ever — asked Pam, “What are you doing for the next 60 years?”

Looking back now, Dave’s a little embarrassed. 

“It sounds like a 1990s romcom, I mean: ‘What are you doing for the next 60 years?’” he says.

But for Pam, that moment meant everything.

“I was so excited because it [meant] he was thinking the same thing I was thinking,” she said. “[And] then we thought, ‘Well is this crazy to be talking about being married [already]?’” 

“We went and talked to both of our parents…and they were like, ‘Oh, let’s start planning the wedding!’” Pam said. “Both sides were really excited.”

Still, the couple wanted to make sure the decision wasn’t too rash. They needed to know that they weren’t simply blinded by love, Dave said.

Regardless of who they asked, however — from their combined seven siblings, to their best friends, to Dave’s roommate — there was only one message: “full steam ahead.”

Everyone else could see it — the love Pam and Dave shared, the marriage they would have, the family they could build  — just as clearly as the couple did.

By the beginning of second semester, the pair was already on the search for an engagement ring.

“We were kind of trying to keep it quiet from people,” Dave said, “so for [the rings,] I had my friend — a jeweler from Fairbury — drive 40 minutes into town to [sneak into] the back of the school for her to try on.”

As soon as Pam had settled on the perfect match, Dave was ready to make things official. 

On January 31, 1998 — less than five months after their first conversation — he got down on one knee. 

Propping up a scrapbook filled with their memories together — a treasure trove of their relationship — he declared his love. 

The craftsmanship was questionable, in Pam’s opinion, but the passion radiating through its pages was too great to ignore.

Dave’s roommate would have to find a new place to live.

The Whirlwind Continues

The couple celebrated their first Valentine’s Day as fiancés just two weeks later, although it wasn’t the most typical date. 

“This is so lame,” Dave said, “but I was [Community’s] sophomore coach when we were dating, and on our first Valentine’s Day we had a game in Peoria.”

After the game, the couple celebrated with a quick meal before heading back to the court to watch one of the Ironmen’s upcoming opponents.

“We went and scouted a [second] basketball game, and he bought me a Snickers bar.” Pam said, before jokingly adding, “Isn’t that nice?”

Despite the certainty that basketball season would coincide with several Valentine’s Days to come, Pam was undeterred, and preparations for the wedding soon began.

Meanwhile, news of the engagement started to spread.

The site of the couple’s Valentine’s Day celebration was not a one-off occurrence, and Pam — never a regular at Ironmen games — was suddenly in the stands during the school’s basketball contests. 

Students the couple shared would pass notes between the teachers, or admire the ring, Pam said, “and [as] people started to put it together…everybody wanted to talk about it.”  

While enjoying the excitement at school, outside the classroom, the couple’s free time was quickly filled with wedding planning.

Dave had always hoped that his older brother — an ordained minister — would officiate his wedding. 

However, at the time, his brother´s pastoral work had permanently taken him to Hong Kong — more than 8,000 miles away — and he would only be able to spend a few weeks in the States in late July.

Working around that schedule meant the whirlwind romance would continue — Pam and Dave would be married just six months after the proposal.

Other members of the family — Osborns and Witzigs alike — were an important part of the preparations as well.

“We both have big families, and we wanted [the wedding] to be family-oriented,” Pam said.

So, from flower girls to musical performances, both sides of the family were heavily featured.

The Witzigs’ shared family values made the venue an easy decision as well. The wedding and reception would be held in Elgin, Illinois — Pam’s hometown.

As the school year came to an end, summer break gave the couple a chance to finalize the details: the dress, guest list, and vows.

The Witzigs’ wedding reception took place at Lords Park Pavilion in Elgin, Illinois. (Mrs. Pam Witzig)

Each week passed by faster than the last and finally, it was time for the rehearsal dinner. 

That night, Pam and Dave’s closest family and friends celebrated the couple, as stories, memories, and jokes danced around the dinner table. 

As the night came to a close, each of the well-wishers gave the couple their final blessings before leaving for their respective hotels.

Pam and Dave were the last two left in the room. 

The next time they saw each other would be at the altar, and the weight of the journey they were about to begin wasn’t lost on either of them.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Dave said, “but when I looked at her it was this moment of realization, that tomorrow we were going to be married. She was going to get into her car, and I was going to get into mine. But from [then] on, we were going in the same direction.”

Happily Ever After

The newly-wedded Mr. and Mrs. Witzig after their wedding ceremony (The Witzigs)

The next morning was lifted off of the pages of a fairytale — at least, to hear Dave tell it. 

The sky in Elgin, Illinois on July 31, 1998 was filled with “beautiful puffy white clouds,” Dave said, “… it was a perfect day.”

Pam had woken up anxious – she’s not a big fan of July’s typical hot weather, and she wanted her wedding day to be perfect. 

“I’m a nature person,” Pam said. “For some reason, that was a big deal to me – what kind of day it was.”

Fortunately for her, it seemed as though even nature bowed before the couple’s romance — they were blessed with the cool temperatures and “beautiful blue sky” that she’d wished for.

The venue was a beautiful, historic pavilion – the perfect place that incorporated the art she loved and the history he admired. 

The perfect place to say “I do.” 

Pam and Dave’s wedding was the personification of the biggest values the newlywed couple shared — an intimate gathering of their family and closest friends who sang, shared bible-verses, and celebrated their marriage.

The last day of July would be the first day of the rest of their lives – it was the first night that kicked off a relationship full of adventure. 

The Witzigs’ honeymoon took place in Vancouver, Canada, where the pair admired the beautiful scenery, hiked, and went whale watching. 

“90% chance of seeing a whale in the advertisement,” Dave said. “There was no whale.”

Since then — from Vancouver to Paris, from Austria to Jamaica, from Italy to Wales — the couple has traveled across the world, something Dave had rarely experienced until he met Pam. 

The farthest he’d ever been before their honeymoon was Indiana. Once. When he was 10.

“In my life, you kind of just… stayed where you were at” Dave said. “Ever since I married her, I’ve gone to places I’ve never been…[and] I really appreciate that about her.”

While their love has taken the Witzigs across continents, the couple built roots in Normal, creating a home for their four kids — all of whom are past, current, or future Ironmen — another love the couple shares.

“It’s been really cool that we’ve been able to share our job at Normal Community,” Pam said. “We met here… We’re trying to make a difference. It’s nice to be able to share that with your spouse.”

Pam took a break from teaching to raise their kids, but returned to Community after 13 years away, intentionally returning to the home of the Ironmen because of Dave.

This July, the couple will celebrate a great milestone — their silver anniversary. They’ve made it nearly halfway to fulfilling Dave’s 60-year promise.

Reflecting on the couple’s relationship, he has to admit that “it’s weird” to think about sometimes. 

“At one moment, I was single,” Dave said. “Nothing’s going on. And next thing, I have four kids, my wife… and 25 years of marriage.”

She was an artist, he was an athlete. 

She was the oldest of her siblings, he was the youngest.

She wanted to see the world, he never had the chance to. 

Their differences may have been great, but the love that bonded them was even greater. 

They were both ready to experience the love of a lifetime — a love that forever changed their lives.

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  • The Witzigs traveled to England and Wales to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

    The Witzigs
  • The Witzigs traveled to England and Wales to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

    The Witzigs
  • The Witzigs at Antelope Canyon, Arizona

    The Witzigs
  • The Witzigs, pictured at Rocky Mountain National Park, have passed down their love of traveling to their four children.

    The Witzigs
  • Mr. and Mrs. Witzig revisit the site of their honeymoon in Victoria, BC, Canada.

    The Witzigs
  • The Witzigs at the Grand Canyon

    The Witzigs
  • The Witzigs in Alaska

    The Witzigs
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