Buzz Summer Camp Directory

Eclipsed!: A Love Story

Will she, or won’t she?

Cindy Gabriel
Click the Buzz Me button to receive email notifications when this writer publishes a new article or a new article in this column is published.
Mike Peck, Ellen Hart, Denise Jacobs, and Frank Hillbolt

STAR DAZED Mike Peck, Ellen Hart, Denise Jacobs, and Frank Hillbolt at the 2017 eclipse viewing site, Glendo Lake, Wyoming, wearing eclipse T-shirts designed by “artsy” Ellen. 

It was late in the Summer of 1967. Ellen Hart, 15, a Dallas girl, was spending the summer with her brother Paul Hart and his bride Phyllis at their Houston apartment on Stella Link right across the street from Lipp Dry Cleaners. That day, she walked across the street with her brother with some laundry. 

Mike Peck, 16, was working a summer job at Lipp Cleaners, thanks to his aunt and uncle owners, Harold and Libby Lipp. “He was dreamy looking,” said Ellen. Mike seemed mutually smitten as he and Ellen exchanged flirty “hi’s” in a moment that ended all too soon. 

The next day, feeling particularly charitable, Ellen decided to pick up her brother’s cleaning for him. Let’s just say that the visit lasted longer, including a tour of the dry-cleaning building, where somewhere between men’s shirts and women’s dresses, Ellen got her first kiss. 

Soon Ellen was back in Dallas, finding occasional letters from Mike in her mailbox. (Yes, even teenagers wrote letters back then.)

Then, due to some realignment of the stars, Ellen’s parents decided to move to Houston, enrolling her in Bellaire High School, the same school as Mike. But alas, this is no fairytale. Ellen decided Mike wasn’t her type. “He was in the Science Club and I was more artsy. I liked hanging around the motorcycles and the guys who smoked.” 

So nerdy Mike went on to become an international lawyer, while artsy Ellen moved to California and started a luxury leather goods company. Both married other people. Many moons later, it was 2009, the heyday of Facebook. Mike and Ellen, both single again, rediscovered each other. 

Ellen was starting to feel the pull of Texas once more after several visits to a second brother, Teddy Hart, and wife Linda’s ranch in La Grange. “There is nothing like a night sky on a Texas ranch,” said Ellen.

Mike was commuting between Houston and Baghdad, when Ellen invited him to a “friends only” visit to Teddy and Linda’s ranch. 

“He came with my favorite bottle of tequila and a box of chocolate-covered strawberries,” Ellen said. “We sat on the front porch. He was so fascinating. He had lived all over the world. We both loved everything about the sky, the stars, the planets, astronomy. We watched meteor showers laying on the grass of my brother’s ranch.”

It took Mike six months of sky-watching to get that second kiss. Then he would consistently hear Ellen’s “no” to his proposals. 

Yet, in time, the pair found a house on some land called Seven Acres (not the senior living center, just a home for a seasoned couple), in a spot between La Grange and Round Top, that was actually seven acres with an art studio for Ellen.

Mike continued to work abroad while Ellen became a realtor in the Round Top area. “Each full moon, we played Harvest Moon by Neil Young and danced in our wide-open pasture,” said Ellen.

When “The Great American Eclipse” was anticipated for 2017, Mike and Ellen knew they would go somewhere to see it. They mentioned it to their couple friends, Frank Hillbolt and Denise Jacobs, over dinner one evening. Their response was quick and enthusiastic: “Let’s do it.”

They picked a viewing site parking lot in Cheyenne, Wyoming. “We flew into Denver, rented an SUV and started driving.” The roads to the viewing site were so jammed that they decided to take an early exit and see where fate took them.

“We wound up at a beautiful spot called Glendo Lake. We practically had the whole lake to ourselves,” Ellen said. Here is Ellen’s description of the eclipse:

When the eclipse happened, right before it happened, all of the waterfowl took off at the same time and all you could hear were feathers and fluttering. All of the wildlife knew something was happening. The sky got hazy, but not like anything I had ever seen in my life. Everything got silent, like I never knew before. It was eerie and silent and strange and peaceful and beautiful. It was like everything real just disappeared. The world stood still for like three minutes. And we stood still. 

Except for one minor detail at the peak of the eclipse.

At the very moment two hot air balloons came up over the horizon. Mike said, “Are you ever going to marry me?” And I said, “I am.” He kissed me, and Denise said, “What just happened?” I said, “I think I have just been eclipsed.” 

Later, over dinner, Denise asked Ellen when this wedding would occur. “I don’t know,” Ellen stalled. “When’s the next eclipse?” Mike kept prodding. 

Finally, a favorite song of Mike and Ellen’s came to mind, September by Earth Wind & Fire. Do you remember, 21st night of September? So, on the 21st of September of 2020 (in the middle of Covid), Mike and Ellen held an impromptu Zoom wedding. Ellen’s beautiful three-band ring has a black ring of diamonds, surrounded by two white diamond rings, symbolizing that eclipse moment. Maybe this is a fairytale after all. 

Editor’s note: April 8, 2024 will bring us another total solar eclipse, Texas’ first in the path of totality in 146 years. Read this month’s Travel Buzz, Countdown to Totality: Houstonians prepare for rare solar eclipse, by Tracy L. Barnett, for more. 

To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, or Twitter. Or you may post as a guest.