Editor’s Note: Evanston RoundTable is pleased to introduce: “They Do.” This new column is a glimpse into the love stories and celebrations of commitment from local readers and their relatives. A chance encounter in a supermarket checkout line, the dog park, an ashram, an Uber Eats delivery, a blind date, speed dating, Tinder, Match, Bumble….kids, pets, blended families.
To marry? We want to hear all about your love story and share it with the RoundTable community. This is a free storytelling service by Roundtable. Please contact us if you have a marriage announcement you would like to share and include your name, your partner’s name and an email address. We’ll be in touch to spread the love.
When Crystal Jones first saw James Christopher Starks 14 years ago at the Classic Bowl in Morton Grove, she knew he was something special.
Jones, 59, was born and raised in Evanston and comes from a long line of bowlers. She was a regular at the Classic Bowl, as were Starks, 50, and her parents Jimmy and Frenchie Starks. Although not a bowler, Starks would often accompany his parents to watch and socialize.
“He’s handsome and had dreadlocks at the time. When he smiled, that was it,” Jones said of the couple’s first date.
A first date, though not at a bowling alley, soon followed, and while the couple was not exclusive, they spent a lot of time together.
At the time, Starks was busy raising his daughters, Kayla and Jada Starks, now 21 and 17. Jones has three children, Tramelle Williams, Michelle Thomas and Michael Thomas, and six grandchildren, ages 7 months to 12 years.
Starks and Jones waited a year before introducing their children and Jones’ grandchildren. After that “we were inseparable. I’m still excited to see him,” Jones said.
Graduated in 1981 from ETHS, Jones is a hairdresser and also co-owns the Magik Shoppe in Skokie. Their three children also graduated from ETHS and their son, Michael, was the catalyst behind the school’s bowling program, which still exists today. As his daughter, Tramalle, she won a bowling scholarship to Texas Southern University in Houston.
Starks was born in Evanston, but left the city at age 8. He is a fingerprint operator at Alight Solutions, Libertyville. Both are members of Second Baptist Church, Evanston, where Jones has been a member of the choir since age 16.
says he doesn’t play much anymore, “now it’s all about the money and it’s not fun”.
The couple dated constantly for 14 years with arguments about marriage, but “nothing too serious,” Jones said.
On May 11, 2019, during a dinner at STK Steakhouse, Jones was shocked when Starks got down on one knee and proposed. “Get up! What are you doing?” Jones remembered telling him. Starks definitely surprised Jones, but the restaurant staff and his family were in on it. Jones said: “The whole restaurant applauded!”
Like so many other couples, Starks and Jones have postponed their wedding for two years due to the pandemic.
But on May 13, 2022, about 150 friends and relatives watched Senior Pastor Dr. Michael CR Nabors of Second Baptist Church officiates at the ceremony held at the Fountain Blue Banquets & Conference Center in Des Plaines.
Both wanted to include their families in the ceremony.
Jimmy Starks served as best man, and Jones’ daughters served as matron and maid of honor. Jones’ eldest grandson walked down the aisle before the bride and two of her granddaughters were florists.
Her son walked Jones down the aisle and her father, Samuel Jones, Sr., 92, delivered her. Two of her grandchildren carried signs that read “If you think we’re cute, wait until you see the bride!”
After the ceremony, Jones surprised her new husband by singing a heartfelt version of “At Last” by Etta James.
After a cocktail party and a nice dinner, the couple and their guests danced for hours to music played by DJ Dwayne Oates, who the couple met while he was playing songs at the Classic Bowl.
Guests were treated to a delicious wedding cake from Dalton’s Cakes, a bakery owned by Black in Grayslake.
Jones said she is eternally grateful to Connie Henry and Nicole Henry for making the wedding a perfect event. This mother-daughter duo “discovered this day” for the couple, putting the finishing touches on this perfect game.