Editor’s note: These stories first appeared in Tuesday’s editions of View Neighborhood
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Couples in the Las Vegas Valley have taken divergent paths toward everlasting love. Here are some of their stories on Valentine’s Day.
WASTING NO TIME
Southwest Las Vegas residents Bob and Ann Brown wasted no time starting their lives together. They married a little more than four months after meeting.
Bob was a teacher and basketball coach at Bishop Gorman High School. Ann was a nurse living at home with her parents. Her younger sister was a student in Bob’s class.
“My sister introduced us,” Ann said. “I didn’t realize what she was up to at the time. Unbeknownst to me, my sister was trying to get this going.”
Bob, then 29, took Ann on their first date on Aug. 17, 1975. It was Ann’s 22nd birthday. He picked her up at her house and met the family.
“The first thing they wanted to know is would I like something to eat,” Bob said. “She had a really fun family, just great people to be around.”
In the subsequent weeks, Bob found any excuse he could to see Ann every day. After a date one night in October, Bob took Ann back to her parents’ house, and the two went into “the good living room.”
With her parents upstairs sleeping, Bob got down on one knee and proposed.
“I was 29, and I saw what I wanted,” Bob said, “a nice person ... who loves to cook. And that hasn’t stopped.”
Bob did not have a ring for Ann yet, but she accepted his proposal. After he left, she woke up her parents to tell them the news.
“He was just a really nice person,” Ann said. “He’s like the all-American guy. He’s this coach. He’s an athlete. He came from a good family. He had good values.”
As a basketball coach, Bob wanted to schedule the wedding during the winter break before conference play started.
“I said, ‘What, are we going to get married at halftime?’ ” Ann said.
They married Jan. 3, 1976. The wedding would prove a little tricky. Bob was Mormon, and Ann was Catholic. To satisfy both sides of the family, a Mormon bishop and a Catholic priest stood at the altar together and presided over the ceremony.
The couple moved into a house and would have two kids — Matt, now 29, and Becky, 27. Bob works as a floorman at the South Point, and Ann is a nurse for Valley View Home Health Care.
One of the Browns’ favorite activities is watching NFL football together on Sundays. Both are native Las Vegans and did not have a favorite team until 2003. That year, they made their annual trip to New York City, but this time Bob suggested that they see a football game. The New York Jets had a home game the week of the trip.
“And that was it,” Bob said. “She was hooked on football. She went out and bought all the jerseys.”
Every year since 2003 they plan their trip around the Jets’ schedule.
After 37 years of marriage, they said they have only grown closer, especially since three years ago when Ann was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
In 2010, she underwent surgery to remove the cancer and had extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
“He saw me through all of that,” Ann said. “And if anything, that changed our marriage for the better. He was there every step of the way. It was hell, but we made it. We’re closer now, because you realize you can be gone tomorrow.”
— Jeff Mosier
COUPLE WEREN’T AWARE THEY’D ALREADY CONNECTED ONLINE
The circumstances behind how Elyse and David Zacharia of Summerlin met can only be described as “beshert” –– a Hebrew word meaning bearing the fingerprints of divine intervention.
Elyse was a pharmaceutical representative in Las Vegas in 1999. She and a girlfriend found it funny that a co-worker had turned to online dating.
“He would travel all over to find dates, and we thought it was hysterical,” she said.
To bait him, they put Elyse’s profile on a dating site he frequented, disguising her by using the name “Lisa.” The profile did not include her picture.
The co-worker didn’t bite, but another man on the site did and emailed her.
“I just ignored it,” Elyse said. “I didn’t even read it.”
She was too busy planning a trip to Chicago in two days. When she and her mother, Sharon Pressler, got to McCarran International Airport, Elyse said, a man at the gate kept staring at her. Her mother joked that he was going to hit on Elyse. The flight was on Southwest Airlines, which allows passengers to choose their seats. Elyse and her mother settled in. The passenger in front of them was the man who’d noticed Elyse.
“I maybe glanced at her a few times, but that was about it. ... I wasn’t staring. I wasn’t a stalker,” David said. “She was petite and pretty and had a good body.”
Once airborne, he started a conversation and said she looked familiar; had she gone to the University of Kansas, his alma mater? She hadn’t, but David was so charming and humorous and made a point of including her mother in the conversation that Elyse couldn’t help but be intrigued.
“The more I kept telling him of my life, he kept saying, ‘And your name is ‘Elyse?’, and I kept saying, ‘Yes,’\u2009” she recalled.
They talked and laughed for the entire flight. Elyse focused on how charming and a good conversationalist he was. David admitted to focusing on other things.
“The conversation was fine, but I was more attracted to her body,” he said. “Her eyes and her body and her face. No, it’s body first, eyes second ... big, brown eyes, I loved them.”
He invited her to a get-together at a singles event in Chicago, but she declined. Elyse was there to welcome her newborn niece and visit family. Still, she said she couldn’t forget the engaging young man whose business card was tucked in her wallet.
She returned to Las Vegas days later and finally got around to opening the email from the guy at the dating site. As she read his profile, things started sounding familiar –– he had gone to the University of Kansas; he worked in real estate; he was in Las Vegas for a shopping center convention; he lived in Chicago. She scrolled quickly to the bottom to see his name: David Zacharia.
Elyse whipped out the business card, ensured that the names were the same and reached for her phone.
“It was 1:30 (a.m.) in Chicago, and I woke him up,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m the girl from the plane. You emailed me a week before I met you.’ ... We talked for, like, three hours that night.”
Was it truly beshert? There’s more.
Not long after, Elyse’s company eliminated her position. The only option it could offer was a territory out of state. If she took it, she would have to move to Chicago.
She and David were married in 2000. They have two children: a son, 10, and a daughter, 8.
— Jan Hogan
SCULPTING A LIFE TOGETHER
Ron and Jocelyn Jensen were married 47 years as of Feb. 4, but there is some dispute between them about how their marriage came about.
“I had a date with someone else, and to avoid me going on that date, he asked me to marry him,” Jocelyn said.
That wasn’t the case, according to Ron.
“She forced the situation,” he said. “She asked me to marry her. I really didn’t ask her to marry me.”
“This is such a lie,” Jocelyn said. “This is the one he’s told through the years. The mythology lives on.”
While the pair good-naturedly disputes the details of the proposal, they agree that despite a rocky start, they couldn’t imagine a life without each other.
The couple met in 1964 while they were teaching at J.D. Smith Middle School. He was teaching art, and she was teaching music.
“I thought he was stunning, tall and good-looking,” Jocelyn said. “I didn’t know if he had a great thought process at that point, but I soon discovered he did.”
They became better acquainted the following year when the new Valley High School opened and they had classrooms near each other. They never went on an official date but were married after a six-month courtship.
It took a while for them to work out their marriage. Two weeks into it, Jocelyn was having doubts that they could make it work. After they’d made it a year, they thought they could do it for another. Now they never leave each other without kissing and saying, “I love you.”
“He’s a romantic. He’s a lover,” Jocelyn said. “He’s always very cognizant of my needs.”
This statement caused Ron to raise an eyebrow.
“That’s not what you said the first 40 years,” Ron said.
Jocelyn mulled the point over.
“Not 40,” she said. “Maybe 10.”
Ron is retired now, and Jocelyn went on to teach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and direct the Las Vegas Master Singers, a community choir.
A few years into their marriage, they purchased a half-acre lot on Frenchman Mountain. They were among the few people there at the time and were drawn not only by the view but also by the inexpensive land. Ron designed their house and built it with Jocelyn’s uncle. Rather than bringing in fill to create a flat lot, as many later builders on the mountain would do, Ron designed the house to fit the landscape. The painter, weaver and sculptor then crafted the yard like a giant natural sculpture.
“The house fits into the landscape,” said Jocelyn, a native Las Vegan. “Every square inch of the yard, every rock was carefully placed.”
Art has always been a part of Jocelyn’s life. Her father was an early band director at Las Vegas High School. Her bachelor’s degree was a dual degree in music and visual arts.
Ron came into the art world later in life. He began his college career as a business major and switched to art after two years. Now they say art and music have affected their relationship in every way. A grand piano dominates their living room, and art by the Jensens, their friends, family and students is everywhere in their home.
“It’s who we are,” Ron said. “We’ve always supported each other’s concerts and art shows. In our lives, we have walked side by side in so many ways.”
They are happy with the life they’ve sculpted together over the years.
“If we had to do it all over again, we’d do the same,” Ron said.
“We wouldn’t change a thing,” she said, “not even the hard times.”
— F. Andrew Taylor
PLAYING HARD TO GET
Joy Katindig and Pal Pizarro grew up so close to each other in the Philippines that they were practically neighbors. But they didn’t meet until they were on the same plane flying to a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska.
He was heading to Seattle, where his parents had moved. She was taking her 3-year-old niece to Montreal to reunite with the girl’s father, Joy’s brother.
For Pal, it was love at first sight. For Joy, it took a little longer.
“He asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I said, ‘Lots,’ ” Joy said. “ ‘But if you have no house and no car, forget it. I don’t want to talk with you.’ ”
She had been on many dates in the Philippines but had always been shadowed by her father, who would whistle if he thought a suitor was being too forward.
Far from being rebuffed by Joy’s statement, Pal responded in a way that surprised her.
“If I had a house and a car, would you marry me?” he asked.
She responded with a quick “No,” which she thought would end her conversation with Pal.
Joy and Pal got distracted in the gift shop at the Anchorage airport and missed their flights. The airline booked them in a nearby hotel. When Joy realized she couldn’t get the television working for her niece, she sheepishly knocked on Pal’s door, asking for help.
“He got it working and then asked for a kiss,” Joy said. “I told him, ‘No way. Even though we’re in the United States, I’m still a Filipina at heart,’ but I gave him my number.”
Over the next few months, Pal spent hundreds of dollars calling Joy long distance. Despite the many calls and conversations, she was surprised when less than a year later he dropped a bombshell on her.
“He told me he had a house and a car and asked if I wanted to marry him,” Joy said. “I told him I wanted to see the house and car first to see if I liked it.”
Joy thought he might be joking, but she was even more surprised when he told her he’d already arranged everything for the wedding. In the time since meeting her, he had taken on multiple jobs to raise money for a house, a car and a wedding.
Joy’s mother and brother were impressed with Pal. Not long before his proposal, while Joy’s mother was visiting Seattle for another purpose, she met with Pal and he asked permission to ask for Joy’s hand in marriage.
“They had set everything up,” Joy said. “I never said ‘yes’ to his proposal. I just said ‘I do’ at the church.”
That was July 2, 1966. The couple have been married 46 years and have two children and two grandchildren.
Both are retired now and spend much of their time enjoying the casinos on the Boulder Strip.
— F. Andrew Taylor
No couple dare take on Henderson residents Robyn and Jim Carr at the newlywed game, in which couples compete against one another to see who can guess the most correct answers about their spouse.
“They don’t stand a chance,” said Robyn, a best-selling romance novelist.
The longevity of their relationship has produced an uncanny psychic connection: They know what foods they are craving or can simultaneously answer the most obscure questions.
“The question was: If your mother-in-law was an animal, what would she be?” Robyn said. “We both answered, ‘A flying monkey.’ ”
Even though that creature was the topic of discussion years ago when visiting Robyn’s mother, it was something they didn’t forget, to their surprise.
“We were passing by the airport of my hometown,” Robyn said. “I said, ‘I wonder if this will be the one time my mother is going to be here.’ He responded, ‘She won’t, but her flying monkeys will be.’ It got a laugh.”
A connection like this takes years to cultivate.
Their relationship was love at first sight — at least for Robyn.
“We met at his graduation party in high school,” Robyn said. “I was two years younger. I put the bug in his friends’ ears that I was interested.”
Jim didn’t respond to encouragement by friends that he should ask her out. But finally, he called.
Robyn enjoyed his trustworthiness and strength of character.
“He is such a great guy. If I dropped dead, there would be a line around the door of women waiting for him to notice,” she said, prompting a slight smile from Jim.
While the Vietnam War was raging, they went to college. The draft came up, and they waited anxiously to hear whether Jim would be called.
“You’re looking at number 67,” Robyn said, gesturing to Jim.
Weighing options, he decided to propose to Robyn by taking her out to the St. Croix River in Minnesota.
The romantic gesture was interrupted by mosquitoes swarming Robyn.
“They were the size of B-52s,” she said.
Jim picked up a pillow case, which had a ring inside it, and gave it to Robyn as they gathered their items.
“I found the ring and said, ‘OK. We’re done here,’ ” she said.
The two had a simple church wedding with coffee and cake. Within a month of their wedding, Jim, who had enlisted in the Air Force, began his service.
“We were apart about 30 percent of the time for the next six years,” she said.
While living on bases, Robyn took up writing.
“I had been reading a lot of books and wanted to try my hand at writing,” she said.
More than 30 years later, she is the author of the Virgin River series.
Conversations between the couple have appeared in her works.
“And I don’t get credit,” Jim said. “It wouldn’t be a Robyn Carr speech unless I was getting thrown under the bus, which has happened many times.”
For the past few Valentine’s Days, Jim has made a heart-shaped meatloaf to commemorate the evening.
“Last year I was watching television and realized, ‘Tomorrow is our anniversary,’ ” Robyn said. “He turned to me and said, ‘We don’t have to do anything, right?’ ”
The couple went out and bought a new bed and a washer and dryer.
“It was very romantic,” she added, jokingly.
The most romantic thing Robyn said the couple do together is laugh. It is because of this attitude that they know the next 10 years they will still be going strong.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Jim said to Robyn as he gave her a kiss. “I’ll make you a meatloaf.”
— Michael Lyle
ANGELA AND MATT
Despite all the showgirls dancing in “X Burlesque,” Angela Sampras captured Matt Stabile’s eye. He couldn’t shake it.
“She was stunning,” Matt said.
As a producer, Matt was contracted to make a commercial for Angela’s new show, which was opening at the Aladdin in 2002. The interaction between the two was inevitable — but so was their chemistry.
“The sparks were there,” Angela said. “It was meant to be.”
The relationship started casually, with drinks and dinner while discussing business, which later transformed to social outings.
On one of their first dates, Angela invited Matt over for dinner.
“The problem is, I can’t really cook,” she said.
Instead, she went to her favorite Italian restaurant and bought sauces and pasta. She loaded them in pots and pans before serving. However, she didn’t know that Matt had the same favorite Italian restaurant.
“I thought it tasted familiar,” he recalled.
The truth came out a few months later and serves as one of their many stories.
Matt and Angela moved in together in 2005 and were married in 2006. Matt took her to a restaurant at Lake Tahoe to propose.
“He knows I love martinis,” Angela said.
The ring was on one of the olives in a martini.
“I was nervous because all the servers were staring at me,” he said.
Angela said yes.
In the 10 years of their relationship, the only thing they wish is that they would have met sooner.
“I tell her parents if we would have met in high school, we would probably still be together,” Matt said.
— Michael Lyle
Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross and his wife, Kelli, met at Twin Lakes Elementary School in the third grade.
Steve said he had a crush on Kelli the moment he met her.
For their first date, they went to an ice skating rink on East Sahara Avenue.
“My mother drove us,” Steve said. “My tennis shoes were stolen that day from the ice skating rink, and Kelli never wanted anything to do with me after that date.”
An inexperienced skater, Kelli fell on her bottom and cried, she added. Looking back, she remembered the date but did not remember it was with him.
When her family moved to Lake Tahoe, she attended an elementary school that he, too, would later attend.
“We were always kind of at the same places at different times because our parents were in the gaming business,” she said.
They met up again in junior high school, and she described him as very popular with a lot of friends who would flirt with her by tossing her in a trash can.
She moved away again after their sophomore year. When he graduated from high school, he attended the University of Nevada, Reno, for a semester and later found out he was living in an apartment across the street from Kelli, but they never saw each other.
“It just lined up,” Steve said. “To me, it was the perfect love story that finally brought us together, and we had to go through other things in life to learn to be prepared for one another, I think.”
Both found others to marry, making their merged family resemble the Brady Bunch, he said.
“She had some kids and I had some kids, so we blended a wonderful family together,” he said.
They have five children and 11 grandchildren, and even though they are empty nesters now, they said their home is always buzzing with kids younger than 5.
When Steve was working at the Nevada Test Site, there was a place he would stop in the evenings, and she happened to be there celebrating her 28th birthday.
“I saw her and I told my friend who was with us, ‘You know, I’ve had a crush on that girl since the third grade.’ ”
He did not think that she would recognize him as a construction worker.
“She tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Steve Ross,’ and from that moment, it was kind of over with for me,” he said.
At the time, he was going through a challenging divorce and was not looking to date but said he felt a spiritual connection that told him she was the woman he needed to marry.
Before they met again, she was used to doing everything on her own, she said. She was a marketing director in the gaming industry and was raising her children. Out of character that day, she went back to the table at the restaurant and told her sister, “That man is the man I’m going to marry.”
Steve said the key to their happy marriage is making each other their priority.
“In a relationship, one thing we have learned is you have to be best friends, and you have to make your spouse the priority in your life — not your job, not your toys, not your hobby but your spouse, and that relationship will continue through time and eternity,” he said.
— Laura Phelps
A LIFETIME EPISODE OF ‘I LOVE LUCY’
North Las Vegas residents Michael and Sally Breault, married 42 years, met in 1964 when she was 14 and he was 17. His parents were married at a young age and were supportive of their young love.
“Back then, you got married early,” Sally said.
They went to high school in Lakeside, Calif., near San Diego, and described it as a small town where many of their high school friends who married young are still together.
She said that at her 40th class reunion in 2010, the master of ceremonies asked couples who had met at the school and married to stand up.
“Over half of this huge group stood up, and they married someone from the high school, and they’re still married,” she said.
Sally was a freshman cheerleader, and they would go to the football games on Friday nights. The other kids always went to Sam’s Pizza, but Sally and Michael went to a coffee shop — the only young couple there. They would always share a chocolate milkshake and a tuna sandwich, he said.
As a young man, Michael saw the “playboy lifestyle” and thought that would be him, but Sally changed everything.
“But I couldn’t let her go. There was just no way I could let her go because I knew I was never going to find anybody that was as compatible for me as she is,” he said.
To earn money for Sally’s engagement ring, Michael performed janitorial services at her father’s office and put the ring on layaway. They skipped a honeymoon to Hawaii to buy a television instead and saved money for their first house, he said. They have always been in sync about how they want to spend their money.
“Why do we stay together? How does that happen?” he asked. “It’s just that we’re very, very compatible on things that really matter. We never argue about money, sex, politics, religion. ... We just think the same, and we knew that right from when we first started talking to each other.”
While they may have had a traditional young marriage, he was surprised when he realized his wife was not an accomplished cook.
He said he grew up watching shows like “Leave It to Beaver” and “watching all of the moms who would cook and clean wearing heels and dresses and just seemed to be loving it, and that wasn’t how it was with her,” he said. “I accepted that, and we never really talked about it, and for 10 years that was sort of a problem that we had, and then one day I just sort of said, ‘You don’t like to cook; I don’t really love it, but I do like to eat, so I’ll cook.’\u2009”
In exchange, she loves to work in the yard while he does not. They have a nice balance now, Michael said.
The first dinner she cooked for him as newlyweds was a family recipe for a swiss steak.
“I was all excited — my first meal cooked by my new wife, and I walked in the house, and I didn’t smell any cooking smells. So she takes it out of the oven — she never turned the oven on,” he said.
He compared being married to his wife as a life-long episode of “I Love Lucy.”
— Laura Phelps