It wasn’t Ken Ingalls’ plan to retire in South Bend, Ind.
His heart is leading him there.
Ingalls, 66, resigned last week as the boys golf coach at Regina because he thought it was time to start the next chapter in his life, but mostly because of how he felt about South Bend resident Dianne Kalthoff.
The former high school classmates from Chicago re-connected on Facebook less than a year ago and the spark was immediate.
Neither was looking to start a relationship, but Kalthoff, 64, had been a widow for about a year and was ready to move on with her life.
“We started emailing and he asked for my number, and we started talking on the phone and got a lot of awkward questions out of the way,” Kalthoff said. “At our ages, you just don’t want to waste time. So we didn’t waste time.”
Both share an interest in golf and that helped bring them together.
Ingalls asked Kalthoff on Facebook if she knew of anybody in the Chicago area who would be interested in playing golf with him during his trips back to the Windy City.
It turns out, she did.
“I said, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ and I clicked back and I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I do. It’s me, and let me explain,’ ” Kalthoff said. “So I told him about my husband passing and that I was over the grieving stages, if you will.”
Ingalls always assumed he would retire in the Iowa City area and play as much as golf as he desired. He taught sixth-grade world geography and coached the West Liberty boys golf team for 33 years before taking the same coaching position at Regina in 2009. He coached the Regals for the past four seasons, while also working at Brown Deer Golf Course.
“It got to the age of retirement, and I thought now is a good time to start really enjoying life,” Ingalls said. “I coached the last four years at Regina. I enjoyed it immensely. They’re like one big family over there.
“And I have a lot of other friends around here. But I thought it was time for a change. Now we’re going to enjoy life.”
The fact that Ingalls, a devoted Iowa Hawkeye fan, would agree to retire in November to South Bend is a testimony to Kalthoff’s allure. She grew up in Chicago cheering for Notre Dame and has spent much of her adult life living and working in South Bend, which is home to the Fighting Irish.
“There was a spark there from the beginning,” Ingalls said. “She had a lot of similar interests as I did. And that’s basically what started the fire.”
Kalthoff’s connection to South Bend dates back to when she and her late husband both worked for a television station in town. She worked as a promotional director, while he served as the general manager.
They moved from South Bend to Yuma, Ariz., to work for a different television station, but then moved back to South Bend several years ago after her husband retired.
“He was a number of years older than me, but we were married for 33 years,” Kalthoff said of her late husband. “We had a great life. We were both in the broadcasting business and that allowed us wonderful things because we were NBC affiliates. We were at two Olympic Games, the one at Atlanta and the one at Barcelona. We got to play golf at Pebble Beach on NBC’s nickel, all kinds of wonderful things.”
“We always sort of figured it would go like that using the law of averages. So a year had passed since his death, and I wanted my life to resume, some kind of life to resume.”
Kalthoff and Ingalls had been communicating on Facebook for several months when they agreed to meet in Chicago this past winter.
“We had a nice talk and dinner and whatnot and we decided that we’d pursue this further,” Kalthoff said. “And the rest really is history.”
The support from family and friends has helped to strengthen their relationship. Kalthoff has two stepchildren, including a stepdaughter who lives in Chicago.
“I’m quite close to her,” Kalthoff said of her stepdaughter. “And when I told her about Ken and told her a little bit about him, she said, ‘You know what? My dad would be so happy.’ “
Ingalls has twice been divorced and doesn’t have any children of his own. His mother also recently died, so Ingalls appreciates that Kalthoff’s family has embraced him.
He also appreciates that Kalthoff lives on a golf course and enjoys playing the game as much as he does.
“I am extremely happy,” Ingalls said. “At my age, to be finding somebody like this, it was divine intervention, I believe.”