For some happy couples, Valentine’s Day isn’t just a celebration of their romance. It’s also a celebration of having a special job — for without those, they would have never met, fallen in love and gotten married.
And while some companies frown on fraternization, some of these lovestruck partners still found a way to make romance in the workplace happen, even if it meant someone had to move on to a different employer. Proving without a doubt that when love is in the air, even a good job takes the back seat.
As a cashier at Home Depot in 1989, I saw quite a few handsome fellow “do-it-yourself” employees, but I never dated any of those cute guys. Then one day, an accidental paint spill in my line changed my life forever. I called over the intercom for an associate from the paint department to come to help clean up the spill. That’s when Chris walked into my life. He had dark hair, cut in a fashionable 1980s mullet, deep brown eyes, a mustache to rival Tom Selleck and a super-sexy set of dimples. He smiled up at me while adding sawdust to help absorb the paint, and I felt my stomach do a little flip.
The next day I worked, Walt, another member of the paint department, came up to me while I was at my register, ringing up customers. The first thing he said to me was, “Are you married?” This startled me a little as I was only 19 years old at the time and I knew that he was married. As I stammered out my answer, he explained that because I wore a ring on my left hand, he thought I was taken. I showed him that it was my class ring. Once he found out I was indeed single, he let me know that someone liked me. It took a few minutes, but I finally got him to tell me who it was — Chris.
“Chris, in paint?” I asked. I flashed on him cleaning up the paint spill and this time my stomach released a flurry of butterflies. Walt assured me that it was indeed the same Chris. After our conversation, I was anxious for my shift to end, so I could seek out Walt to find out more about my admirer. Instead of finding Walt in my journey through paint, I ran into Chris himself. From the expression on his face, I could tell Walt had let him in on the fact that I now knew he liked me. After some stumbling around, I found out he was about to go to lunch, so we walked over to McDonald’s. Not much of a first date, for sure, but it was the start of us discovering each other.
It turned out a group of employees was going out that night to a local pub and so we agreed to go together. We shared our first kiss that night, and from then on we were inseparable. We went to Disney World on our fifth date and even ended up discussing our future kids’ names while waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Our romance blossomed quickly and our co-workers loved to tease us about wedding bells. They weren’t wrong, because within two months we were engaged. On June 2, 1990, we became man and wife. Our joyous union did lead to one casualty, however, as we could no longer work together because of company policy, so I left Home Depot.
Twenty years later, we are still together, truly happier than we were on our wedding day. We have a beautiful teenage daughter, Brynn, and believe it or not, we stuck with the name we picked out at Disney World.
– Sandi Kelly Showalter
Meeting of the minds
As a paralegal and long-term-care ombudsman working for a nonprofit in Indiana, I was working hard at completing my college education while working full time. After ending a 21-year marriage, moving to a new house, and graduating from college, my life was settling into a routine that was workable and satisfying.
Shortly after I finished college, I attended a training session for ombudsmen. During the course, I learned that a fellow ombudsman and paralegal whom I had known for about 10 years, had written a book. This gentleman was also a Methodist minister who had lost his wife of 32 years to cancer the year before. The book he had written dealt with the struggles of pastors in dealing with personal loss, while still maintaining the role of caregiver and counselor for members of the congregation. During a break at the training, we chatted about the book. Since he knew my newly-earned degree was in journalism, he asked if I might be interested in working with him to edit his manuscript.
After reading the rough draft, I agreed to assist with the editing process and we began working together to finalize the book. We lived about two hours from each other and we would alternate weekends, spending a day together at one another’s homes, rewriting and editing. After several weekends, he invited me to go with him to see the church where he was pastor, a lovely little white country church nestled on a winding road in a rural part of the county, with a small cemetery and very large pine trees. It was a lovely summer’s day as the sun streamed through the stained-glass windows. It was that day that we both began to realize that something romantic was happening between us.
During the next few weeks our conversations became more personal, dealing with his loss of his wife and my emotions at experiencing the demise of a long marriage. We discovered that through editing the book we were confronting issues that not only might help someone else, but were also helping us each to deal with our respective losses. We also realized we had a great deal in common and enjoyed many of the same things. We are both avid readers, enjoy the outdoors, work well with people, and have great faith in God. And we realized that we were falling in love.
Not long after that, he proposed and we were married one Sunday after the worship service in the little white country church on the rural winding road. In the company of our families and the entire congregation, we acknowledged our commitment and love. All who attended affirmed their faith in our commitment by signing our marriage certificate.
We have now been married for four years. I have since gone back to school and am also a licensed Methodist minister, and the pastor at a small church about 20 miles from our home. The book that began our relationship has been very successful, and the workplace that brought us together has created new and exciting avenues of service and commitment for us as we continue our life’s journey together.
– Maureen M. Walby
Destiny comes knocking
There I was at the Stove Shop, making firebricks for wood stoves. Twenty years of age, I had the distinction of being the token female on an all-male crew. For 12 hours a day, I cut wire grids, troweled concrete and ran a forklift. And worried most of the time that my job wasn’t designed to help me meet someone I’d want to marry. (In case you are wondering, two of the aforementioned crew were already taken, and the remaining male was barely 17. )
Then one October morning, I heard someone tapping on the window above my workspace. It was destiny knocking, and I didn’t have a clue. What I did know was that this guy at my window had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, as well as a strong chin and a nice smile. He had an electric cord he needed me to plug into an outlet in our building.
The guy with the eyes knew my boss, and lunched with our crew all that week. Wondering if he was married or not, I grabbed at every clue: a sandwich made with the heels of the bread loaf surely meant he was single. Then he brought his puppy to work with him one day. Single, I reasoned again. Obviously, I was grasping at straws, because the more I watched and listened to this guy (who turned out to be a painting contractor working on-site), the more I had a feeling that, miracle of miracles, into the Stove Shop had stepped someone I could actually consider marrying!
Then he finished his job, and stopped coming to my building. We’d probably exchanged less than a hundred words. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to get to know him. But how? My mom said, “Leslie, why don’t you invite him to come visit?” Yikes! This was the late 1970s. Some girls were doing such things, but I wasn’t one of them. Still, all I could think about was how I was going to get to see those blue eyes again if I didn’t do something. So I wrote a letter inviting him and his wife for dessert. (The wife idea was a ploy to not seem too eager. Also, to find out once and for all if he was unattached.)
Jackpot! Dave was single, only a few years older than me, and a really nice guy. So when he offered to hire me as painter’s helper, a couple of months later, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. And I did learn how to paint. But only in order to get to be with him every day. Working with a guy, you see him under pressure, and I liked what I saw. Apparently he did too, because one bright June afternoon in 1983, I walked up the church aisle and married him.
Twenty-seven years and six kids later, his blue eyes still smile at me. He’s a cabinetmaker now, and I’m a writer, but every time I remember that first meeting at the Stove Shop window, I’m newly amazed that our life together, which is full of purpose and peace, could spring from such a small beginning.
And to this day, I have a special fondness for wood stoves.
– Leslie J. Wyatt
A hole in his heart
Call it chance, call it fate, call it divine intervention. Whatever you call it, it changed my life forever.
I’m a respiratory therapist working at a local hospital in my hometown. One day my pager goes off and a co-worker asks me to take over for them in another area of the hospital. So I head off to cover the patients in the Open Heart Recovery Room, relieving my co-worker and not knowing that the next patient coming out those surgery doors would be the man of my dreams.
That patient, arriving out from surgery into the recovery room, was a 32-year-old male who had just had an ASD (atrial septal defect) repair. I was responsible for placing him on life support and monitoring his lung function. From the first moment he woke up and grabbed my hand, I felt something. I tried to shake it off, but he had such expressive eyes that just kept staring at me. He did quite well during his stay at our hospital, and I did see him a few more times before his discharge.
After his discharge from the hospital I continued to think of him often. I found myself including him in my prayers. I truly thought I would never see him again, but still hoped for good health and well being for him. My family and I attend a large church here in town, and three weeks later we were on our way to Sunday morning worship. Everything that morning was going wrong. We couldn’t get going on time. We were late, and then missed the time of the first morning service.
Finally making it to the second service of the day, we entered church, but due to the crowd at the later service, we sat in a different section than normal that day. After the service, as we were walking out of the church, I walked right into that patient from work. He said hi, and told me that he had prayed that God would let him find me here today. He asked me for my phone number, and for a date.
Eight months later he got down on one knee and he told me he could never fall in love before, because he had always had (literally!) a hole in his heart, and love had always fell right through. But then after his surgery he opened up his eyes and saw me, and fell in love, and this time the love stayed. Then he asked me to marry him. I never expected to find love at work. Especially with a person that was tied down, with a tube down his throat and attached to life support!
This year we celebrate 12 wonderful years of marriage. I feel very blessed to have found love in such an unexpected place.
– Donna Masino
Recruiting a wife
It was summer of 1997, just a few weeks shy of the Fourth of July. I was a 28-year-old Navy recruiter assigned to the Vineland, N.J., area recruiting station. It was a shore duty assignment that I had taken beginning in 1995. I clearly remember the weather being hot and clammy, not unusual for that time of the year. The day started out just like any other, we were just sitting in our office beginning our workday.
Our business practices involved active and passive recruiting. Passive recruiting consisted of people either physically coming into or calling our office. Walk-ins are generally people asking for information, or who actually know that they wanted to join the Navy. This segment of our potential candidate pool represented the “easy” way for us to score a contract. On this particular day, our first walk-in would prove to be the most significant ever.
She was tall, blond and had gorgeous blue eyes, as well as a figure that would stop traffic. She was shy in a cute way, the kind of way that puts butterflies in your stomach. When she walked into our office everything stopped, and suddenly the room got even hotter. We had a round-robin rotation concerning walk-ins, meaning that those of us working there claimed each applicant in a specific order, and hence became that person’s recruiter. Well, it was not my turn, but my partner and friend Brian Slattery was next, so he engaged this fiery blond while I watched, green with envy.
“Can I help you?” he said.
“Yes, my name is Sheila Clifford and I’d like to look into joining the Navy,” she responded.
“Nice to meet you, my name is Brian. Have a seat over here,” he responded.
As they chatted and began the delicate “should I or shouldn’t I join the Navy” dance, I sat quietly at my desk plotting how to steal her away from Brian, so I could be her recruiter. I knew that Brian had no personal interest in her, so I figured it was possible to strike a deal and give him the next contract that walked through the door, in exchange for her. To me, she was worth more than the next applicant, she was worth the next dozen!
The initial interview ended like most, with her making the promise to go home and think about it and come back in a few days. She left, and that was my opportunity to begin negotiations! Not just any negotiation, but the kind of talks that take place at the United Nations between rival countries.
“She was nice,” I stated casually.
“Yeah, we’ll never see her again!” Brian replied.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because she’s not really sure what she wants to do,” Brian stated.
“Why don’t you let me take her, I can get a commitment from her,” I offered.
“What’s in it for me?” he asked curiously.
“The next few walk-ins?” I answered, hoping to get away with as small a commitment as possible.
“Done,” he said and we shook on it.
And so began the cat-and-mouse game between Sheila and me. I waited a few days, called her and informed her of the unfortunate circumstances that prevented Brian from continuing as her recruiter. I let her know that I had volunteered to ensure her Navy experience was “top notch.” The hook was set.
She was much smarter than I anticipated however, because she and her mother Donna both caught on to the fact that I was calling and asking her to come to our office much more often that was necessary. Sheila questioned me about it one afternoon, and I knew my cover was blown. I had to come clean, and express my feelings. I told her I was very enamored by her, and I left it at that.
Recruiting rules and regulations clearly define that a recruiter will not have a relationship with an applicant or a potential applicant, and that an extended period of time must pass after the applicant has failed to enlist before a relationship can occur. At this point in the process, Sheila had already begun the screening to enlist; therefore I had to be very careful with what I did and said. I would have to wait for things to take their course.
After several weeks of meetings, tests, medical examinations and loads of paperwork, it became evident to Sheila that joining the Navy was not in her best interest. She was basically overqualified to enlist, and was just a few months shy of getting her bachelor’s degree. We decided it would be best if she waited and applied as an officer later on, once she had her degree. The plan worked fine for me, since all I had to do was watch the calendar and keep in touch.
Once the cool-down period was over, or close enough, I called and asked her out on our “first and legal” date. It was December 1997, and we later spent Christmas together. We were officially dating! Life was good, and it was about to get much better.
By the beginning of 1998 my shore-duty tour was coming to an end, and I was due to transfer to Norfolk, Va., to work aboard a local Navy ship. This scheduled move would be the true test on how strong our relationship really was. Would she move away with me or would we try a long-distance romance? Would it work? What would her family say? These were all very real questions I had that we would have to address soon enough. We agreed she would finish her current college semester at Rowan University and then follow me down to Virginia.
In March I packed my belongings into my Bronco, kissed her goodbye and hit the road. I remember having an overwhelming feeling of loneliness as I drove out of New Jersey on my way to Virginia. Was this the end? No, it was just the beginning!
By that summer, Sheila was in Virginia and we had a small apartment on the beach in Ocean View. The romance had survived, the bond was formed. It was going to last a lifetime.
As of September 2010 we have been married 10 years and have two boys — Ethan, 7, and Owen, 3. We live in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I am assigned as the director for the Center for Naval Engineering at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Sheila is a stay-at-home mom to our two boys. Oh, and she never did get around to joining the Navy.
– Kenneth Bates