- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Marshall Lipkin married Nancy Klein in Peoria in July 1960, following a three-year courtship. Her father, Ernest Klein, spoke favorably of the union at the wedding.

“My dad said that we both have a lot in common,” Nancy (Klein) Lipkin said recently, recalling her wedding day. “Because we were both raised in mental institutions.”

That could use an explanation. Marshall Lipkin’s mother was a psychiatrist. She worked for the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville and lived on the grounds with her husband and two sons. Marshall lived there from about 1943 until he married Nancy. He even returned to his state hospital home during the summers of his college years and after his Army tour of duty in Korea was finished in 1956.

The family first moved into Cottage 4 in a row of five cottages that no longer exist. When he returned from Korea, he moved back in with his parents who had moved into an apartment in the Bowen Building.

Ernest Klein was the superintendent of Peoria State Hospital. He moved his family from his last assignment at the Elgin State Hospital into the 10-room apartment on the top floor of the administration building in 1957. That building no longer exists.

Nancy was a freshman at Indiana University and joined her family in their new home in the summer of 1957, the summer she met Marshall Lipkin.

The Peoria State Hospital and the largest and most iconic vestige of its past, the Bowen Building, have been much in the news lately. An ambitious, and wildly underfunded, plan to renovate the hulking limestone building into a tourist destination fell flat and left the village of Bartonville officials little choice but to have it demolished. That process has begun.

All the while, stories about torture, brutality, violence, murder, mayhem and hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital circulated and gained a foothold in the foundation of its reputation and history.

Ask someone in central Illinois what they know about the state hospital, and there’s a decent chance they’ll respond with some variation of, “It was a crazy, spooky place.”

It’s not all ignorance. After all, the place was first called the Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane at Bartonville.

That’s not how the Lipkins remember it.

At all.

And they lived there.

Theirs is not a ghost story, it’s a love story.

And like many couples who have been together a long time, their two-part conversations tend to blend into one voice.

“I never had any memory of Peoria State Hospital that wasn’t pleasant,” he said.

“Me either, that’s right,” she said.

“Pleasant and joyous.”

“There were always people helping people.”

“The (Bowen) building itself was old at that time.”

“It was beautiful. Out in front was this huge porch, and then a beautiful sunken garden in front of that.”

“And people would sit out on the porch.”

“Full of flowers.”

“Huge flower bed. The patients took care of it, but they had gardeners that were paid workers that would supervise the patients.”

In the summer of 1957 Marshall Lipkin was the pitcher on a softball team. A teammate was dating Nancy Klein’s sister, Maxine. The teammate asked Lipkin to bring Maxine to the game to watch him play. Lipkin obliged.

“I said fine, I’d be happy to do it. It’s the first week I’m home. I go up to pick up Maxine and there is Nancy. So as a courtesy, being a nice person, I just said would you like to go to the game. She goes ‘Oh yes,’ said Lipkin, with dramatically exaggerated and falsetto enthusiasm.

“Oh I didn’t act like that,” Nancy Lipkin said.

“So I took her to the game and that was our first date,” he said.

Nancy went back to college, Lipkin got a job at a furniture store.

“She completed a year and came back in February or so, and that’s when we started to go out,” Lipkin said. “We became closer and closer, and somewhere along the line she asked me to marry her.”

“Hey wait a minute,” she said. “That didn’t happen,”

And in 1960, they were married, and they moved from the Peoria State Hospital to University Villas apartments at Knoxville and McClure.

Marshall Lipkin had a long and successful career as a salesman and business owner. His loyalty to the Bradley University basketball program might be matched in other fans, but it is not surpassed. He wanted to be a professional actor, but a $220 paycheck for eight weeks of acting in summer stock theater in New Salem in the summer of 1957 set him in search of bigger paydays.

“I decided acting would be an avocation,” he said.

So, he satisfied his acting craving by appearing in more than 50 shows at Peoria Players and Corn Stock theaters, including three runs as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” spaced 30 years apart.

“I’ve accomplished many things in my life. But it was my luckiest break in the world that Ernest Klein became superintendent of the Peoria State Hospital and brought his daughter to Bartonville,” Marshall Lipkin said.

“Aw, that was sweet,” Nancy Lipkin said.

“But it happens to be true. We will be married 56 years this July,” he said. “I realize and so do my friends, how lucky I am. And I know that.”

And then, his last thoughts about his childhood home.

“Hopefully the memories will be of a building that housed so many people who loyally worked at the state hospital, who dedicated their lives to make it better for the patients, including my mother,” Marshall Lipkin said. “It has served its purpose and should be remembered for the good and positive things that occurred while people lived and worked at the state hospital. It’s a fitting end to a wonderful building that served many, so well, for so long.”

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Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/1Tkjzin

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Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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