Bonding in Fire and Snow

The serene winter landscape of Lake Tahoe was a memorable setting for a relationship to begin. The camaraderie of college classmates on a ski trip lent a festive atmosphere as Rod Quartararo ’73 and Jean Sever ’73 met and began to talk.

They connected right away, well enough that they could survive a less-than-romantic first date: The film “Deliverance” was not what they expected. Then again, some might say Rod and Jean’s first date was actually a step up from their choice of a second-date film: “The Exorcist.”

Still, as the spring semester continued on, their love blossomed. In between classes and studying, they managed to meet at campus events and attend basketball games.

Then there was the fire. On a winter evening in the second semester of 1973, Rod was in his room at Phi Kappa Theta on Jefferson Boulevard when he heard a crackling sound in the wall. Then he saw smoke. He ran down the hall to alert his fraternity brothers, but the fire spread too quickly for him to get back to retrieve any belongings. The house was a total loss, despite a fire station that was just 100 yards away; Phi Kappa Theta succumbed in the limbo of a jurisdictional quandary between city and county fire departments.

Rod spent the rest of the semester keeping up with his classes as he found a series of temporary places to stay, including a couple of nights on the couch in Jean’s dorm room — just don’t tell the R.A. she missed signing him out.

After graduation, Rod went home to Santa Cruz to figure out his next step, and Jean went to work at the National Car Rental counter at LAX. Jean soon decided that a long-distance romance wasn’t going to work, so Rod moved back to L.A.

Dicey dates and house fires are one thing; toll calls and days without contact are quite another. The rest, as Rod says, is history. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Feb. 22, 2015.