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Long, long ago, on a continent not so very far away, a bookish, classical musician of a girl and a rough-and-tumble, rock-and-roll loving guy met and fell in love. They were obviously NOT destined to live happily ever after!

This August, however, Allen and I will celebrate (well, commemorate, anyway . . . we tend to underachieve when it comes to celebrations) our 30th wedding anniversary. For your reading pleasure, on Valentine’s Day weekend, here’s the story of how it all began . . . 

The daughter of a lawyer and a nurse, raised in the affluent Maryland suburbs, Trish excelled in her studies without much effort, and loved to read, write stories, and watch old movies – especially cheesy musicals. She enjoyed participating in public speaking contests and the county youth orchestra. In other words, she was something of a nerd. Quiet, introverted, sedentary, and frankly privileged, she never held a real job until she’d graduated from college. She majored in Fine Arts, with an emphasis in Harp Performance – possibly not the most practical degree the university offered.

Allen, on the other hand, grew up in southeast Asia, the son of missionaries. He was not at all a natural student, but his hard work (which would be central to his personality all of his life) earned him the grades he needed to continue his education as he desired. His defining characteristics would be a gift for problem solving, great physical strength and endurance, and an amazing grasp of the common sense aspects of a wide variety of subjects. A natural entrepreneur, he earned the money to purchase his first car before he was old enough to drive. In his scarce and precious free time, he enjoyed bike racing, weight lifting, listening to cranked up rock music, and pulling annoying pranks on campus security with his crazy friends.

These two both opted to attend a conservative Christian university in Indiana. Although the school was relatively small, their completely different interests kept them apart until their junior year. The school had two dorms which were almost identical – Olson Hall, for girls and Wengatz, for guys. Allen lived in 3rd West Wengatz, and Trish in 3rd West Olson. On occasion, the matching wings would have joint activities. 

Wengatz Hall in the foreground, Olson Hall in the distance

In October of 1982, the two wings held a “Secret Sister” event. Each member of the Olson wing would draw the name of a person from the Wengatz wing, and then for a week each girl would secretly send that guy encouraging notes and small gifts, like candy bars, for instance. 

Trish drew Allen’s name. Because she knew nothing about him, Trish asked her roommate if she knew him. The roommate replied that he was a red head, that he was really into biking, and that Trish wouldn’t want to go out with him. With this enlightenment, Trish proceeded through the week, with the notes and gifts.

Meanwhile, Allen was thinking ahead to the upcoming weekend. A major event was in the works. Each year, 3rd West Wengatz held a pit roast. On the schedule for the following Saturday was the roasting of a steer in the pit, and Allen’s date for the event had canceled. As a PA for the wing (most colleges called these RAs – basically he was in a leadership position for the guys in his wing) he would be heavily involved in running this event, and he certainly didn’t want to attend without a date. He also made it a point, after any secret sister event, to do something nice for the girl, like take her out for ice cream. Allen decided that, if his secret sister wasn’t someone he already didn’t like, he’d invite her to the steer roast with him. Practical Allen – he could kill two birds with one stone! 

The Secret Sister week concluded with the girls from 3rd West Olson and the guys from 3rd West Wengatz meeting at the dining commons for dinner. At that time, each guy would find out who his secret sister had been. Trish dressed casually but carefully for the gathering, in nicely fitting jeans and a pretty sweater. Allen wore . . . wait for it . . . a pair of olive green mechanic’s overalls which had previously belonged to his grandmother, and flip flops. In October. 

The dinner together was enjoyable. Fortunately for Allen, Trish wasn’t one to judge a person on their outward appearance, and she found him to be pleasant company. She was intrigued by his international experiences, which seemed much more exciting than her life in the suburbs. Allen found Trish cute and sweet, plus she had done a nice job as his secret sister. He didn’t already not like her, so as they finished dinner, he asked her out to the pit roast. Because his job required him to set things up for the event, he asked if she’d like to help with that as well, and Trish agreed.

Part 2 to follow soon!