‘How I met my Sweetheart’ …

Readers share their ‘happily ever after’ encounters

Posted on Feb 01 2016 in Features

One thing most all sweethearts get asked at some point: “How did you meet?”

For some, it was like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening.” Sparks flew at the first meeting of eyes across a crowded room, love at first sight.

Sometimes, one person felt that spark right away, while the other looked for the fire hose. And it took some convincing from the party of the first spark to get the other to feel the same way … until he or she finally did.

For others, the term “sweetheart” was an acquired taste. Maybe the first meeting was sour or bland. But additional encounters brought to mind another Rodgers and Hammerstein standard: “Getting to Know You” and feelings between the two slowly blossomed into true love.

And for others, an initial meeting may have been interrupted by fate … maybe for almost a lifetime. Then, Cupid once again brought the two back together for the rest of their lives.

Beginning in November, and continued through January, we asked readers to send their “How I met my sweetie” stories for this Valentine  issue. We received over 115 sweetheart connections. Picking the ones to use is never easy. But, here is a variety of some sweet, unique and fascinating stories we hope you will enjoy reading, too.

We thank all of you who sent us your letters and emails. Those whose memories we printed received $50. One letter was randomly selected from all submissions for a $100 prize. That letter came from Shirley and Larry Strayer of LaGrange, who shared with us their “63 years of love, forgiveness, sadness and joy.”

Sheila and Jack Masters exchange wedding vows in their clown makeup on stage at the Red Skelton Festival in Vincennes in June 2010. Quizzy and Flap Jack, as they are known, sure put a slapstick spin on the old fairy tale “happily ever after” ending.

Sheila and Jack Masters exchange wedding vows in their clown makeup on stage at the Red Skelton Festival in Vincennes in June 2010. Quizzy and Flap Jack, as they are known, sure put a slapstick spin on the old fairy tale “happily ever after” ending.

Love and laughter, ever after!

My wife, Sheila, and I are both clowns, but previously we did not know each other. A mutual friend asked us to clown at the American Legion Kids’ Christmas party.

Our friend had hoped that we would hook up because Sheila was a widow, and I had been single for eight years. We did hit it off, but it took three months of talking on the phone before we actually met and found out what each other looked like without clown makeup.

We dated for over a year when I decided to propose.

Since we met in clown make-up, I thought it only fitting that I should propose in clown makeup. While clowning at the Shrine Circus in Evansville, I asked her to come backstage where I proposed in front of 10 circus elephants.

Later, I was on the executive steering committee for the Red Skelton Festival in Vincennes. They were looking for a big event of some kind for the stage following the Red Skelton Parade. I jokingly suggested to Phillip Summers, the president emeritus of Vincennes University, that since Sheila and I had met in clown makeup and got engaged in clown makeup, we could also get married in clown makeup.

He thought it was a great idea and took it to the steering committee. They thought it was a great idea and planned our wedding for us. I found a minister from Evansville who was a hobo clown.

Our wedding took place in downtown Vincennes on stage after the Red Skelton Parade with a couple hundred clowns in attendance along with hundreds from the Vincennes community.

— Jack Masters, Vincennes, Ind.

Love at first bite

I met my sweetheart at the dentist. He came in for an exam, routine cleaning and wisdom teeth removal. I was the one scheduled to clean his teeth and take radiographs.

Nathan was so attractive and charming that I felt a bit nervous. I hit myself in the head while putting the X-ray machine back against the wall and felt like a klutz! While working on his teeth, I said, “You have very pretty teeth,” and he replied, “You have very pretty eyes,” and smiled at me. I was bitten … by the love bug, not him.

We chatted about where we went to college, family, hobbies and so on. I used that opportunity to find out if he was single, and I made sure to let him know I was, too. The conversation was so easy between us.

I moved him to the dentist’s room for the next procedure. I made sure to stop by and check on him, which gave me another chance to flirt.

After Nathan had his wisdom teeth removed, he waited around to ask me to lunch for another day, but he didn’t get a chance to talk to me again since I was so busy.

He was leaving soon to go back to Purdue to take his board exams and wouldn’t be back in town for a while. However, his mom had an appointment soon after. She asked the other hygienist about me, and they wrote a note for me on a tray liner with Nathan’s phone number.

It took me a few weeks to get the courage to call him, but that call changed my life. Our first date lasted over eight hours, and it felt like we’ve known each other for years. We’ve been together for a little over 10 years. April will be our sixth wedding anniversary.

— Jennifer Stilger, Corydon, Ind.

Shattered bulb, and a melted heart

Starting school in the first grade, I saw my love to be. I remember how he melted my heart at such a young age.

It was Christmas season, and the teacher gave us all a bright and shiny glass bulb to hang on the tree. When it was my turn to place it on the tree, I dropped it, and it shattered in tiny pieces. My heart raced as the teacher looked at me with disgust in her eyes and said, “You will not get another!”

I felt my heart breaking, until I looked up as the boy next to me said, “Here, take mine and put it on the tree.”

His voice and eyes melted my heart.

Through the years, we dated off and on, but that special boy always made me feel as if he was the one to be with the rest of my life.

We married the year after high school, raised three children and, this year, will celebrate our 53rd anniversary.

— Julia Eagleson, LaGrange, Ind.

Not just passing ships in the night …

Many years ago — I won’t say just how many! — I used to work a night shift in town. Each morning as I drove home from work, I would watch all the other traffic heading into town, going to their daytime jobs.

One morning I noticed a really cute guy driving a small Datsun pickup. He pulled out from a road close to my house, as I was pulling onto that same road. As we passed each other, going in opposite directions, he smiled at me, and I, of course, smiled back!

The next day, the drive home was much more exciting as I looked forward to seeing the really cute driver of the little pickup truck! And sure enough … there he was! He smiled and waved, and I, of course, smiled and waved back!

Every morning for many weeks this continued, and the small waves and smiles quickly turned into BIG waves and BIG smiles, as we would roll down the driver’s window and throw our arm out the window and vigorously wave and smile ear to ear.

Many mornings I would refuse to stop at the store on the way home for the much-needed milk or eggs, because I did not want to miss the really cute guy in the little pickup truck.

One evening at a friend’s cookout, I noticed the really cute guy with the little pickup truck was there! He gave me that big smile and wave, and I, of course, did the same — as we had done on the road so many mornings.

That was the night I met my sweetie and learned his name (which, eventually, became my name also), and my life changed forever.

— Christine Mullins, Union City, Ind.

Family ties that bind

I was once set up on a blind date by my mother’s friend. Her nephew and I went bowling with a group of friends, and though I thought he was very nice, sparks did not fly. After a few conversations via text messaging, contact between us ceased.

Six months later, I am dating someone else, and we go to the local Strassenfest in Jasper. I am introduced to some of my boyfriend’s classmates. While the conversation goes on around me, I cannot stop looking at one, Chris, because he looks so familiar. I just can’t quite place him, though.

Finally, it dawns on me, and I ask him if he has a brother. Turns out his older brother was my one and only blind date. We have a good laugh about the coincidence, and he tells me he has been told multiple times how much he looks like his brother.

Chris and I then bumped into each other quite a bit throughout the next year, and we became friends. We even went to his cousin’s wedding together, where I was reintroduced to his brother! Luckily, there were no hard feelings.

The relationship I was in soon fizzled out, and Chris and I ended up at another wedding together in the summer of 2012. We started dating and haven’t left each other’s side since. We both think it’s a bit funny, however, that I now call that blind date I once had “my brother-in-law!”

— Jillian Haase, Dubois, Ind.

Goodbye, city life!

Growing up as a city girl, I never envisioned living anywhere but Indianapolis. I loved the tree-shaded streets and sidewalks of Irvington.

On those sidewalks, I was able to reach every local destination I wanted — schools, homes of friends, church, shopping areas and the movie theater. A bus stop was at the street in front of my house, and I grew up taking the bus anywhere not within walking distance.

Then, at the age of 19, I met a confirmed country boy and fell in love!

I’d worked all day and ridden the bus downtown to the Indy IU campus. After class, I was steeling myself for the cold, late and snowy six-block walk to my bus stop. Before I could leave, I heard a deep, masculine voice saying “mind if I join you?” I looked up to see a tall, handsome, sweet-faced young man standing by me. Well, heck yeah, he could join me! I trusted him from that first minute. He walked me to the bus that night and has been my gallant protector ever since.

Dan is the reason I traded the life of a city mouse for that of a country cousin. We live on a Henry County farm — no sidewalks, buses or close neighbors. Just beautiful views over our fields, clear to the horizon. This is our land, and this is my home.

— Beth Conway, Henry County

Richard Hertel stands beside his plane. His first date with Mary, the woman he’d marry, was a plane ride.

Richard Hertel stands beside his plane. His first date with Mary, the woman he’d marry, was a plane ride.

Come fly with me!

A friend and I went to a singles party hosted by the local University Club. Richard came over to talk. Eventually, my sometimes-impetuous friend suggested the three of us go to another venue.

In the parking lot, she suddenly said, “You two go ahead. I don’t want to go after all.”

I gave her a stunned “what-are-you-thinking?” look.

She then said to Richard as she left, “You’re a nice guy, aren’t you?”

His quick reply was, “Of course I’m a nice guy.”

At the end of the evening, he invited me to go flying with him the following Saturday in his club’s two-seat airplane. I’d never flown before in any kind of airplane, large or small, and was a little afraid. I said I’d think about it. After much mental hand-wringing on my part, I decided to take the chance.

So, when he called on that Friday to see if I had decided to go, I said, “Yes!”

That flight began years of flying adventures together. I tell people how much trust and confidence he must’ve inspired at our first meeting for our first date to be a plane ride.

Of course, he likes to tease me about my friend and me “setting him up,” and he pretends not to believe me when I say I knew nothing about her plan.

This past November we celebrated 39 years of marriage.

— Mary Hertel, Fort Wayne, Ind.

John and Virginia Montoya started dating on Valentine’s Day 1978 and were married a year later. After they married, they discovered they shared an incredible photographic coincidence from their youth that would make even the world’s biggest doubting Thomas of “destiny” throw up his hands and believe!

John and Virginia Montoya started dating on Valentine’s Day 1978 and were married a year later. After they married, they discovered they shared an incredible photographic coincidence from their youth that would make even the world’s biggest doubting Thomas of “destiny” throw up his hands and believe!

Yes, Virginia …!

Fate? Some call it “luck.” Whatever it was, two lonely hearts connected — and in more ways, we later discovered, than we ever would have believed.

At Christmastime of 1977, I was divorced, and my 6-year-old daughter needed glasses. My heart broke when her older brother put it on her Christmas list to Santa for her.

I took the list to John, the owner of an optical business, (in Fort Collins, Colorado) as that was the only thing on her list. He teared up, and just couldn’t help but help me out.

He secretly fit her with new frames, and Santa delivered that Christmas morning.

But this isn’t a Christmas story. It’s a Valentine’s Day story!

A month later, I sent John a Valentine card expressing my thankfulness for his kindness.

He invited me to lunch on Valentine’s Day. He, too, was divorced. I couldn’t resist.

At lunch, he handed me a little gift. I thought that was so sweet, I leaned over and gave him a little kiss. He ordered a pina colada, and as we sipped, we talked and talked before realizing we hadn’t eaten and it was two hours later. We knew we were soul mates.

We were married less than two years later. We blended our children into a family. We felt the Lord had directed our paths. But what happened shortly after left no doubt that our paths were destined to join.

When my parents came to visit us, we spent one evening looking at old family slides. John got out his family photos, too. The next morning, my dad, a man of few words, asked to see a couple photos from the night before.

One was from our family trip to Yellowstone National Park in 1960 when I was 12. The other photo Daddy wanted to see again was one John had showed — a black and white photo John made at Yellowstone on a graduation trip with buddies. It, too, was from 1960 when he was 18.

Mine was a color slide of a black bear leaning against the window of a car. John’s was also a picture of a bear … leaning against the window of a car.

John’s photo was taken from the front end of the car and had the car’s front license plate. Mine was from the back end and had the car’s rear plate. Daddy had made an amazing discovery: the license numbers were the same!

John and I had photographed the same bear and the same car at the same time from opposite angles. We were in the same spot at ages 18 and 12, and now we were married.

We are definitely soul mates — and nearing our 40th anniversary.

Was it fate? Was it luck? We call it “a blessing.”

— Virginia Montoya, Greensburg, Ind.

She called him out; he asked her out

It was June 1986. I was a slow pitch softball umpire; he was a super jock pitcher playing for the Angola Moose team. I called him out at first base; he said I blew the call.

After the softball game was over, I went to shut off the lights on the field. He followed me, and I thought, “Oh, oh. This guy is going to give me trouble.” Little did I know how much trouble!

Rick was 6 feet 4 inches tall, dark hair, mustached, Tom Selleck type, good looking guy. He said, “You know you blew that call at first base,” and then continued to ask me out on a date. We were with each other every night after that on a date or spending time at the ball park in Angola.

In the fall of 1986, Rick asked me to marry him. There was no doubt in my mind that this is the good looking super jock that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We were married in December 1986. And 29 years later he is still the love of my life.

— Cindy Wells, Pleasant Lake, Ind.

Rick and Cindy Wells stand beside an image of Rick at the War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. He played basketball at Indiana Tech. But it was softball that brought them together. She was an umpire who called him out at first, a call he disputed, right up until he asked her for a date.

Rick and Cindy Wells stand beside an image of Rick at the War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. He played basketball at Indiana Tech. But it was softball that brought them together. She was an umpire who called him out at first, a call he disputed, right up until he asked her for a date.

A Facebook-to-Facebook reunion

My husband, Mark, and I were members of the same high school class of 1983. Ours was a small school, so everyone knew each other, but we weren’t close friends.

After graduating, I didn’t see Mark again until our 10-year class reunion. We had both married and were raising young children.

A classmate of ours passed away in 2012, and the news of it was on Facebook. We each were Facebook users and shared our memories of that classmate with many of the other people we graduated with. That is how we re-connected. By then, we were both divorced.

We messaged back and forth about what had gone on in our lives since leaving high school and where we were in our lives at that time.

Over the next couple of years we occasionally talked on Facebook. We discovered we had a lot in common with similar hopes and dreams for our future. In November of 2014 we decided we should meet face to face. Our first “real date” was going to see an Ohio State football game. We got along so well that it felt like we had been together for years.

We were engaged by December and were married Feb. 14, 2015, Valentine’s Day.

Mark is the love of my life! We will have just been married a year this February, but we both feel as if we have loved each other all of our lives.

— Lynne Yoder, Decatur, Ind.

The role of kismet: A school ‘passion’ play

Parent Don — a divorced father of an eighth grade daughter;
Teacher Jeri — a divorced eighth grade English teacher;
Jessica — Don’s daughter, Jeri’s student;
Guidance counselor — unintentional matchmaker.

Act 1

Setting: Fall 1988 Parent-Teacher Conferences. Guidance counselor, providing the kismet, puts the father on the English teacher’s list for an evening conference. The father enters the teacher’s classroom and sits down. The teacher greets him.

Teacher: “Good evening. How can I help you?”

Parent: “How’s Jessica doing this year?”

Teacher: “She’s a good student and a great kid. I really enjoy having her in class.”

Parent: “Thanks. I’m very concerned about her going to college. I want her to take the right classes now so she’s prepared. What can we do?”

The teacher says she appreciates his concern and assures him that she’d see what she could.

Act 2

Setting: The next day. The teacher tells the counselor about the parent’s concern and wishes. Together, they decide the best way to help the daughter is to see about putting her in more academic classes. In addition, the teacher is starting an Academic Quiz Bowl team and asks the daughter to join it.

Over the year, the father comes to the competitions and always manages to find time to speak with the teacher.

Act 3

Setting: Near the end of the school year. The teacher receives a message from the parent. Concerned, she approaches the daughter.

Teacher: “I received a message from your father saying he wants to talk to me. Is everything OK?”
Jessica smiles.

Jessica: “Things are fine. I really didn’t have anything to do with it!”

Puzzled, the teacher calls the father.

Parent: “I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for Jessica this year.

Teacher: “You’re welcome. She’s a great kid. I’m sure she’ll do well in high school.”

A pause.

Parent: “And by the way, would you like to have dinner with me?”

A slight hesitation.

Teacher: “Yes. I’d like that very much.”

Act 4 (and beyond …)

Setting: Two years later. Don and Jeri are married; Jessica is the maid of honor.

— Jeri Fork, Kouts, Ind.

A purrfect gentleman

pawOne day while walking to the neighbor’s house a half mile away, I met my soon-to-be sweetie.

He zigged across the road and zagged back again. When we were eye to eye, it was love at first sight. In fact, we walked back home together that same day.

He was a shy but fun-loving guy, and we quickly became very attached. We were best friends and had 14 years of cozy comfort, playing games, cooking, watching TV, a lot of snuggling and just enjoying each other’s company.

He wasn’t able to work outside our home because of certain physical limitations, but many people knew him by name and reputation. He began life as LARK (Little Almost Road Kill), which evolved to into Rhoda, and then Rodney after his first doctor visit.

From the start, he fit in the palm of my hand but later had me wrapped around his furry gray and white paws.


— Glenda Bauer, Lafayette, Ind.

(Glenda added: “I planted Rod in the front yard hoping I could grow another pretty boy like him. No luck so far.”)

Roses for a lifetime of love

My wife, Barbara Jean, and I became interested in each other at a church party in 1944. I thought she was the prettiest girl in the world. I wanted to spend my life with her.

At that time, she was 13, and I was 21. I told her when she was allowed to date, I wanted to be with her. She said OK. After she turned 16, she was allowed to date. We talked about a lot of things including being married. On March 19, 1950 at 2 p.m., we were married by a 95-year-old preacher.

After being married one year, on that day and hour, I had the florist deliver her a dozen red roses, plus one for each year we were married. This tradition went on many years — you can guess what a bundle of rose this became, as well as the cost. (Note to readers: After about 20 years, he just had a dozen delivered each anniversary.) This has gone on for 65 years. You do the math on this, and I have given her in excess of 900 roses.

Another tradition is I never let myself go to sleep at night without telling her good night, giving her two or three love pats and thanking her for what she has done for me — not only that day but for sharing her whole life with me.

Last anniversary, our three wonderful children planned a 65-year party for us — the dozen roses were there as well as the candle holders that were at our wedding. Well over 100 family, friends and neighbors attended. My wife, now at 85, is still beautiful. I am 92.

— Glenn Hall, Paoli, Ind.

(Glenn Hall served as a longtime director for Orange County REMC.)

Readers share tips on love and staying in love

While we obviously could not fit the over 115 submissions we received in our print edition, some of the stories readers sent us came with sweet comments and/or sage advice backed by years of experience. Here is just some of the wisdom they shared:

Our love turned to everlasting friendship: the key to a long-term relationship. If you think you know someone before you marry them, you are just kidding yourself. One of the secrets to a happy marriage is compromise and tolerance.
— Cynthia Nowicki, Angola, Ind.

This will be our 29th wedding anniversary.… Daily, we say, “I love you” to the other one.
— Mike and Reta McCollum, Stroh, Ind.

We were fixed up by friends who knew us both … There is an age difference between us, and when my co-worker suggested we go out, I hold her I wasn’t sure. She told me the age difference was “just a number.” … We just think we are so blessed to have each other. In a world of so much uncertainty, we feel we won the lottery when we met.
— Barbara Lester, Lafayette, Ind.

The secret to life is thankfulness. Thankful for all the people God has placed in your life and for all things. Trials make us closer. I am married to [the] most wonderful man in the world.
— Jenny Hitte, Seffner, Fla.

One Sunday after church and lunch, we were at his apartment sitting on the floor listening to records and talking. He said, “I’ve felt that God is calling me to be a minister. What do you think of that?”

I thought, “Why are you asking me that?”

I said, “As a Christian, I believe what God calls us to do we need to do it the best we can.”

Then out of his mouth came, “Will you marry me?”

God must have taken over my brain. Out of my mouth came, “Yes.”

On April 29, 2016, we will celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary. And yes, he is a pastor, and my husband, lover and best friend. I thank God for him.
­— Ruth Clark, Palmyra, Ind.

Love is not something to gamble away. It must be cherished and worked on at each phase of your lives.
— Mike and Connie Hobbs, Columbus, Ind.

Online bonus stories

We will be adding additional stories this week.