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Local Couples Share Love Stories of Meetings, Proposals and Marriages 

Story & Photography Provided

Local couples, which might have met on sites like Craigslist personals, share their love stories in this Valentine’s Day-themed feature.

loveJim and Debbie Wolfley  

I went with a good friend to a Fiji fraternity party at Rose-Hulman, which in 1980 was all male at the time. Walking into the party room, two guys asked us to dance. Little did I know they were going “kamikaze,” which meant they asked the next two girls through the doorway to dance. My husband likes to embellish this part with “even if she had two heads and three eyes.” We spent the rest of the evening together, dancing and talking. I was a townie and when I left the party, I blurted out my phone number and told him to call me. I then went home, woke my mother and told her I had met the man I was going to marry. We were engaged two months later and married in the summer of 1981. Forty years, three kids and five grands – and still dancing.

Brian and Cheryl Hartman 

I’m Brian Hartman, a local ER doc. I met my wife Cheryl, a local dentist, back in medical school. I was class president and she was interested in medical school, so she attended a student leadership dinner with a friend and sat next to me. During the dinner, the waiter pulled her salad plate away and dropped a piece of lettuce in her hair that only I saw. I pulled it out while saying, “I can’t let you go through the night with salad in your hair.” That was the last I remembered from the night.

Three months later I’m at the Vogue with my roommate and another friend. I see an attractive blonde girl and ask her to dance. She turns around and talks to her friends so I assume she rejected me. Really she was telling them the “Salad Leaf Guy” just asked her to dance. I had a nickname. She turned back around to me and we danced for hours, exchanged numbers and ended up getting married. 

At one point during small talk, I asked what her birthday was and she told me. I said “So is mine,” and she demanded I show my driver’s license to prove it wasn’t just a line.

Shortly after we started dancing that evening at the Vogue, I asked if one of her friends wanted to dance with my roommate. She grabbed a friend and the two of them ended up getting married also. Love was in the air at the Vogue.

Ryan and Stephanie Abbott 

My husband and I met in June of 2000. I was playing in my last eligible year for Center Grove Lassie League. Our assistant coach was dating a girl on the team, my best friend at the time, and said he worked with a guy I should meet. Ryan from Pittsboro showed up at one of our games at the Lassie League for a blind date. The four of us went to Steak ‘n Shake after the game, me wearing my dirty softball uniform. Our first solo date was a few days later at Applebee’s at the Greenwood Park Mall. We were engaged September 22, 2006, and our engagement pictures were taken the summer of 2007 at the Lassie League, on the diamond where I was playing when we first met. We were married on September 22, 2007.

Mike and Mary Graham

An airport love connection – with a twist.

We met in January 2001, before 9/11. I’m originally from Center Grove but at the time was living in Maui. I came home to see my family for Christmas. During my visit home, I decided to fly to Chicago for a blind date. That’s where we met, at the Indianapolis International Airport. Mike lived in Omaha and was flying home after his business trip to Indianapolis. Chicago was his connecting flight home. Side note – Indianapolis was not his territory but he was filling in for a colleague. This was God stepping in to connect us.

We met standing in the Southwest Airlines boarding-pass line. We briefly chatted, long enough to tell him I lived in Maui, was visiting family in Indy, and that I was on my way to Chicago for a blind date. I really wasn’t interested because my focus was on the blind date. After we boarded the plane we didn’t even sit together, and we had the option because we didn’t have assigned seats.

When the flight landed, before we exited the plane I turned to look behind me to wave goodbye. I had a weird feeling. My grandmother had a funny saying that “someone walked over her grave.” I never understood that saying until then. This was the best way to describe how I felt when I turned back to wave goodbye. It was a weird sensation, a pause – a hesitation. I felt sort of breathless. I had to self-talk, “Mary, you’re not shy. Turn around and wave goodbye to that guy,” to get myself to turn around and wave goodbye. At the time I brushed it off that I was just nervous for my date (keep reading to see the real truth). I mustered up the courage, turned around and waved goodbye, and exited the aircraft. As I was looking for my date (pre-9/11, people could meet you at your gate), Mike came up behind me, handed me his business card and asked me to call him to let him know how the blind date worked out.

The blind date was not a love connection. I headed to the airport the next day to try to catch an early flight. I had two hours to waste until my flight. This is where God steps in again. I tried to catch up on some phone calls but could not get cell phone reception. Remember, this was 2001. I decided to grab a drink. As I paid, in my wallet I saw Mike’s business card with a toll-free number (again, God. Mike wasn’t even a thought at the time). To relieve my boredom, I decided to call him from a pay phone. We chatted. Within two weeks he was traveling back to Indianapolis, only this time to see me. We spent two days together and then my parents took us both to the airport. This time he was headed to Omaha and I was headed back home to Maui. Despite dating across a four-hour time zone difference and 3,700 miles, we were married 18 months later.

One of the more interesting details of our love story is that after 10 months of dating, we realized we had been in the same place at the same time just two years before we met. When Mike brought me to Nebraska for the first time, he took me to one of his favorite pizza places in downtown Omaha. Walking up to the restaurant I said, “I’ve been here before.” I’ve lived in a lot of places because I was a contract, traveling respiratory therapist. When you live in so many places, things start to meld together – or so I thought. Once we got into the restaurant, I knew I had been there before. It was when I took a travel assignment in San Francisco. I was driving from Indy to my assignment, and the first place I stopped to eat was in downtown Omaha. I’m driving 2,000 miles across the United States and this is where I stop? God again. It was this cool, rustic place and there were cobblestone streets all around. This is why I remember it so well.

When I informed Mike that I had eaten there two years prior, that’s when he told me his friend owned it and needed help bartending over the holidays two years prior. Mike only worked Friday evenings because he had a full time job. Then it hit me. I left for California the day after Thanksgiving, which was a Friday. I was there during the evening. I remember thinking the bartender was cute. That’s when I realized it was him that I saw. We had been in the same place at the same time. I had seen him before, but I was so tunnel-visioned on going to San Francisco, I didn’t pay attention. God was like, “Hello Mary, look at this guy, would you?” I believe now that is why I had that weird sensation on the plane when I turned around to wave goodbye. My brain (or my heart) knew I had seen Mike once before – the man I was to marry.


John and Sarah Mandabach  

My girlfriend Sarah Baker and I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane on December 23, 2004, in Houston, Texas. Justvibehouston.com is the best place to learn more about Houston and other places in Texas. Prior to the jump, I arranged to have a huge banner placed in the middle of the landing zone that read, “SARAH, WILL YOU MARRY ME?” She said yes. It was her first and last skydive, but we both very much enjoyed it.

Sean and Ellen Bryk 

In February of 2014, our vendor sent Sean and me on a cruise for a conference and vacation. One of our dock destinations was Barbados where we snorkeled with sea turtles and visited the remnants of a shipwreck. It was a beautiful and romantic adventure. Afterwards as we walked along the beach, I kept trying to hold Sean’s hand, but he was oddly standoffish. We spotted a local fisherman standing knee-deep in the ocean. Instead of a typical rod and reel, he was using an empty water bottle with fishing twine, with a hook on the end that he repeatedly cast out and reeled in. I watched intensely for several minutes until something else caught my attention – everyone on the beach was cheering and clapping. I turned around to see Sean on one knee asking me to marry him. I looked around then looked at Sean again wondering if this was real. Indeed it was. I said yes and began to cry. He hugged me and everyone clapped and cheered some more.

Craig and Paula Boas

While on one knee, my (now) wife kicked me down and screamed “Shut up” at me! Paula and I met when we were 14 years old at Center Grove High School. We were awesome friends throughout high school, and even double-dated for our junior prom. We lost touch for a few years as we ventured off to college but reconnected in November of 1996. In the spring of 1998, we drove to Marcus, Iowa, to visit her almost-100-year-old great-grandma. We stayed at her grandparents’ house. Grandpa begged Paula to move to Iowa to teach. Paula said she couldn’t because it would be hard for me. Grandpa didn’t care that it would be hard – we weren’t married and until we got married my career didn’t concern him. I jokingly said if he brought up marriage again, I would propose just to shut him up. He laughed. Minutes later he raised the subject again so I dropped to one knee and pulled a ring out of my pocket. Paula’s reaction was simple – she kicked me over. With tears in his eyes, grandpa asked her, “Well, are you going to say yes?” Days later the story made it into the local newspaper. We walked into a bar and the bartender asked if we were “the newlyweds from Indiana.” Small-town living at its finest. We married in November of 1996. We never moved to Iowa. Instead we raised two awesome kids in Center Grove.

Mark and Laura Minzes 

My husband Mark and I were married in September of 1993 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indy. An important part of the service to my family and I was to have the minister that married my parents and baptized me, and with whom I had developed my own friendship growing up, participate in our ceremony. While Reverend Ron Bowman didn’t conduct our ceremony, he did do a couple of scripture readings for us. Pastor Ron has literally done thousands of weddings over his long career, but to this day he still says that ours stands out to him as one of the most unique and beautiful ones he’s ever had the pleasure of participating in. Pastor Ron was born with one arm, and unlike so many weddings before, he fit right in. He rounded out a group of people who included my husband, who is blind; our best man John, Mark’s brother, who was blind (now deceased); one of our groomsmen Scott, who uses a wheelchair; and – unusually progressive for the time in 1993 but perhaps not so much now – the female minister that married us, Dr. Linda McCoy. In particular, the line of men coming up on the groom’s side for the ceremony was quite entertaining, with Reverend McCoy leading the train out to the altar.

Mark and I will celebrate 29 years of marriage this September, and like most couples we still fondly remember many aspects of our day – how it absolutely poured until we were ready to walk out to the waiting car, how we were able to “do the birdseed thing,” as my 8-year-old niece said at the time, and other such details. We’ve also often thought of our wedding with entertained and amused smiles when we think of the variety of all our friends and family who joined us in our celebration that day.

loveChris and Andrea Kahrer

On October 16, 2021, I was first introduced to the “second line,” a New Orleans tradition, at a colleague’s funeral. The deceased, Carol, was a spitfire type of lady, so full of life and energy. At her funeral it was more than fitting for a second line to take the lead after the eulogy – such a perfect celebration of her. I did a little research and found that it was also appropriate to have a second line at weddings. 

We were married at a venue on Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indianapolis, where we had our first date. We hopped from end to end enjoying the district, so it felt only right to include a stroll down Mass Ave with everyone. Chris and I have been in so many weddings. We are blessed to have many friends and family, and wanted ours to be something that no one had seen and something that no one would forget. We also chose a brunch wedding, cabaret-style, in the same venue. We wanted to go out with a bang, and how do you do that at 4 p.m.? You get a permit, hire a police escort and brass band, head on down the road to the place that was part of your first date, and pump your guests full of breadsticks. Since the festivities started early and the bar opened at 11 a.m., I knew by 4 p.m. our guests would need to have a snack or two.

When I sat down in the makeup chair the morning of the wedding, the artist said to me, “You’re the talk of the town.” She had been at another event the night before and other vendors had gotten word about it, and were excited to see how it played out. Both Chris and my mom were a little iffy about this. They thought I was being “too extra.” I tend to do things over the top. Part of my career involves planning events. It had to be extra. We were only doing this once, right? At the conclusion they were both thrilled. We wanted to make our own traditions, and wanted the day to reflect our personalities and our lives together. We took shots of Maker’s Mark for our “Kentucky Hug,” aka unity ceremony, and danced our first dance to six of our favorite songs mixed by our wonderful DJ friends (it helps to work in the music industry). We also contracted a 1956 Rolls-Royce limo in which my father was able to ride. You can visit sites like dreamlimousinesdetroit.com/limo-rental/luxury-limousine-homecoming-prom/ if you need a limo rental. It is all he’s talked about these past couple of months. Everyone had a blast – the vendors that participated, the guests and even strangers on the street. We had people stopping in traffic and coming out of buildings to cheer and wave. It was a perfect day that we will never forget.  

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