Local couples share stories of how they met

ROCKWALL, TX (Feb. 9, 2015) Each year around Valentine’s Day, Blue Ribbon News asks local couples how they met. Their stories are often sweet, funny and surprising. Sharing their tales of true love has become one of our favorite traditions – and one of our most wildly popular features.


Jon and Lori Bailey

The story of how we met seems to be mostly the same no matter who tells the story… unless it’s Jon telling it, so I thought I’d better tell it my way.

Jon and I both grew up in Rockwall and knew each other as teenagers. He was much, much older than me, of course, so we didn’t really hang out together that often. Jon did however ask me out on a date not long after I started high school. My answer was a quick no… I was only 14 and there was no way my dad was letting me go on a date with a 17 year old! Our paths crossed from time to time but we never dated.

That all changed after Jon graduated from A&M Commerce and I was entering my last year at theUniversityofNorth Texas. We ran into one another back in Rockwall at church. I have to say that I kind of had that “aha” moment (but don’t tell him I said that) and was eager to learn more about what was going on in his life. I learned he was back here in Rockwall and “conveniently” I ran into him a time or two over the next couple of weeks. Much to my parents’ dismay, I actually made the first call, leaving a message for Jon while he was away. He quickly returned that call and as many stories go, “the rest is history.”

We are blessed to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary this coming October, and have two beautiful children to help us in that celebration. We are extremely grateful for each other and for God’s perfect timing in our lives!

Submitted by Lori Bailey, Pullen Elementary teacher. Jon is the new Executive Director of Rockwall County Helping Hands.   

Blake Hammerton and Jami Bryant

In December of 2012, I connected with Jami in an online business class run through Facebook. I couldn’t really explain it, but I found myself drawn to her. We opened a strictly professional dialogue at first, but soon told stories of past lives, opportunities lost, lessons learned, dreams and hopes for the future, and beer. I liked her. She felt good in my heart, even though we were a thousand miles apart and I barely knew her.

She moved toTexasfromOhiothe year before, and was still getting used to the geography. I suggested we explore it together some day soon. Through phone calls and video chats, our relationship grew like a weed.

Originally, I was to visit her in January, but in a very bold move she bought a ticket to visit me for New Year’s instead. We counted down the days until then – our friends and family thought we were nuts!

When she arrived, I met her at baggage claim with her favorite coffee, and we finally got a chance to hug. She felt like home to me. Over the next few days we had our first real date. First real kiss. First real adventure. I saw all my tomorrows when I looked at her. I fell in love, and I fell hard.

Five months later in May of 2013, I packed up my life and moved toDallas. We just celebrated two years together, and cannot imagine a day without this crazy, serendipitous love.

Submitted by Blake Hammerton, owner of The Sharp Gentleman, Rockwall.

Brian and Sarah Corrigan 

Eleven years ago, I met this guy named Brian Corrigan at a Christmas party at our now pediatrician’s house. A week later he took me to dinner and asked if I wanted pepper on my salad, and he peppered it FOR ME. I knew THAT NIGHT! I called my mom the next day and told her I had met HIM. Ten years ago, on Dec. 4, he proposed; six months later we married in a church in Vegas. FromMichigan toCalifornia – literally, where had he been my whole life?! I never knew a man like Brian even existed! Crazy smart, kind, so so funny, gentle, calm – I could go on and on. Our song at our engagement party at Mattito’s inDallas was “God Blessed theBroken Road” and it is still true today! I love our story!

Submitted by Sarah Corrigan of Rockwall. Photo by Sarah Duckworth Photography.

David Trotter and Rhonda Wright

Was it love at first sight, reconnection from a past life, or Divine Intervention? I can’t be sure but my faith leads me to believe the latter. What I can tell you is that it was like being whirled away into the pages of a well written book or stepping onto the set of a romantic movie.

Standing in line, I struck up a conversation with the person in front of me – not really paying attention to him, just casual conversation to pass the time. It was when he responded to me that my heart stopped. I looked up and our eyes met and held.

Everything around us faded into a blur and he seemed to have a glow around him. We just stood there staring at each other for what felt like a long time. Jolted back to reality because the line had moved and we had not, he completed his transaction and was gone.

About an hour later I bumped into him again. We flirted back and forth and talked for a while. We walked together to my car, both so taken with the other that neither of us noticed that it was pouring down rain.

He gave me his phone number, so a few days later I called and we arranged a lunch date. Turns out our lives had been intersecting for years; we had lived within a block of each other and had some of the same business clients. I had even been at the property across the street from his house hundreds of times. These coincidences continued; I would pull up to a four way stop heading north to see him across the intersection heading south. I would stop at a restaurant and he would be there eating.

One day after we had dated a few weeks, I ask him when his birthday was. You’re kidding! Prove it! He pulled out his wallet while I dug through my purse. We exchanged driver’s licenses that reflected the same date of birth, March 21.

Submitted by Rhonda Wright, owner of Wright Up Right Bookkeeping & Payroll Service and Blue Ribbon News guest columnist. David is the owner of Ray Hubbard Plumbing.

Jay and Janine Hackenbracht

Janine and I met in Nairobi, Kenya. I was there to be Best Man in my brother’s wedding, and she was there on the staff of the same service organization. Being a young single guy, I thought I would take the opportunity to meet a gal with a service-oriented heart. So, I asked one of the girls on their staff to dinner, and she was kind to introduce me to all her roommates – and the last one to walk into the room was Janine. And there I was leaving for the States the next day. My heart skipped a beat.

Back in the States, I traveled for a medical supply company, often to DC and Baltimore. The Maid of Honor in my brother’s wedding had moved fromNairobito DC, so I had reason to visit when I was in town on business. On one occasion, she asked me, “When you were inNairobi, did you meet Janine?” I knew immediately who she was referring to, and I answered in the affirmative. In the ensuing months, for some “unknown reason,” I had a lot more business taking me to Baltimore and DC, so I would stop by and take them and their new roommates out for dinner. On each trip, I would progressively take out one less, until it was just me and Janine.

Eventually, Janine moved home toWest Virginia. I was fortunate to get a job in her home area, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Submitted by Jay Hackenbracht, Rockwall resident.

Johnny and Jan Johnson

I arrived in Jacksonville, FL in August 1966 after completing officer’s training in Newport, RI. One of my first assignments as a Navy Nurse was in the Operation Room at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The only thing I really remember about that day is the handsome young man sitting in the corner of the room. His name was Johnny Johnson; he was a Navy Corpsman. For some reason, my heart skipped a beat. Months went by with incidental passing each other on the base. I knew he would never ask me out. He was enlisted and I was an officer.

Christmas was nearing and my friend Martha decided to play Cupid. She invited Johnny and me for Christmas dinner. She asked Johnny to give me a ride to her home. When he arrived at my apartment he had a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of champagne in his hands, stepped over the threshold, threw his arms around me and gave me a big kiss. The rest is history.

We became engaged Feb. 14, 1967; we married March 11 that year. It was war time and we had no time to waste. Johnny left forCaliforniato train with the Marines in August and shipped out forVietNamin October. He wrote me every day while he was gone. We met inHawaiiin the spring of 1968 for R&R.

We will celebrate 48 years of marriage in March by going on a honeymoon toSavannah,GA; the honeymoon we planned in 1967 but never had.

Submitted by Jan Willess Johnson, Rockwall native. 

Devon and Emily Colbert 

I had gone into the Helping Hands clinic to get a burn on my arm checked out. Emily’s mom, Kim, was working as the nurse practitioner at the time and by the time we were done she asked me what my girlfriend thought of all my tattoos. I said that I didn’t have one and she said, “You should call my daughter.”

I called Emily three days later to set up a blind date. Nine years and two wonderful sons later, I can honestly say that was the best phone call I have ever made. She is the love of my life and I wouldn’t be the man I am today without her.

Submitted by Devon Colbert of Rockwall. Photo by Robin Sherman Photography. 

Aaron and Liz Jones

Aaron and I met when I was the Membership & Wellness Director at the JER Chilton YMCA in Rockwall. I always drank green tea so I made several trips out to the hot water and coffee pots each day. Aaron came to the Y with his friend to workout. He would come over and get coffee when I went out there. He now claims that he started drinking coffee just to come talk to me. I liked Aaron the first time I met him although I didn’t know his name; I wanted to stay professional since I was at work, so our conversations were short.

Another time my nephew Pharaoh was with me at the Y, and Aaron and his friendPrestonwere playing basketball. I had taken Pharaoh and Scotty and Daniel, who worked at the Y, to play ball. Aaron started playing with them and we talked some more.

Many times we ended up working out at the same time, either by coincidence or maybe not, but I workout hard so I usually don’t chat a lot when I’m in the weight room and I’d always be drenched with sweat and he’d still come over and talk to me.

Over time we started talking more and more and eventually, after a LONG time, he finally asked me out. I had told him that I usually went to sing on Thursday nights so he took me out to my favorite place to sing in Rockwall, Allure. We have been together ever since.

Submitted by Liz Jones, a local wellness coach.

Mike and Linda Ross

Aloha means “hello.” It was the summer of ’69 when a young girl fromDallaswent to visit her brother stationed at Pearl Harbor inHawaii. She decided to stay and found a job as secretary to the president of a marine supply company inHonolulu. It was there she met a cute surfer/sailor, who says, “She had me at ‘Hi, Y’all!'”

Aloha means “goodbye.” After a year, the homesick girl went back toTexas. The lovesick boy (who was now working undercover vice for the Honolulu Police Department – the original Hawaii Five-O) said goodbye to Hawaii and followed her.

Aloha means “love.” Having celebrated 44 years of marriage (over 30 of which have been in Rockwall and Heath), Mike and Linda Ross have raised their three children – Jason, Jared, and Jamie – instilling faith, hope and love. Nothing is hopeless; faith is everything; love is the greatest blessing of all.

Submitted by Linda Ross of Heath.

Wendell and Donna Ogden

My husband and I, who are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary, met on Match.com (now known as just Match), and that was back before Internet dating was “cool”.   In fact, I was embarrassed to tell anyone how we met!  We were both widowed in 2001, got engaged within a month after we met, and married in early 2002 after knowing each other just a little over three months.

I had no children and he had a pre-teen son, so on top of everything else, I became a stepmom at warp speed! Eventually, I became a stay at home mom and a PTA volunteer. To say my life changed drastically is an understatement. But, forming our new family was a true blessing, and I am thankful every day!

Submitted by Donna Ogden, Rockwall resident.

Johnny and Holly Lyons

It all started on the same stomping grounds where our mothers grew up inSouthern California. Johnny moved there to learn the HVAC trade and to help his brother start up an air conditioning and heating company inLa Verne,CA.  Meanwhile, I was attending the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and working for my family’s construction company. Johnny’s brother’s air conditioning company was installing the heating and cooling systems in the custom homes that my aunt and uncle’s company were building.

A childhood friend of mine went to work for Johnny’s brother’s company. She was determined to introduce us; Callie thought we would make the perfect match. Callie invited Johnny to a St. Patrick’s Day party that my cousin and I were throwing inHuntington Beach,CAon March 13, 2001. It was truly love at first site. It didn’t take long for us to realize just how much we had in common. We talked for hours and we went out on our first date the very next night. We walked the beach together and continued our deep conversations.

Less than a year later Johnny proposed at a Scoreboards Sports Bar inDiamond Bar,CAwhere he ran Karaoke as a side job. After singing “It’s Your Love”  by Tim Mcgraw, he got down on one knee and popped the question at half time during the Laker game. My father was against me marrying at 19 and he definitely did NOT want me marrying a Texan. I think he was afraid of losing me. My father eventually came around when he realized Johnny was the one, and it was part God’s plan for us to be married.

Johnny’s father married us aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Ecstasy toEnsenada,Mexico! We had ourTexasandCaliforniafamily and friends on board with us. We had an amazing and memorable weekend.

Submitted by Holly Lyons. She and Johnny own Lyons A/C & Heating in Rockwall. Photo by Heather Nichols Photography.

Gary and Debra Freedman

Debra and I actually met on the phone, Valentine’s Day seven years ago. She was having dinner with three of her friends from work and she mentioned that it was time to start dating now that her son was in his twenties. One of her friends, Darlene Singleton, perked up and said “I know someone you might like.”

Darlene immediately called me, and put Debra on the line. I knew my friend Darlene (also known as “Yenta”- the matchmaker by her friends) would not do this if Debra was not someone special. I was at a charity event and had only a couple of minutes to chat, so I had to make an impression.

I used my best “Berry White” voice. It worked; I got her number and called Debra the next night and arranged to take her to lunch the following Saturday. I figured lunch would be best; if it did not work I still had time to do my laundry and catch a basketball game or two. The lunch turned into a 14 hour date. By the end of the evening I knew she was the one. I courted her every day for a year, and we actually got married on Valentine’s Day, exactly one year later, in the house we built in Rockwall.

Throughout that year, I was determined to make her mine. I even talked to her son Paul and told him that I was courting his mother – not just dating but had full intention of marrying her. Well that is another story. Over the next year we courted and I introduced her many times as the “woman who stole my heart.” These past seven years have been the most enjoyable of my life. We were meant to be together. Debra made me promise to be with her for the next 30 years and she reminds me that there is no subtracting as the years go by.

 Submitted by Gary Freedman, known as “The Voice of Rockwall.” Photo by Daniel Scurlock Photography.

Ralph and Juanita Hammond

He was the big man on campus.  Everyone knew who Ralph Hammond was as his reputation proceeded him.  Ralph is now a member of the Hall of Fame for Track atOhioState.  I began college atOhioStateand had only been there a short time in 1940 when I went to the library for my studies.  I was introduced to Ralph and knew why so many knew and loved him.  Not only was he a track star but he caught my eye.  Ralph had a girlfriend at the time so we went about our daily lives until one day…his girlfriend graduated and he was available.  We began to date each other.  I was a freshman and he was a junior.  A year later Ralph graduated and went to officer’s training school, while he was gone I finished school and then waited for Ralph.  We could only see each other on weekends.   We set the date for our wedding, but had to postpone so Ralph could qualify on the rifle range.  We married on July 5, 1943 and spent one week together before he was shipped off toCalifornia.  The rest is history as they say. We now have been married 71 years and are still together at Rock Ridge Assisted Living in our own apartment we share.

Submitted by Juanita Hammond, Rockwall resident.

Richard and Jessica Van Brunt

I never imagined meeting my soulmate at a bar two days after our high school graduation, but that’s where our love story began. The minute I saw Richard, I felt butterflies and fell in love with something about him.

When I motioned for him to come over and he shook his head ‘NO,’ it truly shocked me. I was not the kind of girl to take no very well, so I walked over to him and said, “I think you just said no to me.”

Richard played the cool guy that night as we learned we were both the life of the party. As we parted ways with no actions to move forward, I had the biggest smile on my face. I had met my match and I knew it!

Of course he asked me to a party a week later and we’ve been doing this love thing ever since. We still laugh about how we met and the way the room stopped for us, even though the music was loud and the crowd was thick. The best part is that we are best friends and after 10 years of dating, we finally tied the knot in 2010. I still have those same butterflies from 15 years ago, and Richard still makes a filled room silence as it becomes just about us. What I love most about our love story is that we are still working on it and we have that kind of love that grows every day.

Submitted by Rockwall resident Jessica Juderman-Van Brunt of Drop Visionary Branding.


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