On Valentine’s Day, couples celebrate their love by giving each other paper hearts and boxes of candy. But those are just superficial symbols of romance. Love is far more complicated. And while it starts with two people longing to create a bond, every relationship has its own unique love story. We talked to four Eastside couples about their relationships and learned that perhaps real romance is in the intimate details of what keeps love alive.
Karen & Bill Stuht
Jobs: Stay-at-home mom (Karen) and a former vice president at Chateau Ste. Michelle (Bill)
Married: 62 years
Advice: “If you expect to last 62 years, you better have a sense of humor.” — Karen
Bill says that when he held Karen’s hand for the first time, he knew she was “a keeper.” She was a beauty queen, and he was a University of Washington baseball player. They met as teenagers at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle on Aug. 4, 1951. Sixty-four years later, dozens of framed photos line the halls of their home, chronicling their relationship, each a snapshot of their journey. Now in their 80s, they are proud great-grandparents. They say it’s hard to explain the way love evolves over the years. And some things never change. “She’s still my wife, my lover, my best friend,” said Bill. He calls her his “blonde bombshell,” and they laugh like two smitten kids. “It goes so fast,” said Karen. “The older you get the faster it goes.” When they go on a date, he still holds her hand.
Brenda & Adam Michard
Jobs: Stage manager (Brenda) and assistant technical director (Adam)
Married: 4 years
Advice: “As we’re in our jobs we have to speak very clearly and get to the point and make quick decisions, and I think that helps for a relationship; to be clear and to be honest.” — Adam
Adam and Brenda aren’t actors, but their lives shifted while working on stage at Village Theatre in Issaquah. They met playing Kings Corners in the green room. About six months after that, he scribbled his phone number on paper in crayon at Beth’s Café in Seattle. They quickly fell in love. Both work behind-the-scenes on theater productions, conducting elements of the story from the shadowy sidelines. But on a grueling day of prep for 42nd Street in 2010, Adam stepped into the spotlight to ask Brenda to marry him. Like the climax of a romantic drama, she said “yes” and they shared a kiss under the hot lights. The actors whistled and applauded from offstage. Adam and Brenda still work in theater. But part of what bonds them is when the curtain closes and they find comfort in their own story. “Just being able to go home to someone who’s safe and who you can laugh with and talk things out with is really special,” said Brenda.
Chris Kleinke & Janet Wheeler
Jobs: Program manager at Microsoft (Chris) and French teacher at Mariner High School in Everett (Janet)
Married: 12 years
Advice: “We both are passionate about our jobs and we need to put it aside and make sure we’re making time for each other and celebrating each other and doing those little things we know make each other happy.” — Janet
Chris knew she wanted to marry Janet the night they met for beers at Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford. They had their first kiss while admiring the sunset at Safeco Field. They love watching sports and traveling. They figure since they don’t have kids or have to invest in braces or college, they might as well explore the world. “We’ve always had dreams that we share with each other,” said Chris. “I can visualize being old with her. I know what that looks like.” The two were married at Rainbow Park in Whistler (an irony they hadn’t planned) a few days after British Columbia legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Because some of their family members weren’t comfortable with their relationship, only friends attended the wedding. When gay marriage became legal in Washington in 2012, theirs was recognized by the state. To celebrate then 10 years of marriage and the passage of the new law, they rented out Murphy’s Pub and renewed their vows. This time their families were present.
David & Lori Meyers
Jobs: IT procurement manager (David) and communications director at Hope Heart Institute (Lori)
Married: 16 years
Advice: “A lot of people break up and divorce after serious medical things. And that never even crossed my mind. You say your vows and it’s for better or worse, and I’d stick by him forever.” — Lori
David Meyers has a hole in his heart. He had no idea it was there until summer 2012, when he was picking up after his dog in the backyard. He bent down, and when he came up, he felt light-headed. Lori thought maybe his blood sugar was low, so she gave him some juice. But when he went to reach for it, he couldn’t use his left arm. In retrospect, there were signs that he was having a stroke. But at the time, he was a healthy competitive cyclist, and a heart condition was the furthest thing from their minds. Lori and David met at a bicycle manufacturing company in California. On their first date he kissed her in the back of his truck at a drive-in theater during The Nutty Professor. They still go to movies, but it’s harder to go out to dinner. One of David’s side effects is that he can’t stand loud crowds. He also has short-term memory loss and trouble with coordination. The whole experience has tested their relationship. But they’ve learned you don’t need a perfect heart to love someone. “Love is definitely what got us through this, and continues to,” said Lori.