Local couples share stories of how they met

Tales of True Love

Icelebration of Valentine’s Day, Blue Ribbon News asked several local couples how they met. This feature was so popular last year that we decided to put our 2013 couples back in the spotlight alongside our latest lovebirds. Thank you for sharing these stories of “How I Met My Mate.” 


Clarence & Leigh Plagens

Leigh and Clarence Plagens

Clarence and I met in Rome when both of our families went to the Ordination of our brothers as Catholic Priests in Saint Peter’s Cathedral on December 18, 1965. This would have been the last place I would have ever expected to meet a guy!

Clarence had just graduated from A&M and recently started his job. His boss had given him a week off, but after a few days, he asked him if he could stay two more weeks (I was staying for that time). His boss said yes, but with no pay. It did not matter to Clarence…we were falling in love!

We spent three romantic weeks in Rome, Lucerne for Christmas, Paris for New Year’s Eve and London, all accompanied by my family of eight – who decided if I did not marry Clarence, (not that he had asked me yet) they would just adopt him.

We returned home – Clarence to San Angelo and I to Tennessee where I was teaching school. After several flights back and forth, we got engaged, and on August 6, both of our brothers performed our wedding ceremony.

Forty seven years later, I am still involved with schools, he has a cattle ranch, and we have a wonderful daughter and son-in-law, with two grandchildren. We have both battled cancer, but with God’s grace, we are looking forward to many more years together!

Shared by Leigh Plagens.

Dalton & Laverne Kennimer

Dalton and Laverne Kennimer

We met at a mutual friend’s house in Mineola, TX when we were 16 years old. I lived 12 miles away in the neighboring town of Grand Saline. 

I wanted to date Laverne the first time I ever laid eyes on her and felt that I had found my soul mate. I hung around until she saw things my way,” said Dalton.

Laverne said, “When I met DaltonI thought he was nice, but I did not immediately think of him in terms of a future husband. My friends were dating friends of his at the time and kept telling me that he would date no one but me. Since this was the 50’s and he was the only one with a car, I questioned their motives. Because of the limited transportation, we triple dated most of the time. Mostly, we just sat beside one another and were together as a group. One of those times, I was sitting beside him, but one of my friends was sitting on his lap due to an overcrowded car. I remarked that I did not have a date for the night. He immediately dumped her from his lap and replied “you do now.” We started dating as a couple then, but I did not realize until my senior year that I would miss Dalton very much if he were not around and that I loved him. When he became aware of that change, he proposed. We were married four days after graduation.”

Shared by Dalton and Laverne Kennimer.

Frank & Nicole Conselman

Nicole and Frank Conselman

I met Nicole in the summer of 1992, while we were both interning at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She was enrolled at A&M and I at UT, but luckily we were both home for the summer. I was in the business office and she was in the research lab. One of my jobs was to deliver packages to the different research doctors’ offices. Nicole worked on the 3rd floor and I was on the 2nd.  No matter where my deliveries were, I always walked by her lab to try and catch a glimpse of the beautiful blue-eyed girl.

I didn’t have the courage to go up and introduce myself, but luckily I had help. I told a fellow employee about my crush and he approached her and asked if I could have her number. At least I had the nerve to make the phone call. Best decision of my life. We will be married 20 years in June.

Shared by Frank Conselman.

Bill & Becky Cecil

Bill and Becky Cecil

To this day I don’t know why I joined the community bowling league that was just starting; I just needed to. I did meet some wonderful people, especially the Burke’s who really befriended me and seemed to overlook my average bowling skills more than most.

During the last six weeks of play it happened. I went up to bowl and out of the corner of my eye I saw the most exciting young lady ever. She just happened to be bowling in a teacher’s league not too far from ours.

I stopped and stared at her for what seemed a lifetime – maybe thirty seconds – and then called the Burke’s to my side. I pointed out the young lady and announced specifically that she was going to be my wife. How I decided that in thirty seconds I will never know, except for the strange feelings I experienced as I admired her.

From that moment on, I bowled with my team and spent the rest of my time behind the bowling area of the most exciting young lady I had never met and never spoken to. I didn’t even know her name. All of that changed the night that I didn’t need to go anywhere to observe her as she was in the next lane. My opportunity had finally arrived, so I sat at her end of the seats. Guess what! After bowling she sat next to me; we talked and exchanged phone numbers. We celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary last June. She is still the love of my life!

Shared by Bill Cecil, former Rockwall Mayor.

Billy & Autumn Quinton

Autumn and Billy Quinton

Let’s go back in time to 1992. A couple of my friends’ wives were kindergarten teachers and kept trying to set me up with a friend they taught with. I refused to go along with their matchmaking efforts, but they outsmarted me by inviting both me and Autumn to a housewarming party. When I arrived, one of my friends pointed to three women standing in the kitchen and said, “That’s Autumn over there. What do you think?”  I said, “She better be the hot one in the middle because I’m not interested in the two ugly ones she’s talking to.”

Luckily she was the hot one and so now I was interested. At that time I was skinny, had hair and was very confident. So I worked my best magic and she let me know very quickly that she wasn’t interested (strike 1). I saw her again at a Christmas party and again she made it clear I was wasting my time, although I made her laugh a few times (strike 2, but laid some groundwork). Finally, we saw each other a third time at a New Year’s Eve party and she actually looked my direction a few times, but still said no (strike 3, but unlocked the code).  After a few more attempts calling her (strikes 4, 5, 6 and 7) … she actually called me, with one caveat – she would go out with me but only if I sent her an engraved invitation. So I sent her the invitation. Now I knew that Billy magic was always there and she couldn’t resist any more! We started going out and one year later had a secret wedding and didn’t let anyone know until after we had taken off on our honeymoon. Twenty years later she’s the luckiest woman on the face of the earth and I’m proud to call her my current wife.

NOTE: This is exactly how it happened so no need to ask Autumn. Her memory is foggy because when a woman is swept off her feet she forgets facts.

Submitted by Billy Quinton, Qball Design, qballempire.com.

Lee & Carla Gilbert

Lee and Carla Gilbert. Photo by Relive Photography by Laura Parent, relivephotography.com.

For several years, Lee has been meeting for weekly Happy Hours with a group of fellow veterans known as the Band of Brothers. I was invited to join this Happy Hour in October 2011; however, I waited until March 2012 to actually go. When I finally did attend, I was introduced to Lee by Bill Lofland. Bill thought Lee and I should get to know each other.

Lee talked about how he liked to dance. I blurted out that I also liked to dance. In front of several of his buddies, Lee asked me if I would like to go dancing with him some time. I fumbled in my purse for a business card and told him to give me a call.

Lee took me to Southern Junction for a little bit of country dancing, which I had never done in my life. Nevertheless, Lee asked me out again and soon we began dancing two to three times a week –country and West Coast Swing.

As we started going to different functions together, we discovered we had many mutual friends from our 20 plus years in Rockwall – but none of our friends had ever introduced us. These friends have been dutifully chastised for not putting us together sooner.

On August 9, 2013, Lee asked me to marry him. Of course, this had to be in front of the entire Band of Brothers. Lee even arranged for my daughter, who was driving fromLos Angeles, to arrive early and attend this surprise event. Three months later on November 9, 2013 Lee and I were married with 240 friends and family in attendance.

Shared by Carla Brooks Gilbert. Photo by Relive Photography by Laura Parent, relivephotography.com.

Justin & Neely Holland

Justin and Neely Holland

I met Neely Hicks in January of 2005 in the Mass Communication Building at Texas Tech University. We had two classes together that semester. In one particular class, we started sitting about six or seven desks away from each other. As the spring semester developed, so did our relationship – and we ended up moving one desk at a time, inching closer and closer, until we were finally disrupting class sitting next to one another (Sorry, Dr. Gring!) I won’t say who gave up their desk and who stayed put.

We started “officially” dating in June of 2005. Six months later in January, I dropped Neely off atDFWAirportand went toWashington,D.C.to work on The Hill. She flew to Europe and studied abroad inSeville,Spain. That was a very agonizing six months away for me. I picked Neely up on June 6, 2006 from the airport. I began courting Neely the very next day. We were engaged at my “surprise” birthday party – Neely turned out to be the one getting the surprise. Two years after the day I picked Neely up from the airport fromSpain, we were married. We now have a beautiful two-year-old daughter and are expecting our second, also a girl, in March.

Shared by Justin Holland, Heath Mayor Pro Tem. 

Sahin & Oya Varhan

Sahin and Oya Varhan

When Sahin and I met in 1983 (we were working for the same company inTurkeythen) he was in the middle of a divorce and I was about to end my engagement with someone else. We met during a business meeting and bonded over our unfortunate failed relationships! We started dating and after a year I was still trying to convince him to give marriage another chance. I ended up proposing to him myself and now – 29 years later – we are still happily married and I’m still in charge! Girl power!

Submittted by Oya Varhan, Pizza Cucina.

Lorne & Mary Liechty

Mary and Lorne Liechty

‘Heads I Ask Her, Tails I Don’t’…Mary and I were introduced by a mutual friend during my senior year (her freshman year) in college. After dating for about a month, I was smitten. One night I flipped a coin and impulsively asked her to marry me. Surprisingly, she said “yes.”

The next morning I awoke in a panic, and called her to ask if she had told her parents yet. When she said she hadn’t, I told her we should probably wait a while before making such a huge decision. Fortunately for me, she was willing to overlook my indecisiveness, and we continued a long distance courtship while I was hundreds of miles away at Notre Dame.

After many letters and late night phone calls, and several trips across country to visit her, we were married a year and a half later. We’ve been married 35 years and we have been blessed more than I could have ever imagined.

By the way, we still have the coin I flipped that night back in 1977.

Shared by Lorne Liechty, Heath Mayor. 

Tim & Heather Nichols

Heather and Tim Nichols

My heart raced as I typed, “I can’t wait to hear the laugh that goes with that smile!” Her personality popped from her profile photo and her smile was something I wanted to see every day. She had written her online dating profile as if it were a manifesto – a detailed outpouring of everything she needed in a Godly man. Anyone that didn’t meet her specifications need not apply. It read like a love letter to me and only me. She replied with playful banter, but when I asked her name – silence. I thought I’d never see or hear from her again.

At church, I became involved in a group of single dads. We’d meet up with groups of single women, too. Through one of these dinners, I happened to add some of the women I’d met to my Facebook page. Weeks later, scrolling through my news feed, “POW!” There she was! The nameless beauty I briefly encountered through a dating site showed up on Facebook as a friend of one the ladies I’d met at dinner. I’d recognize that photo anywhere. Her name is “Heather.” I messaged her: “You may not remember me, but I still want to hear that laugh that goes with your smile.”

She remembered me! I found out later that she thought I had stopped responding to her. Therefore, both of us quietly had our guards up. Our “FB friendship” began.

Two months passed and we both endured separate struggles in dating. I was lonely and at God’s feet, begging for him to show me the woman He had for me. I learned I had to change before I could be the leader to the type of woman I hoped to marry. Through that process, my thoughts went back to Heather. Then it hit me. I needed to meet her face-to-face. I asked her to meet me for the 9 a.m. church service. She accepted! She was as gorgeous in person as she was in her profile photo! Her laugh was that of an angel. We praised God together, had lunch together, played games and sat on her front porch swing until 3 a.m. What a day! That 18 hours together has turned into a lifetime of seeing her smile.

Shared by Tim Nichols, Nichols Wealth Management.

Michael & Pam Kitkoski

Pam and Michael Kitkoski

When Pam walked through the door on the first day of class for Journalism 201 at Texas A&M University in 1976, I was smitten. She pretty much ignored me. When she showed up for an audition at KAMU-TV where I was working, I tried flirting with her. She pretty much ignored me.

Later, a co-worker at the TV station was moving out of state, so she gave her cat to Pam. But Pam’s apartment complex didn’t allow pets. She asked me to take care of little Bunker.

A year later, Pam had moved to a different apartment complex, so she asked me to return Bunker. Having grown attached to the kitty, I refused. Pam was forced to marry me if she wanted her kitty back. Our wedding day was September 23, 1978.

This will be our 36th Valentine’s Day together. Bunker passed away due to old age many years ago. But our lives revolve around our pets to this day. True love conquers all!

Shared by Michael Kitkoski, RockwallPets.com.

Scott & Jan Self

Scott and Jan Self

Jan and I met at TCU. On June 9, 1973, we were married, left the next day for Europe for a six month honeymoon, sailing a 44-ft. Swan sailboat down the coast of Europe to Africa and on to the Canary islands.

Forty years later we are still sailing together. We have had more than 200 weddings on Seawolf in the last 5 years.

This year we are going to have a special Valentines cruise on Harbor Lights. We have a saying that couples that sail together, stay together.

Shared by Captain Scott Self, SailwithScott.com.

Robbert & Brenda van Bloemendaal

Brenda and Robbert van Bloemendaal

Twenty-eight years ago I was on vacation alone in Hawaii. Brenda was on vacation with her sister and nephew, and we happened to be staying at the same hotel inKauai. There was a summer storm, so we both ended up in the nightclub as there was not much else to do.

Twice I went over to the table where Brenda and her sister were sitting and twice I asked her sister to dance and twice she turned me down.

Not giving up, I invited myself for the third time to sit with them. Brenda’s sister told me she was going back to her room. Brenda kicked her under the table and said she was staying.

Brenda and I ended up dancing to the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” and closed the bar down, and then walked the moonlight beach. And that was it. I changed my flight reservations to stay an extra day; we spent almost three days together and then flew back home – me to Australia, Brenda to Terrell, TX.

I came to Dallas that December with a ring and proposed to her. The most frustrating thing was that it took her 10 days to accept. I then made arrangements for movers and an airline ticket for her to come toAustralia. We were married in August; they played the Hawaiian Wedding song at our ceremony and we went back toKauaifor our honeymoon.

Not many friends believed the marriage would last but I am here to tell you that after 27 years it still gets better every day and yes, I am a true romantic.

PS – every day on my wedding anniversary, I call my sister-in-law and thank her for turning me down 28 years ago.

Shared by Robbert van Bloemendaal, Travel Leaders of Rowlett.

Alan & Misti Potter

Misti and Alan Potter

Alan and I met in college at Bevill State in Fayette, Alabama. He played baseball and I played basketball and volleyball. We were friends for about a year before we even started dating. We went on our first date on Feb. 14, 1995 and decided not to date each other because we were too good of friends and didn’t want to mess it up. That lasted a week. We started dating on Feb. 22.

In January of ’96, we went to Applebees inTuscaloosa, after we had been ring shopping. I had unknowingly picked out the ring he had already bought. As we sat at the table we were arguing about something and the waitress walked by. Alan took out the ring and asked the waitress if she would argue with a guy who was about to give this (the ring) to her. She smiled, shook her head and walked off. Alan looked at me, holding the ring and very seriously said, “I have one question before I will ask you to marry me. Will you bait your own hook?”

I told a little white lie and said YES (excluding the part that I will bait a hook with anything except crickets)! I planned our wedding from Alabama and we were married on August 17, 1996 in Rowlett.

Shared by Misti Potter, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Rockwall County.

Mark (“Mel”) & Suzanne Bayley Brooke 

Mark (“Mel”) and Suzanne Bayley Brooke. Photo by Kimberly Worsham.

We met when Mark (also known as Mel) came over from England to play rugby for the Dallas Rugby Club. At a bar called the Boardwalk Beach Club in Lakewood, I must admit. It was two weeks before he was scheduled to travel on to another team inSouth Africa. I was finishing my last semester of college here and intended to return to LA to find a job in advertising.

We both ended up staying in Texas, dating for two years and then marrying. (He got my Dad’s blessing on Christmas Eve for a Christmas Day proposal.) While we both still yearn for oceans and mountains, we could not have asked for a better place to have a home, raise our boys, make friends, and run our business together serving some very special clients.

Shared by Suzanne Bayley Brooke, City of Heath Community Relations Manager. Photo by Kimberly Worsham.

Billy & Katie Self

Billy and Katie (Cullen) Self.

I saw this ‘out of my league’ girl walking down the hall early in high school. She didn’t know me and I didn’t know her. Different crowds. Different grade.

I vividly remember thinking, “She’s out of my league.”  I didn’t try or pursue. Few years passed and we found ourselves in the same group of friends at school. Much to my surprise, she pursued me just as I was graduating from Rockwall High School. We dated throughout college at different schools for five years before getting married in 2005.

I’m so lucky to be married to a girl out of my league. Our photo was taken in 2005 on our honeymoon in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Shared by Billy Self, ProSoap.com. 

Doug & Andrea Chandler

Andrea and Doug Chandler

Every year, my family went on spring and autumn trail rides in Winnsborro. Doug and I met in January and the very first time we met, I told him he was going to marry me; he just didn’t know it yet. At that point, he thought I was looney, but we continued to date.

April came and it was time for the family trail ride. This would be the ultimate test for him – horseback riding, eating food off the campfire, dealing with extended family. We hung around the campfire telling stories and enjoying the company.

This was the first time Doug had been around horses. Silly city boy – he was unsure of how to act around crazy people on wild animals. We slept in my small two-door Blazer amidst the running diesel engine of my father’s truck next to us that he was using to keep warm. Very little sleep for several days and when we arrive back at his house we decided to take a nap. He then woke me up, and in an agitated voice I asked, “What the heck now?!” He said, “If I can put up with your crazy family, the smell of horse crap, eating foods off campfire that I have no clue what it is, and sleeping minimal for several days, I think I can handle you. Will you marry me?” I responded, “Sure! Now let’s get back to that nap…Oh, and I told you so!” referencing the first day we met. He laughed and said, “So it begins.”

We wed three and half years later, and now 14 years together we can make it through anything.

Shared by Andrea Chandler with Elite Print Management.

Rene & Betsy Castro

Rene and Betsy Castro

I first met Rene on June 18, 1977, when I was 12-years-old. He was the lead singer in a band called “Grupo Renovacion,” which consisted of my three cousins, one of his cousins and his eldest brother. I had just landed in Bogota,Colombia (at the time I lived in Levittown, Pa) to spend the summer with my cousins and they invited me to watch their band play at their church youth service. They told me they had to pick up two of the guys from the band on our way…and OMG! I thought Rene was the cutest boy on planet Earth! He was 16!

We spent a lot of time together between two youth camps and a few basketball tournaments and lots of band practice. I never mentioned my age; he assumed I was 16. The day he found out how old I was (many weeks later thanks to my cousin’s big mouth) his world was shattered!

I returned every summer and we would rekindle our friendship; we were “summer friends” until 1982. I moved to South America when I graduated from high school because I was “in love.” On Aug. 4, 1984, we got married in Colombia. In 1985 we came to the States so he could pursue a Masters in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary. We are blessed with three fun-loving, talented kids, our sweet daughter-in-law Mandy and a precious granddaughter Madeline.

Shared by Betsy Castro, Southwest Airlines.

Glen & Julie Farris

Glen and Julie Farris

Julie and I met in 2003 at Leadership Rockwall. I was the co-chair (elected from the 2002 class to lead the 2003 candidates) for her class and I got to know her during the nine month program.

It was a relationship that bloomed as she joined me in mentoring the Leadership Program over the next few years.

She asked me to marry her on evening in the bath tub. We have had a wonderful relationship ever since.

Shared by Glen Farris, Adfinity.biz.

Jerry & Jamie Rubush

Jamie and Jerry Rubush

My husband, Jerry, was one of the two executives I interviewed with, for a position back in 1985. I had trouble pronouncing his last name, so immediately addressed him as simply “Jerry”. The company was looking for a strong professional, so those two decided to put me to the test. They were abrupt, bordering on aggressive and rude with their questioning.  I had interviewed previously with the president and thought I wanted the position, but I thought Jerry was rude and he a total jerk!

Jerry later told the company president that I would be a good candidate, qualified and tenacious, that I was a “little bulldog”. The nickname stuck. Jerry even found a poster of a bulldog to hang in my office. 

I did get the job and became good friends with Jerry. Seeing him daily in a work environment gave me a unique insight into how he dealt with stress and truly treated others (when he wasn’t testing them in an interview!) Eventually we began dating. 

The company has long since dissolved. We were married in 1987, moved to New Hampshire, where we lived for 20 years. In 2007, we moved back to Texas, choosing to make Rockwall our home. We are now volunteer ESL tutors at the Rockwall Literacy Center, as well as active in First United Methodist Church various book clubs, boards, vocal group, study groups, etc. After over 28 years, I guess I’m still a ‘little bulldog”.

Shared by Jamie Jones Rubush.

Richard & Dawn Redig

Dawn and Richard Redig

I met Richard in 1987, when he dialed the wrong number. I’m convinced I was meant to answer that call.

I had just moved to Rockwall after graduating from Lamar University, leaving behind my job at the college newspaper and local television station. While searching for my dream job, I took a position as a receptionist at an executive suite leasing office in downtown Dallas, answering phones for a handful of tenants who, for the most part, were never there.

For whatever reason, our phone lines were crossed with the Dallas County Courthouse that day, and dozens of calls were being routed to my switchboard by mistake.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I grew restless and bored – so I decided to amuse myself by placing the callers on hold and forcing them to listen to country music. Occasionally I’d pick up the line and sing Hank Williams Jr’s “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down,”and then I’d place the callers back on hold without giving them a chance to speak. It didn’t take long for them to hang up.

But not Richard. He held for nearly 45 minutes. Now why would anybody do that?

Our best man points out to Richard that there's still time to run for the hills…(and this photo serves as proof that Richard really used to have a lot of hair.)

Turns out it was so he could ask me to dinner.  (Apparently he was amazed that I knew the words to every Bocephus song ever written. And by the way, that’s the closest Richard has ever gotten to liking country music.)

We exchanged home phone numbers and talked for days and nights on end. Two weeks later, he showed up at my door to take me on a blind date. He treated me to dinner and dancing, then proposed to me on Christmas morning. This year will be our 25th wedding anniversary.

Shared by Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News editor.

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