Mary Ellen in Jeopardy

Mary Ellen and I watch “Jeopardy,” and the other evening we discussed how Ken Jennings chats with the contestants, giving each one an open-ended question to prompt a funny or interesting personal story. Mary Ellen feared that if she ever got on the show, she’d have trouble coming up with five entertaining anecdotes, assuming she won every night for a week. Together, we crafted some fun ones.  Her responses here all 100% true.


KEN: I understand you had an embarrassing nickname in elementary school?

MARY ELLEN: Yes, Ken, when I was in the fifth grade, I was 5 feet 5 inches tall—much taller than anyone else in the class, including the boys. I was also very skinny and had a Pixie haircut.

KEN: So, what did they call you?

MARY ELLEN: The Galloping Hairpin.


KEN: You have a fun story about how you and your husband met. Tell us about it.

MARY ELLEN: Well, Ken, in 1975 a co-worker asked me to have dinner with her, her husband and several friends. One of those friends was Dick Wolfsie, who sat right across from me for two hours. We never talked or even exchanged glances. Three years later Dick and I were fixed up on a blind date. It wasn’t until we had been married a few years that we realized the blind date was not the first time we met.

KEN (laughing) I guess you made a really big impression on each other.


KEN: I understand that on your honeymoon, you had an embarrassing experience.

MARY ELLEN: That’s right, Ken. My husband and I had returned from a romantic evening in Big Sur, California. It was 2 a.m. and we figured all the guests would be asleep. We decided get in the hot tub without any clothes on. But we both chickened out and showed up in our suits. In the pool area were about 40 people ages 8 to 80, completely naked, just staring at us.

KEN: What did they say?

MARY ELLEN: They said, “You must be from the Midwest.”


KEN: I have been told that your husband’s long TV career was the result of your banning a stray dog from your house.

MARY ELLEN: That’s true, Ken. Dick found a lost beagle on our front porch many years ago, but he was very mischievous and destructive. The beagle, that is. Anyway, I told Dick if he wanted to keep the dog, he had to take him to work with him every morning. He did, and Barney ended up on TV with my husband and became a star—the dog, I mean. I take all the credit for Barney’s success.


KEN: Is it true you married your husband because you thought he was going to be a college professor?

MARY ELLEN: That’s right, Ken. When we met, he had just retired from teaching high school after nine years and had taken a position at a TV station in Columbus, Ohio, as an associate producer. He hated the job, so I figured he would go back to college and get his PhD and teach at a university. You know, do something serious with his life.

KEN:  So, did he end up doing something serious?

MARY ELLEN: Not at all. But he did it for 40 years. I’ll give him that.

What if I ever got a chance to go on Jeopardy? Find out next week.

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@