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Scaling the Mighty Willis Tower — With My Acrophilic Husband

View of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago from the Willis Tower, Chicago. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Looking east over Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago from Willis Tower. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

The Willis Tower — aka the Sears Tower — is Jon’s kind of place. High up, with a view that goes on forever.

I’ve known about Jon’s acrophilia for a very long time — ever since we made a trip to Europe together, early in our romance. I’d been to Europe before, so as we planned our trip it fell to me to suggest an itinerary.

Willis Tower view from the street, Chicago. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Photo by Barbara Newhall

But what would Jon want to see in Europe? I hadn’t a clue. I knew what I liked — gothic churches, medieval castles, Mosel wines, Brötchen.  But Jon? He didn’t seem to know. And once we were in Europe though Jon seemed to be enjoying himself, his sightseeing preferences remained a mystery to me.

My Husband the Acrophiliac

It wasn’t until we got back home that Jon’s travel passions revealed themselves. There they were for all to see in the photos he’d taken during our trip. In town after town, Jon had identified the tallest structure in the neighborhood, placed me in front of it — or on top of it — and snapped a picture. If there was a view from on high to be had — from a church steeple, a Rathaus bell tower, a castle rampart or a finicula — there I stood, in the middle of it, smiling.

Forty years later, thanks to the very nice folks at Independent Publishers Book Awards, I was able to treat my husband to the view from yet another place high in the

Looking northeast over Lake Michigan and Chicago from Willis Tower. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Looking northeast from the tower. Photo by Barbara Newhall

sky: the 99th floor of Chicago’s Willis Tower.

The IPPYs — Atop the Willis Tower

Taller than the World Trade Centers when it was built in 1973 and for 25 years the tallest building in the world, the Willis Tower juts 108 stories into the sky over Chicago. When I found out that the IPPY book awards would be presented on its Sky Deck on May 10, I invited my acrophilic husband to be my plus-one. It took two ear-popping elevators and an escalator to get to the Sky Deck, but we braved the heights and attained the 99th floor without incident.

Yes, it was Jon’s kind of place. And, yes, he got a photo of it — and me. And while we were at it, I caught one of him.

Author Barbara Falconer Newhall before the Willis Tower, Chicago. Photo by Jon Newhall

That’s me. Photo by Jon Newhall

Entrance to Willis Tower, Chicago. Photo by Barbara Newhall

And that’s Jon. Photo by Barbara Newhall

More travel stories at “The Poop on China — And the Pee.”  And “Wrestling With God on the Shores of Lake Michigan.”

Entrance overhang of the Willis Tower, Chicago. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Entrance overhang of the Willis Tower. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Willis Tower party entrance won by Wrestling with God, Stories of Doubt and Faith, the cover shown here, by Barbara Falconer Newhall. Patheos Press, 2015, won an IPPY gold first place in its category.

Our ticket to the Willis Tower.



  1. Will Philipp says:

    Great story—-who would have known that Jon had a height thing—did we know that on our China trip?

  2. Ginger Rothe says:

    congratulations at the top of the world!

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