On Feb. 27, 1976, when Karen O’Dell arrived at Iron Bark Pool in University Park, she had no idea her life was about to change forever. Karen thought she was going to a simple get-together with a few friends, but when she met Jon Andersen, she fell in love. Jon’s and Karen’s sisters were best friends, so they had a common link. Soon they realized their bond was even stronger, and after their first kiss that night, Karen wrote in her diary: “met the love of my life.” Today, 45 years later, Jon still has the old matchbook on which he wrote down her phone number.
Jon worked at a veterinary clinic where a Scottish terrier puppy was brought in to be put down. The pup had bad knees, and Jon asked if he could take the dog home himself. He gave the puppy to Karen, who lovingly carried the terrier she named Chester in her backpack to class at University High School. The couple’s early dating life mirrored the simpler days of Irvine in the 1970s and included hanging out at Shakey’s Pizza, concerts at what was then known as Anaheim Stadium, and lazy days taking black-and-white pictures out on the undeveloped Irvine Ranch.
In April of 1980, Jon and Karen were married. Their reception was at the Tustin Lighter-Than-Air Base officers club, next to the iconic blimp hangars. The couple eventually moved into their own home in Irvine, where they welcomed their first son, Jon, in 1983. When their family expanded again with the birth of their daughter, Tara, the Andersens moved to Riverside County. But even though they have lived out of the area for 32 years, their hearts are still in Irvine, where they first found each other. What’s the secret to their longevity? “If you want to stay married for the rest of your life, Karen says, “marry your best friend.”