When I sat down with this successful couple to discuss their teamwork, traditions and travels, I could feel the love they have for each other and their family.
How did you meet?
Oddly enough, Don considers their meeting one of his first lessons in failure. After having taken a drama class during their senior year of high school on a bit of a scheduling technicality, he auditioned for the school play. Having found a new passion in theater, Don was quite confident about the role.
“When it was all posted, I didn’t get a part. The teacher told me I was great but I didn’t project my voice well enough,” he lamented. “So I wound up being in charge of the sub-committee that made the flats. I was crushed. I was just coming into my own. But we met working after school on all the behind-the-scenes stuff for the play. We started dating and wound up going to UK together.”
How did he propose?
By their junior year at the University of Kentucky, Don and Diane knew they wanted to get married.
“Normally you would’ve gotten married just after graduation,” Don explained. “But it was the ’50s and you had to have a plan, get your act together and get focused because of the war. If you didn’t have a plan for yourself and you were a guy, Lyndon B. Johnson had a plan for you.”
Don eventually earned a position in the Navy commissioning program. Though he was excited about his acceptance into the program, the future was a great source of stress for both him and his future wife.
“You really didn’t know where you were gonna end up. So I thought I’d better propose now and then we’ll kind of figure it out,” he said. “So it was Valentine’s Day our junior year. Things were much simpler then, so it wasn’t some elaborate thing. We went out to dinner at a much nicer restaurant than we would’ve normally gone to and scraped a little extra funds together.”
“The funny part is that in the sorority houses we had hours,” Diane interjected. “So literally we got engaged at dinner and then I had curfew. It wasn’t like today when kids get engaged and take wonderful trips.”
“We had a wonderful trip,” Don interjected. “We went from the UK campus to the Continental Inn! It’s a dump now but it was really nice back then.”
The two wed during the winter of their senior year.
But, in all seriousness, many of their experiences in their first years as a couple reflect how they functioned when they had kids in the house and how they work today.
“As soon as we got married, for the first seven years, we lived outside of Louisville – not by our family and not by our friends – because of the military duty and then Don going to law school,” Diane explained. “So we truly became a couple from being in different environments. We built that foundation.”
“We didn’t have any parents around, or friends,” Don said of their travels with the Navy. “It was just the two of us, and we had to go make our way. We had to confront a lot of things that were very scary because of the Navy. We had to count on each other.”
Based on their experiences traveling together and making tough decisions as a couple early on, the couple found it easy – or as easy as it could be – to transition into a team with children and then back into a couple without kids in the house.
“There are three concrete examples of traditions that work for us as a couple,” Diane said. “The first was, starting in law school, we literally always have Wednesday nights as our nights – our date night. Now, that doesn’t mean we went out on Wednesday night; we don’t go out on Wednesday nights. We’d always have a special menu – we still do – when I make dinner. We’ll eat together, watch a movie, whatever. Together. We did this even when the boys were little.
“The other thing is that we’ve always prioritized going away every year as a couple for maybe 10 days to two weeks. Instead of buying a new refrigerator when our boys were younger, we’d save the money and pay for a babysitter so we could go away together.
“The third thing is Christmas Eve. It doesn’t have to be exactly Christmas Eve, it can be the day before. But, in all of the chaos of Christmas, we always have a special Christmas Eve dinner where we give each other gifts. We have one meal that I only fix on Christmas dinner and it’s a special crab soufflé, and we always drink a bottle of champagne.”
With their three concrete traditions and ability to work together so well, they’ve adopted the nickname “Team Graeter,” a title both their sons’ families proudly hold.
“I was a stay-at-home mom,” Diane explained. “So I had the obvious chores a mom would do – grocery shopping, cooking. I’ve always cooked meals in.”
“With the house, we just do whatever. If I think it looks a little dusty, I’ll do it,” Don added. “We don’t have any hard and fast rules.”
Where do you like to go when you’re out ‘n’ about?
Being longtime Louisvillians, the Graeters have witnessed the city’s transformation over time, and they gladly take advantage of it.
“We like to go to a lot of the newer ethnic restaurants. I think Louisville has just been such a wonderful haven lately for new restaurants,” Diane said.
“What used to be a steak and potato town has evolved into a really neat set of choices,” Don said.
“If I had to choose the restaurant we love, that we go to all the time, it would be The Blackstone Grille,” Diane said. “We love the owners, they are so friendly and they know you, which is always a nice thing. The staff is the same way. It’s really nice to have a restaurant of that caliber here, in Prospect.”
What is one thing you always do as a couple?
If they had to pinpoint one thing they love, and always do as a couple, it would be travel, one of their three traditions.
“We’ve set it up so that one year I get to pick the place, the next year Don gets to pick the place,” Diane explained. “The third year, we try to pick a place where we haven’t been before.”
Usually, Don will choose the beautiful Highlands of Scotland, while Diane prefers magnificent Paris.
What is some advice you would offer couples – new or old – who desire to walk through life in tandem?
“I would say, always prioritize being a couple first, even if you have a family,” Diane said. “If you’re happy, your children are happy.”
“Communicate,” Don said. “And don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone. That’s how you grow together.”
They are also both very involved in each other’s work and hobbies. Don gushed over Diane’s work with the National Council for Jewish Women and her successful 10-year lobbying effort to reorganize the local court systems to better protect victims of domestic violence.
“Stay involved in what the other’s doing,” Diane encouraged.
“Allow space,” Don said. “But don’t fail to communicate.”
“Don’t forget that you are a couple first,” Diane said. “And make time for it throughout your whole marriage.”
Dec. 28, 1968.
Don partners with his two sons, Drew and Spencer, to represent Central Bank with their investment adviser business. Drew is married to Heather and they have two children, Abrie, 4, and Drake, 3. Spencer is married to Teal and they have three children, Jackson, 4, Gracie, 2, and Wyatt, 1.
Don is the director of investments for Jefferson County for Central Bank. Bank Investment Consultant magazine recently ranked him No. 6 in their list of the top 50 bank-based investment consultants in the United States.
Cats or Cards
“Go big blue!” Don exclaimed.
Category: In Tandem