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story.lead_photo.caption Bryan & Bernice Hembree Fayetteville Bernice: A friend I went to high school with in Mena ended up in Oxford, England, studying at St. Catherine's College, where he met Bryan. Halfway across the world, on a night filled with drinks and laughs and stories, this friend told Bryan, "I know a girl from Arkansas that you would really like." Meeting Bryan completely altered my life course. We both made big decisions and made sacrifices to be with each other. The best decisions of our lives. We dated just four months before we decided to get married. When you know, you know. Bryan and I are a good team. We share a family together, we share music together, we share a business together. In the end all that matters is the love we share through it all.

To a exceedingly romantic girl, growing up in small-town Kansas, love was defined by one movie -- Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" -- and one television show, "Dark Shadows."


If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.


Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss.

Barnabas Collins:

You had me locked in a box for over 200 years.


Don't exaggerate! It was only 196.

Love, then, is clearly in the eye -- and the mixed-up mind -- of the beholder. So for this Valentine's Day, Our Town asked local couples to tell their love stories -- some sweet, some funny, some truly romantic, and all worth celebrating. In addition to those you see here, you'll find more online at

Sam Keen:

"You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly."

Photo courtesy Russell Cothren Susan Shore & Michael Cockram Fayetteville Susan: Michael and I met at a house concert at Mike Shirkey's Good Folk House on Block Street on March 5, 2010. The rest is history. Michael: "For me, it was love at first song. We got together to play music at Susan's house a few days after we met, and ... one song led to another." Susan: We'd both given up on relationships. Michael was a big surprise! Powee!!
Nikki & Shari Cathcart-Sievert Bentonville Shari: As a single working mom in a small community, dating was a challenge. Add to that being a LGBTQ Christian, finding romance seemed like an uphill journey. Online dating apps were the avenue that opened up the most possibilities for me meeting someone worthy of my time and energy. Nikki: I was really just looking for a friend, someone I could talk to about the intersection of our faith and our sexuality. Eventually she convinced me to meet up in person. And we had a grand time, coffee, dinner, and a movie. She was very intense and intimidating. So I don't think I looked her in the eye at any point. Shari: I knew by the end of our second date that I didn't want to be without this unique, extraordinary woman. Every sappy love song seemed to describe this magic that we had found together. Nikki: I always would watch romance movies and think "That's not real life." Since falling for Shari, I have found myself saying "I get it!" over and over. I found my fairy tale love. It's messy at times. Romance is everything. It's the highs and the lows, the romantic getaways and the dirty laundry, passionate love and passionate anger. It's the first date, the proposal, the wedding, the anniversaries, the kids and all the weekdays and weekends in between. It's the person God created for you, the one created to be your home.
Ashley & Patrick Fitzsimmons Bentonville Ashley: Mutual friends Crystal and Charles Butler thought we would really like each other and set us up to go on a double date with them. However, I got strep throat the day before the date and called Crystal to reschedule. Patrick: She stood me up ... Ashley: I did not! I didn't want you to get sick! We finally met a few weeks later, deciding for just the two of us to have dinner at Hammontree's in Fayetteville, and we've been together ever since. Ashley: About a month into dating, we traveled to Little Rock that weekend to celebrate my dad's birthday, and Patrick met my parents, grandparents and younger sister, Heather. They all loved him. I realized that I was able to completely be myself around him. Not only that, I felt like my best self and happier than I had ever been. I told Patrick I loved him the very next day. Patrick: Romance is being able to sit quietly and just enjoy each other's company. It's the shared knowledge we love each other and will do anything for each other.
Keith & Beth Grimwood West Fork We met many times before we knew each other because Beth worked at places where Keith played. One New Year's Eve, after a Trout show in Houston, we were both "idle" at the same time, in the same place. Stories were swapped, resumes were exchanged, and we never looked back. Beth: I knew he was the one for me when on a camping trip, the frying pan we used got very nasty. Instead of trying to clean it by rubbing sand on it or rinsing it in the lake, Keith buried it. I was his forever! Keith: I think I knew it all along. As unlikely as the pairing seemed at the time, I had an uncomfortable premonition that she would be around for a really long time!
Jason & Brenda Nemec Rogers Brenda: Jason and I met backstage in 2005 during "The Sound of Music." Rogers Little Theater, now known as Arkansas Public Theatre, was doing their summer musicals at Rogers High School at that time. I was the stage manager, and Ed McClure had asked Jason to come and help me backstage. I had the prop tables all set up and labeled and was very protective of my space. Jason came in and said that he was admiring the neatness and organization of the prop tables, but he was really touching and picking up the props! My very first words to him were "Don't touch my stuff!" After he told me who he was and why he was there all was good and he was actually allowed to touch the props! That was our first meeting, but we were both dating other people at the time, so our relationship was strictly professional. We didn't even cross paths again until the fall of 2006 when he auditioned for 12 Angry Men. We started communicating at that time and started dating later that year. At what moment did you know he/she was THE one? Jason: Does any life really follow a script? I will say I feel we were meant to find each other, and multiple things fell into place for that to happen. My divorce, Brenda moving to Northwest Arkansas, both of us being involved with the theater, our current relationships getting rocky about the same time, love of reading, people watching, laughing at similar things, enjoying our together time, etc.. We have both been married before and had grown children so we took our time to get to know each other. Brenda: We just enjoy being with each other. One of our favorite things is just being at home watching TV and petting our dogs!
Zeek Taylor & Dick Titus Eureka Springs Zeek: In 1971 we were introduced by a mutual friend at the Psych-Out Bar in Memphis, Tenn. The friend was romantically interested in me, and he wanted to know what Dick thought of me. Dick thought enough of me that he stepped in and became my No. 1 suitor. Dick: It was love at first sight. Zeek: I was a little more cautious, and more guarded with my feelings. I had been disappointed in previous relationships, and I was not about to jump into another one too quickly. It was several weeks later when I realized that his intentions were honorable and sincere. I then let myself fall in love with him. After being together for 47 years, romance is far different than it was when we were young. It is less intense. It is more gentle. It is comfortable. We still give each other cards and baby talk to each other. Love is still in the air.
Michael & Joanna Bell Fayetteville We met on a dating website back in 2010. Our relationship is literally the best thing that we've ever ordered from the internet. Our unsolicited advice for online dating success, dear readers... say 'yes' (no matter what you think of the photos) and meet in person as soon as possible. Bonus points if you can keep the stakes low and also find some live music you like for date one (we did). We both knew by date two or three that this was a promising match. When we realized were able to talk easily about marriage, kids, and student loan debt, that made it a keeper. We're so romantic. We got engaged on Michael's grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary, and we totally plan to best their record. Oddly, we're a couple of theater folk who don't believe life has a script. The most romantic part of the day is when we sit down after work and tell each other what we learned that day. Also, we've got two amazing tiny people who live with us, and make the future look pretty brilliant, indeed. It turns out that life is a pretty sweeping and heart swelling thing, and we feel lucky to share it.
Photo courtesy Don House Ezra & Karen Idlet West Fork Karen: We met at a bar in Lubbock, Texas. Ezra's band, St. Elmo's Fire, was playing at a club called Fat Dogs. There was heavy flirting and eye contact between us the first night, but we never got to talk. The next night the band played the same club, and we did get to talk. We went out for breakfast after the gig. Romance has changed over the years. Early on it was sailing on our catamaran and dreaming of crossing oceans together. These days it's working on our house, planting gardens and sitting together on the porch at sunset after a big day. We watch the sun go down and listen to the woods come alive with the sounds of the night.
Toni & Michael Lindsey Farmington Toni: I was traveling back from a conference with only a few days at home before I had to turn around and leave again. My flight was delayed, and I wasn't going to get home in time to pick up my hounds -- which would mean I'd be without them for nearly two weeks straight! Michael knew how important they are to me, so he offered to pick them up for me. It was early on in our relationship, and honestly the dogs can be a bit of a handful, so I didn't want to ask him to do that. But he insisted. When I got home, he was waiting on me with flowers, Bernie and Sugar, and even had treats for them. I knew I couldn't spend my life without him! Michael: We both travel a lot for work, and after a few multi-hour phone calls, it became obvious to me that this was someone I wanted to have in my life forever. Toni: I got to marry my best friend; I have two smart and beautiful bonus daughters; I have a perfect little baby boy; I have two cute beagle hounds; I have a career I love. Life may not have followed a script, but I firmly believe that things happen for a reason and in God's timing. I couldn't be happier!
Kent & Diana Eikenberry Rogers We met at Kansas State Farm Bureau Citizenship Seminar the summer of 1971, before Kent's senior year in high school and Diana's junior year. Technically we met in the mid 1960's when our sisters were in high school together before Kent and his family moved to western Kansas, but Diana doesn't remember that. But Kent used that tidbit of information to start the conversation when we first met. It took some time to convince her he wasn't making it up. We lived on the opposite sides of the state so we had a long distance romance mostly consisting of letters and a few phone calls. We lead a pretty simple life. We do lots of things together. We enjoy golfing, spending time with our sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. While we don't always agree on the genre, we enjoy movies. We volunteer together, we spend time in the kitchen together. I guess what we are saying is romance means being with each other.
Rhonda Dillard & Kim McCubbin Fayetteville Kim was living in Tulsa and after weeks of texting and a few phone conversations, she came to Northwest Arkansas for our first date, Rhonda says. We dated long distance for a couple of years, and Kim proposed on our fifth "dating" anniversary. We were married one year later, on May 5, 2016. On one of my semi-weekly trips to Tulsa, I realized she was the one as I pulled in her Broken Arrow driveway, and she came to the car to greet me. I don't know why but at that moment I knew.
Photo courtesy Andrew Kilgore Photographs Martin Miller & Lisa Margulis Fayetteville Martin: The first few times we met, it was just people meeting. But things changed, and we ended up at the opening night of "The 39 Steps" -- her with one less husband than she'd previously had, and me still bumbling through things unattached -- and it's been a wonderful adventure ever since. Lisa: It was easy to meet because our friends kept telling us not to date each other. OK, I mean it's hard to process "kind fantastic guy who cooks" when you haven't met one before. Martin: If this were a script, people would walk out saying it didn't seem terribly realistic. Lisa: There's constantly flowers showing up in my hotel rooms for work travel -- that's not romantic, that's just Martin. But when he asked my then 5- and 4-year-old sons if he could marry me, complete with tiny rings, and they said yes? That's romantic.
Ed & Kathy McClure Rogers Kathy: I knew he was the one when he came to my house and my cat, I.B. (Itty Bitty Kitty), jumped up into his lap and fell in love with him. I.B. hated all men! When he let him pet him and pick him up, I knew. Ed: Our life has always followed a script, except that script is usually only a page long! Kathy: We live each day and enjoy each other doing whatever it is we are doing that day. Our time at Arkansas Public Theatre, whether Ed directing me in a play or both of us being in a play, is a passion for both of us, and we enjoy our time on stage and off.
Daniel Hintz & Kassie Misiewicz Bentonville Daniel: I was cooking at a local restaurant, teaching at First Stage Children's Theater Company and Milwaukee Public Theater, acting in a touring show with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and cooking for The Rep's dinner cabaret series. Needless to say, I was busy -- however, not busy enough to not notice Kassie. I first saw her as a very talented director, then as a respected colleague -- and then as an incredibly intelligent and strong woman with a smile that could light up a room. That's when I asked her out. Kassie: Our definition of romance has changed over the years. I think what it is today are those times when we are able to sit next to each other and be present, not doing anything. Because of Dan's travel and our family's activity schedule, we have to schedule time to be with each other. Daniel: A touch on the arm at a party, a goofy face in line at the grocery store, a balled up sock thrown at me from across the room, spontaneous laughter over something we both saw at the same time. That's the magic.
Missy & Chase Gipson Fayetteville Missy: I was touring Lyon College, where Chase was a current junior. I listed soccer as a hobby as a perspective student, and Chase was the captain of the college soccer team. They had me sit with the team, and that's the moment we met. Chase likes to recall that I wore a silver backpack, and he asked me if I was from NASA. Chase: We toured around playing music together for a couple years, sleeping in our car or a tent, and getting into unusual situations and seeing how we navigated it together made it evident that she was the one. She was already the best friend I ever had even before we were married. Missy: I always thought I would be off working on Broadway, no children, and hustling away at theater. It's funny the dreams you have when you're younger. I have no regrets that my original dream for my life didn't turn out as planned.
Photo courtesy Carin Schoppmeyer Harry & Kathi Blundell Springdale Harry: It wasn't until we were standing backstage in the dark that I overheard the voice. It was fluid, musical, silky smooth with just a hint of mischief in it. I had noticed the eyes earlier -- clear and blue and feisty -- and knew the sting of "the look," although it hadn't been directed at me...yet. "Did you hear about Harry Blundell?" whispered her voice in the darkness. Then came the awkward silence...and ..."Is he on this side of the stage?" "Yes, he is," I replied. And again... all was silent.... Kathi: I'd like to be clear about this! I wasn't all that shallow. Just full of info! Harry was new to the department, and this was his first production. Harry: By November we were talking to, not about, each other. Our first date was Nov. 22, three days before her 19th birthday. Herb Alpert was on the jukebox ...we danced together... we whispered to each other ... we left the party and walked up the street to a nearby school playground where she had played as a young girl ... and we recited the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet from the bars on the jungle gym. Weren't we precious! Harry: Romance isn't always a kick in the head or punch in the heart. Sometimes it's just the fragrant, gentle breeze that wafts through the room as she walks past and you know she's there, and there isn't anything more comforting. Sometimes just sitting on the sofa watching TV is enough. Kathi: Well, maybe sharing the caramel corn ...
Reice Brummett & Shey Bland Rogers In the summer of 2013 in Blackstone, Va., we were both subcontractors for the same company working a National Guard training rotation. Shey was in the art department and production; Reice was doing opposing forces (bad guys). We saw each other a bit around base and at the motel we were all in, but we first got to really talk when we were both assigned to the same village for training iterations. Shey was coordinating the villagers for the scenarios, and Reice was leading the opposing forces. We made a great connection at the end of that rotation and were glued at the hips for the next one in Georgia. Shey: Romance to me is taking care of each other and sharing your most intimate parts of yourself. I can be myself with him, and he can be himself with me. I think that's what counts is knowing as much as possible about each other, the good and not so good or straight-up strange and still wanting to be with that person and loving who and what that person is. Reice: Romance to me is being what your partner needs to be the happiest they could possibly be. You are there to support, accept and do your best to understand each other. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, and it is 100 percent because of this beautiful, amazing creature that I somehow found in Blackstone, Va.
Nicole Cotton & Henry Leachman West Fork Nicole: We actually met in the 21st century way, online! As we moved back to the area in our 30s -- and dating is a lot different than in the cities -- I tried the online thing and met my other half! Nicole: I was pretty smitten the first time we hung out at my house, staying outside building a bonfire and listening to music. We were pretty much inseparable after the first time we met. Henry: Romance to me now is having someone to share all of life's experiences and meeting that person in which I'm never bored!
Peggy Hill & John Two-Hawks Eureka Springs John: The first time I laid eyes on Peggy, I thought two things; 1. She was beautiful. And 2. She was totally out of my league. A bit of a wild child back then, I was the lead singer of a metal band who spent weekends illegally drag racing for money on back roads in a crazy fast Chevelle. She had a college degree, was a published writer, and a producer and promoter of concert events for rock bands. My brother was friends with Peggy, and suggested she have my band headline one of her events, so she came to see us rehearse. There is nothing that makes a guy strut like having a cute gal watch you rehearse with your band, and I was certainly putting on a show! Peggy: At one point he winked at me -- a very powerful wink -- and well, here we are 26 years later!
Terry Vaughan & Tim Gilster Fayetteville Terry: Tim and I met in Oxford, Miss., in September 1982 at what is now City Grocery restaurant. I was a new MFA teaching assistant at Ole Miss, and a large group of theater majors met at the restaurant immediately following auditions for the 1982/83 theatre season. We had a rough start. When Tim tried to talk to me at the restaurant, I immediately shut him down. He was this really tall, dark and handsome guy who had been in the theater department for several years so I figured he was a "Casanova" type who hit on all the new girls, and I wasn't interested in that at all. Little did I know that Tim was actually very shy, and it was a big deal for him to come over and introduce himself. I got a chance to see what a great guy he was when we performed in back-to-back one-act plays together later that fall. I tried to make amends, but he would have absolutely nothing to do with me. We finally got a chance to connect at a party in December 1982. I know this sounds crazy, but we fell in love that night and have been together ever since. We will be married 34 years on June 21.
Chaddie Kumpe & Charlie Platt Springdale Chaddie: Charlie and I met when Rhonda (Dillard) asked him to be our drummer for Ultra Suede in January of 1998. We had known "of" each other as musicians since he was in the very popular and nationally touring band Punkinhead. Ultra Suede's very first show in 1994 was actually opening for Punkinhead at the Harvest Moon Ultimate Frisbee tournament party on Halloween weekend at Chester's on Dickson Street. After many years of touring, Charlie had decided to come back to Fayetteville, go back to school, buy a house and get a dog. We were making a change in the lineup of the band at the same time, so it all worked out. Although it was never really declared, I think we were both pretty serious from the beginning. We weren't youngsters and had been around enough to recognize the real thing when we saw it.

NAN Our Town on 02/14/2019

Print Headline: Romance in the air


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