Monday, March 2, 2015

Couples recall how they met

Marjorie and Ed Rendell as a young married couple. The future judge and governor met at a party he threw as a Villanova law student in 1968. “She was so striking,” he says. They dated, broke up, reunited for good in 1970.
Marjorie and Ed Rendell as a young married couple. The future judge and governor met at a party he threw as a Villanova law student in 1968. “She was so striking,” he says. They dated, broke up, reunited for good in 1970.
Marjorie and Ed Rendell as a young married couple. The future judge and governor met at a party he threw as a Villanova law student in 1968. “She was so striking,” he says. They dated, broke up, reunited for good in 1970. Gallery: Couples recall how they met

Every couple has a story. Whether the romance began in nursery school, at work or even in retirement, most of them can recount the singular moment or meeting that ultimately changed everything.

In celebration of Valentine's Day, here are some of those stories:

Gov. Ed Rendell, 65, and Judge Marjorie Rendell, 62 met in January 1968

It was a winter night when Marjorie Osterlund arrived at the party of Villanova law student Ed Rendell.

"The apartment was small; there weren't that many guests, and she was so striking," said the man who is now Pennsylvania's governor. "I couldn't help noticing."

Then a junior at Penn, the judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit remembers some pleasant social interaction. "But nothing dramatic." And her date that night was the host's friend, David Montgomery - now president of the Phillies.

So she was surprised when she got a call the next morning inviting her to lunch.

"I had already checked it out with Dave, and it was fine," said Ed. "He had some interest in the woman I'd been with, so we agreed to a friendly switch. I even offered to throw in a Mars Bar."

The lunch went well. "Midge" still recalls how animated and interesting her date was at a restaurant on Penn's campus. Yet she insists she looked terrible. "There had been a water main break, so our sorority house had no water. I was a mess!"

Ed wasn't a bit deterred. He invited her to a basketball game at the Palestra, where he was, she recalls, "yelling at the refs the whole time."

After some rough sailing and a breakup - Midge says she was a bit overwhelmed by her avid suitor with marriage on his mind - they reunited in 1970 over dinner in Washington, where Ed was recruiting lawyers for the Philadelphia district attorney's office and Midge was a student at Georgetown Law School.

"We went to a restaurant where I knew Henry Kissinger often dined," Ed said. "Frankly, I had almost given up the ghost, but I figured I'd pull out all the stops."

Something went very right that night, and before they parted at the train station, Midge said this: "If you still want to get married, it's OK with me."

It was an offer Ed wasn't going to refuse.

The couple married in the summer of 1971, and Midge's original date was an usher at the wedding. He is still a close friend.

Cinzia Simmons, 56, and LeRoi Simmons, 61 met in 1980

He instantly noticed her cowboy boots because they were the real thing. But as impressive as those boots - and their striking owner - were, it was strictly business when Amway manager LeRoi Simmons met rookie Cinzia Parris at a 1980 direct-sales convention.

It stayed that way for the colleagues, and the professionalism continued even when Cinzia started doing nails regularly in LeRoi's Germantown hair salon, another of his business ventures. Today, he also is executive director of Central Germantown Council and a Baptist minister.

"LeRoi was always very pleasant, but there were other people in our lives," said Cinzia.

Fast forward to Dec. 8, 1983, a date both Cinzia and LeRoi remember well.

Cinzia came to the hair salon so she and her roommate could get their hair done. But when Cinzia's roommate began flirting with LeRoi, she got angry and let her roommate know it. Around the same time, LeRoi was realizing he felt something for the woman he had known since 1980. "I honestly felt that God had placed her before me and was just waiting for me to notice."

That day, in the midst of the tension, Cinzia and LeRoi slipped away to the salon's storage area. She had intended to find words for her feelings and was stumbling. LeRoi solved the problem by taking her into his arms for a kiss.

"That day absolutely changed our lives," said LeRoi. "He was there all the time," said Cinzia, "but I just didn't recognize it."

On Jan. 28, 1984 - barely a month after that kiss - Cinzia married LeRoi in a borrowed dress at a wedding organized by her friends. They hosted the reception and provided everything, including the wedding photos.

Last month, they celebrated their 25th anniversary. And the couple now jointly run the place of their first kiss: LeRoi and Cinzia Simmons Full Service Salon and Spa.

Carole and Al Morganti, both 55 met in 1981

Today, Carole and Al are Medford residents and the proud parents of a college sophomore daughter. He's a Comcast SportsNet contributor and an irreverent funnyman on 610 WIP's morning team. She's a well-known public relations practitioner.

But back in the early 1980s, Al was a bachelor covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Inquirer, and Carole was working in PR for the Fury soccer team.

"I would notice her running around Vet Stadium," said Al. "After that, she moved to a PR job at the Spectrum, where she also ran around. And if she was running," Al said, with characteristically sly humor, "I figured I would chase her."

But not so fast. First, Al sought the advice and counsel of Jane Wynne, then the office manager for the Flyers, who knew Carole. She warned the young journalist that yes, Carole was terrific, but he'd better be nice to her. Then Jane made the "formal" introduction, although not much was very formal around the Spectrum.

"Our first date was on Valentine's Day 1981, and he brought me roses! I always had thought he was cute, but until that date, I basically knew him by his byline," Carole said.

"One of the great things about dating Carole, along with her being pretty, smart and witty, was that I got to see all the concerts at the Spectrum for free, with the best seats in the house," recalls Al. "Now that was a girlfriend with benefits!"

"I think after three or four years, I actually asked him, 'So are we getting married or not?' " recalls Carole. Al's recollection is that there was a formal engagement after Christmas 1984, and that his family was late to their Sept. 14, 1985, wedding. Carole remembers the details:

"Al's whole family got terribly lost getting to the church because of his horrible directions. When the family finally got there, they literally ran down the aisle to their seats. The photos are hilarious."

Jamie and Justin Windheim, both 27 met in 1986

She was an "older woman" - by a full three weeks - when she and Justin Windheim were 4-year-olds attending the same nursery school in Spring House.

Jamie Fineman Windheim, a second-grade teacher in Norristown, remembers that Justin had playdates with her best friend, Kate, and Jamie was not included.

But in their Beth Or Nursery School picture, there they are, little classmates spaced a few feet apart.

That close proximity turned out to be prophetic: "It seems that we were always around each other, but not quite together," said Justin, now an account supervisor for a public relations firm.

During the angst of middle school, Jamie and Justin had more on-and-off contact - he danced with Jamie at her bat mitzvah but didn't ask her for a dance at his bar mitzvah.

In high school, the two weren't quite romantic - or entirely platonic. There was a kiss, partially orchestrated by friends who thought they'd be a great couple. And there was an awkward first real date.

"We saw a movie called 10 Things I Hate About You, which, on reflection, probably wasn't the best choice," said Justin. "But we got through the date, and the romance was on its way. Our high school friends even started making bets that we'd get married."

Those bets paid off when Jamie and Justin stood under the chuppah at the same synagogue where they are now members. Kate, Justin's playdate partner in nursery school, was a bridesmaid at the wedding.

And when they have children, the Windheims hope to send them to Beth Or Nursery School for the sake of family tradition. "It definitely got us off to a good start," said Justin. "It took a while, but we finally made it."

Abbe Fletman, 49, and Jane Hinkle, 58 met in 1982

When Jane Hinkle took an extended leave of absence to care for her terminally ill mother, Abbe Fletman took over her job as a business writer at a Charlotte, N.C., newspaper.

The two writers had never met, but Abbe knew of her predecessor's excellent reputation in the journalism world.

After Jane's mother died, she visited the newsroom once, and Abbe was introduced to her briefly. Abbe remembers being impressed with Jane's obvious "fierce intelligence" and her irreverence.

A few years later, Jane came back to Charlotte and worked for the local chamber of commerce. So Abbe, the Charlotte News business writer, arranged to have lunch. "It was presumably strictly a business lunch," recalls Abbe of that 1984 encounter. "But for me, it was much more."

Abbe found her lunch partner delightfully witty, funny and smart. She recalls going home to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving shortly after, and seeking the advice of a straight male friend about how to ask someone out.

"He told me to have some opening conversational gambit, and I did - we happened to have seen the same movie a few nights before. And he advised me to have a clear plan for getting together." Abbe also had that: She was taking the LSAT that weekend and suggested that she and Jane might go out for dinner and a movie to celebrate afterward.

Jane remembers that phone call well. "I hung up and wondered 'Is this a date?' "

It was a date that ultimately changed their lives.

Both women were keenly aware that the Charlotte of that era was not a comfortable place to live openly as a gay couple. Abbe was headed back to Philadelphia, where she had been accepted at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Jane decided to join her, although they had known each other for just a few months.

Twenty-five years later, Abbe, now a shareholder and active litigator in the Philadelphia office of Flaster Greenberg, and Jane, a fourth-grade teacher at Friends Select, are the parents of two children, Ted, 18, and Elizabeth, 15. An Oct. 3, 2004, wedding ceremony was a public declaration of their commitment and love.

"I found that I really believe in marriage," said Abbe. "All it took was finding my Princess Charming."

 

Sally Friedman For The Inquirer
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