ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — With Valentine's Day just around the corner, one office in the Quad Cities knows a thing or two about love.
Over the past two centuries, roughly 127,000 couples have sought out a marriage license at the Rock Island County Clerk's Office. And for the past two decades, one woman has been there to help facilitate that.
"I started in 2001. And in that year, we did 1,305 applications," said Diane 'Dee' Lyon. "But that doesn't guarantee that they all got married!"
Lyon is a Deputy Clerk within the county's vital records department. When couples come in, seeking a marriage license, she helps them fill out the application.
"We swear them under oath and then we just ask them the questions that on the state application. It takes about 15 minutes. It's not a big process," Lyon said. "They walk away with their license and then it's up to them to get married within 60 days."
But while that job can technically be conducted by anyone in the county clerk's office, only vital records can process and send that information off to the state. That means that over the past 20 years, Lyon has been personally responsible for helping roughly 15,000 marriages become legally binding.
"Some couples come in here and they're just so excited and nervous. And then other couples will come in here and are nonchalant, like it's just an everyday thing," she laughed. "You never have the same couple every day, that's for sure."
While visiting, she showed our News 8 crew the first-ever marriage license given in Rock Island County. The torn, yellowed pages are from 1833, kept in a special envelop with the number one written on the front.
"You can tell it's old," Lyon said. "It's just in pieces, unfortunately. We do have everything here, but it is in pieces."
Good news for Quad City couples - Lyon joked that she hasn't lost an application or license yet.
However, she has seen everything for better, and sometimes for worse.
One of the questions required on the application is how many times someone has been previously married. For some hopeful couples, it's not the question that throws them off, but some of the answers sure do.
"I asked this one person how many times they've been married before," Lyon said. "She just gave me the number. And I said, 'you've been married four times?' And the gentleman looked at her, turned around and walked away and never came back!"
Another soon-to-be bride might just hold a county record.
"I asked her how many times she'd been married before and she said 14! So my jaw kind of dropped on that," laughed Lyon. And yes, that person did walk out with their fifteenth marriage license.
But Lyon says her job can follow her outside of work, in all of the best ways.
"I have run into people at stores that I've issued out marriage licenses to and they'll come up and say hi," she said. "It's a very fulfilling place to work. To issue out marriage licenses for people to start their new lives."
That was one of our main questions for her: How does it feel, to know that a routine, 15-minute process for you, is life-changing for the couples you're helping?
"I was scared to death when I first started working here! But then after you're doing it for 20 years, it's just a routine for me," Lyon said. "But I know it's new for them. So you try to make it the best and to make them feel comfortable and not nervous."
And recently, her own job has gotten a helping hand. Now, Lyon has a partner.
Angela Rebello began working in the vital records department just a few months prior to our visit. She's already said she's learned so much from watching Lyon work. But one piece of advice sticks out to Rebello, as advice every young couple should know.
"Never hyphenate your last name! You can take both names, but once you put that line in the middle, it's a whole new ballgame for you," Rebello laughed. "Don't do it!"
She said even a few months into the job, she's started to pick up on mannerisms that seem to span all sorts of couples. Along those lines, Rebello said some love birds leave different impressions from others.
"I've absolutely had people up at the counter, in the process of a marriage license, have a spat and have to go out in the hallway for a minute to collect themselves," Rebello said. "But some people leave an impression on me. I really feel myself thinking about them and wondering how did it go? Did they get married? What's going on now? I can't wait for some to come back for birth certificates to see how everything went!"
Both women say one of the best parts of their job is watching couples come back to the office and show off their wedding photos.
But interestingly, neither Lyon nor Rebello are married themselves. However, if anyone's an expert on unions, it would appear to be these two. And they say when it comes to love, it's still something that fills them with hope.
"There's always love out there for somebody," Lyon said. "That's all I can say."