Eleanor Spiess-Ferris and Umberto Tosi: an artistic couple for the ages
Eleanor Spiess-Ferris and Umberto Tosi: an artistic couple for the ages Credit: Jeffrey Marini

The power couple: Eleanor Spiess-Ferris, 72, and Umberto Tosi, 76

Years together: Three and a half

Occupations: Eleanor’s a painter; Umberto is a writer.

Eleanor and Umberto met five years ago—on OKCupid, of all places—while he was living San Francisco, she in Chicago. The site said they were 95 percent compatible, but they turned out to be even more compatible than that. The artists—she’s a painter (whose work appeared, coincidentally, on the cover of our January 23 issue) and he’s a writer—corresponded online for a year before they met in real life. Eventually, Umberto decided to transplant himself to Chicago, and the two haven’t looked back.

They were nominated by their friend Louise, who said, “They absolutely look like they belong together, almost as male and female versions of the same creative spirit.” Gwynedd Stuart

What’s your current conversational title of choice for your significant other?

Eleanor: A quick summation of who is on the other side of the handshake tells me just how I will introduce Umberto. For some older folks, my “partner” will do. To the young married folks, I like “my lover.” To the stranger who is taking info at the doctor’s office or emergency room, he becomes my husband and I his wife. It is just easier that way, and besides, they see a very sweet elderly couple that just happens to still be holding hands “after all these years.” It is our gift to their myth of “happily ever after.”

What’s your significant other’s most adorable, precious quality?

Umberto: Her playfulness. She was the kid sister in her family. I was an only child. She gets me every time she pulls my leg.

Eleanor: I think he is very handsome and I think he thinks he is very handsome too.

What quirk about your significant other have you grown to find strangely charming over time?

Umberto: I love how Eleanor spoils her orange cat. It’s the only reality show I like, and it never ends.

Eleanor: Umberto chews on his thumb when he plays computer chess. The more difficult the challenge, the harder he chews. His chews often sound like a window washer scrubbing out a terrible window smudge. I have grown to enjoy the sound. For me, there is a strange comfort in hearing him while he plays chess.

 I Saw You


In which Eleanor recalls first meeting Umberto
(Looking for love at first sight? isawyou​.chicagoreader​.com)

When: March
Where: OKCupid.com
I saw a: Man
I am a: Woman

A photo of a handsome mature Mediterranean type looking skyward. You have a stubble beard with gentle eyes. I wonder where you are. Is it a park? What are you looking at—perhaps a bird? You look delicious. I just love those Mediterranean types.
I’m hoping you will see a photo of me on same website. Blondish older gal smiling broadly and holding a small skull of an animal with my paintings in the background. Write to me.

What quirk still makes you want to beat her with a shovel?

Umberto: I’m for nonviolent action, but her rush to get everywhere early time-warps my spacey-ship.

Who’s winning at a game of Jeopardy and why?

Umberto: Yours truly—unless it’s about art; then she’s the star. Reason: my retired-journalist, pre-Wiki brain is a hoarder’s attic of useless facts.

Eleanor: Being an ex-journalist and an editor, Umberto knows so much more than I. But put a deck of cards in my hand and HE IS TOAST!

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever gotten the urge to make whoopee?

Eleanor: For me, whoopee always has a good start in an empty elevator, or I love to sneak a peck or grab a smooch when no one else is looking. A cuddle here or a butt pat there, all makes for a good overture.

Of all the famous couples throughout history, which do you think you guys are most like?

Umberto: As peaceniks who love to hang out in bed, John and Yoko.

Eleanor: Lady and the Tramp? Gracie Allen and George Burns? But NOT like Liz Taylor and Hilton, Wilding, Todd, Fisher, Burton, Burton, Warner, or Fortensky.

What’s on the horizon for this Chicago power couple?

Umberto: Lake Michigan, looking east from Loyola Beach.

Eleanor: We will be together as long as the fates wish. I hope to hold Umberto’s hand when the wind changes and together we will watch the stars speed past. OK, so, I am an incurable romantic aided and abetted by my dearest lover.

Credit: Jeffrey Marini