Eternal kiss transforms into eternal bliss

Portrait of Matt and Nicole Jones.

Photo Courtesy of Matt and Nicole Jones

Portrait of Matt and Nicole Jones.

By Sam Schrage, Staff writer

After 22 years of marriage, Matt and Nicole Jones remember the place where their love story began.

From their first date at Nicole’s Kappa Kappa Gamma barn dance to their engagement in 1993 after a University football game, the couple has attributed their success to patience, perseverance and a kiss at the Eternal Flame.

Every Valentine’s Day, countless couples stop at the Eternal Flame in hopes of bringing good luck to their relationship. Anna Trammell, archival reference and operations specialist, said the legend of “a lover’s kiss will bring eternal bliss” has been passed down for years, but cannot be traced back to one single date or year.

“We have some of the official documentation — information about (the University) deciding to build the Eternal Flame, about a dedication ceremony, but something like the legend isn’t mentioned in that official documentation,” Trammell said. “That might be something you can find in a student’s journal or something you hear through oral history.”

The Eternal Flame’s establishment was part of one of the first traditions at the University: the dedication of class memorials.

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    “It has become a tradition to raise money and build something so that a memory of your class would remain on campus and future students would be able to see and appreciate it,” Trammell said. 

    Donated by the Class of 1912, the memorial was first referred to as a Greek monolith bearing an electric arc at its top. However, since then the once circular glass globe with an electric light has been replaced by a taller globe with a light bulb that frequently burns out.  

    “Now that the statue is a lightbulb, we say that if you kiss your significant other under it, your love will be ‘on and off,'” said Taryn Schnoor, University tour guide and sophomore in Nursing, in an email.

    Although the globe may not always be lit, students still recognize the legend in hopes of someday experiencing the love that Matt and Nicole share.

    From Champaign, Illinois, to Oundle, England, to Tokyo, Japan, Matt and Nicole’s love has taken them across the globe, but they aren’t the only couple that has experienced “eternal bliss” after kissing at the Eternal Flame.

    “My grandma’s best friend in college started dating her now husband when she came to Illinois,” Schnoor wrote. “They kissed under the Eternal Flame after a little while of dating. Eventually, they got married and have now been together for 60 years.” 

    The circular bench surrounding the Eternal Flame is also a romantic spot for couples hoping to commemorate their love and pass on their relationship success to others. The bench is adorned with the initials of couples who found love at the University.

    Unlike other class memorials at the University, the Eternal Flame reminds students not only of the love that is present at the University, but also of the history.   

    “The Eternal Flame is one of very few monuments or things on campus that aren’t academically related,” Schnoor wrote. “It is there just for students’ enjoyment. I think it is really special as well that it has been on our campus for so many years. I can only imagine the amount of people that have kissed under it.”

    Whether the legend is actually true is up to personal opinion, but the Jones’ story gives some credibility.

    “Our advice is to cultivate a strong friendship, develop common interests, have fun and don’t take things too seriously, oh and of course, make sure to kiss at the Eternal Flame,” Matt and Nicole Jones wrote in an email.

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