An Amazing Reconnection

Barbara and Norm on the URI campus in their senior year, 1970, and in 2022 at a family wedding.

That’s what Norm Schoeler ’71 and Barbara DeCubellis Taylor ’70 call their relationship, which started as a kindergarten friendship. Life took them separate ways and then brought them together—again!

In 1953 I had a favorite girl in my kindergarten and first-grade classes at Norwood Avenue School in Cranston, R.I. I looked forward to going to school just to talk with her. My family moved to Warwick the following year and I lost contact with Barbara, but never forgot her.

Fast-forward about 17 years, 1970.

At the beginning of my senior year, I found out that my kindergarten friend was on campus, but I didn’t know where she lived. Then, I spotted her at a fraternity event in Point Judith, so I introduced myself. Soon we were dating and enjoying our senior year.

After graduation, she moved back to her family home and started her first job as a social worker. I had grad school and military service waiting for me, so we said a tearful goodbye—our second goodbye. She told me she would always feel love for me, and I had that on my mind as I went off to boot camp at Fort Dix with the Vietnam War raging.

Fast forward 49 years, 2019.

After a heroic nine-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s, my wife Ann died. About four months later, our country plunged into the COVID crisis. While I was housebound, I received a beautiful alumni directory from URI. I looked up a dozen friends, including Barbara DeCubellis Taylor. She was the only person I looked up who still lived in my home state of Rhode Island.

I emailed her and later we spoke on the phone. I told her what our family had been through trying to take care of Ann. I said to Barbara, “So, I see you married Joe from North Providence. How are things going?” After a brief silence she said, “I lost Joe to early onset Alzheimer’s in 2020.” I almost fell out of my chair. What were the odds of both of us dealing with this disease? We started talking on the phone nightly and then met in Watch Hill for lunch.

We have such an amazing history together and now we talk every night and meet every few weeks to create new memories together. It’s been over a year now, and we have met each other’s families, including the grandkids. We refer to this as an “amazing reconnection.” We both have an “attitude of gratitude” for where we have been and this special time we are enjoying! We would like to think that our late spouses, Ann and Joe, are rooting for us.

— Norm Schoeler ’71


  1. Norm, I’m so happy for Barbara and you! What a beautiful story. Wishing you both years of happiness and good health.

  2. Norm, what a story of coincidences! Enjoy your new/ old love , I wish you many wonderful years together.

  3. Thank you, Norm, for sharing your inspiring history. I wish you good luck and many happy years!!

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