Love Stories

Preserving the essence of your union in words and pictures to pass down to your children – and their children

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Marty and Nancy’s 30th Anniversary

(scroll down for sample of wedding story)

 

On the night of their first date thirty-two years ago, Nancy DeGraff didn’t realize she had a broken leg from a softball game.

She limped to Marty Rosenkranz’s for a card game with friends on Saratoga Lake, New York, in 1982, but her leg swelled for a couple of hours until they poured a batch of gin and tonics into a thermos and headed to the hospital.

“We were drinking and having a great time while waiting for her in the emergency room,” Marty says.

Um, Nancy has a different perspective. “I was bugged they got to drink gin and tonics and I didn’t. But the next day, he brought over roses, and that’s what really captured my heart. He was funny, he had a great sense of humor, he was caring and affectionate. I thought he was cute and burly, kind of like my teddy bear.”

“We were inseparable after that,” says Marty, who remembers her dancing on his feet at the Swimming Pool Casino in Saratoga Springs one night because she couldn’t maneuver in her cast.

Nancy remembers their first kiss. “Ooooh, it was great and very sexy. He’s a good kisser.”

Three years earlier, Marty and Nancy had met at a summer backyard barbecue at her best friend’s house in Ballston Lake when he was 32 and she was 33.

“My eyes bugged out of my head when I first saw her. I felt like a cartoon character with my eyes springing out,” Marty says. “I thought, ‘What a gorgeous creature!’ She was the cutest thing you ever saw. She had a great figure, and she was smiling all the time. She was a very sweet person. I knew she was going to be my next wife.”

Marty had been married twice before, and Nancy once before. In fact, Nancy’s first husband had changed her tall-and-dark fantasy of what she envisioned for a husband.

“I was looking for someone with similar interests to spend the rest of my life with, so this time I looked at the personality instead of a romantic figure like you do when you’re young,” she says. “Everybody loved Marty. He was so friendly, and they knew the other ones I’d had weren’t any good. He loves people and talks to everybody.”

After their eventful first date, it only took three months for them to move into a two-story beautiful home built in 1834, the second oldest in Saratoga. Even though it boasted seven bedrooms, the monthly rent was $700.

It was in this historic house where Marty proposed a year later over a special dinner he had cooked. And, y­­­es, he dropped to one knee. (But the engagement ring didn’t appear until their 10th anniversary at the Olde Bryan Inn during dinner with friends. Marty arranged for the bartender to present the ring as a garnish entwined with a strawberry atop a Champagne flute.)

They bought the house two years after moving in, and Marty’s children spent every other weekend and half the summer with them. Serious-minded Elizabeth was 12, rebellious Rebecca was 6, and sweetie-pie Josh was 3.

“When the kids would come over, I felt like the family man again,” Marty says. “That was really important to me. My kids took to Nancy right away. She was the best stepmother ever. The kids really loved her. You could really see it.”

Even though Nancy says they were loving and giving, it wasn’t easy at first. “I learned to step back. It took a while, though. I didn’t have any kids of my own, so I loved them like they were my own. In a way, I’m luckier because they’re more like friends because I’m not their mom. I didn’t have all the responsibilities, but I had all the love. Marty is one of the most fabulous dads ever. His kids adore him. After all, he’s Poppa the Great. Actually, that’s one of the things that attracted me to him.”

On June 23, 1984, a horse-and-buggy carried Nancy and her sister to Congress Park in downtown Saratoga on a glorious sunny day. Their friends followed them to a gargantuan oak tree as Rebecca threw flower petals.

“It was wonderful,” Nancy says. “As soon as the minister pronounced us husband and wife, Marty took off his top hat and yelled, ‘Let’s party!’ ”

The newlyweds rode the carriage back to the house for the reception highlighted by food crafted with love by family and friends.

“It was one of the best days of my life. Beautiful day. Great party,” Marty says. “Nancy was my dream girl. It just took me a while to find her. She’s the yin to my yang. Nancy lets me be me, unlike other women. She’s a much nicer person than I am . . .  much nicer.”

Nancy might disagree. Her absolute favorite thing about Marty? “His affection and love towards me. Affection, hugging, kissing, trusting, letting each other know you care about each other was a big thing for me.”

After the wedding, their honeymoon to the Barbados marked the first of countless international trips together, the kickoff of what they call “Marty and Nancy’s Excellent Adventures.” Vacationing became their ultimate pleasure to enjoy together, and boating became their favorite family experience with the children.

The highlight of their series of four powerboats was a 37-foot Silverton called Island Dream. “It was a beauty, we went all over the place with that boat,” including Lake Champlain, Block Island and Atlantic City, Marty says.

They thirsted for more exotic boating, though, so Marty earned his captain’s license so they could rent boats in the Caribbean for one-week voyages with two other couples, which included scuba diving.

Nancy’s role of first mate has mirrored their partnership in marriage. Marty is the cook, and Nancy is the baker. Marty was his daughters’ softball coach, and Nancy was assistant coach.

“We work really well together,” Marty says. (Except when it comes to decorating.) “Nancy is always ready to help. We even split the bills in half. One of my favorite things about her is that I get to live in a clean house. She’s a neat freak.”

Nancy may hate to cook, but she doesn’t shrug from hard-core chores, especially grueling yard work. “I’m a workhorse,” she says.

What’s the key to their longevity? “Two rules: We never fight in front of other people, and be nice to each other,” Marty says. “She’s the sweetest person I know. That’s another reason. I would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings who’s as nice as that.”

Nancy adds, “And laughing should be in there too.” Their many years have built trust, of course. “To the point now that he’s my best friend, and I trust him with my life. He’s always been loving and caring, but he thinks of those things more now. It’s important to him to not hurt me.”

Nancy has evolved from his influence as well. “He’s the more outgoing one, and he can bring that out in me. I’ve learned not to take things so seriously, to have a sense of humor about life. I freak out, and he calms me down.”

Their patience, affection and love have steered them through tough times, such as when they got laid off on the same day when Nancy was a computer programmer and Marty was a salesman. And, they’ve pulled through even darker times, such as Josh suffering a serious car accident and Marty contracting prostate cancer in 2000.

“I was afraid I was going to lose him,” Nancy says. “I was devastated. Here was this strong man, and all you have to do is hear the word cancer. Our neighbor died of it. I fear one of us dying. It’s scary, very scary.”

Thankfully, the treatment and radiation banished it so they could resume their “Excellent Adventures.”

Day-to-day conflicts pale in comparison, but when they arise, they let their emotions stew before calming down to talk it out. “I know Nancy will draw it out of me, but she’s got to wait a while,” says Marty, who’s been able to end some of their arguments simply by sticking out his tongue and making Nancy laugh.

In 1997, they adopted a tropical lifestyle when they migrated to South Florida and eventually to their two-story villa in Sierra del Mar in Boca Raton, where they not only fell in love with their pool, central air, and garage but also with their neighbors.

When they retired in 2013, they bought a motor home the size of their prized Island Dream, yet another mode of transportation for their “Excellent Adventures.” They explored nooks of Florida, but the apex was their summerlong trip up North, where they spent a month back in their roots of Saratoga.

“We know that time is short, so we have as much fun as we can. And we keep it spicy,” Nancy says.

Marty agrees on the fun factor. “The only thing that has changed is that we’ve gotten older. I’m still as crazy about her today as when my eyes bugged out when I first saw her at the party.”

Memories of summiting a Mayan ruin spur desires for more exploits, and Marty longs to relax in the blissful Greek islands or jump in a Jeep for a thrilling African safari. He also wants to whisk Nancy to destinations he experienced during his military and business travels.

Besides traveling, their other goal is to spend time with their children, particularly with their first grandchild, Charley Valentine, born to Josh and fiancé Tara Trombley-Cheek on February 10, 2014, in New Orleans.

“Becoming a grandparent is just something else,” says Nancy, who considers it a pinnacle of her life. “I can’t wait to get back there. I’ve been lucky enough to have the kids loving me, and then to be a grandparent on top of that is awesome.”

On the eve of their 30th anniversary, Marty says the three decades “feel like forever, like we’ve never been apart. And at the same, it feels like a blur. Where did it go? We’ve had a charmed life really. I have no regrets.”

But no matter where their “Excellent Adventures” takes them across the world, a certain park in Saratoga always tugs at their hearts. “We visit that tree every time we go back,” Marty says.

Nancy wishes a lifetime with Marty could be eternity.

“I can see us still holding hands with our canes, still kissing. I’d like 30 more years with him and then 30 more after that. Ninety years being married is probably impossible, but I can wish for it.”

 

 

John and Katherine’s Wedding

 

 

It was not clichéd love at first sight.

Katherine and John both describe their first date – an Italian lunch on Veteran’s Day in 2009 at Campagnolo in Wellington– as strained with stilted and superficial conversation. Helpings of bad service and disappointing food only enhanced the awkwardness.

“I didn’t even know what to say or ask her,” John said. “I felt like she was too good, almost too sweet. I didn’t know if it would work. We had very different paths.”

John thought Katherine wasn’t smitten with him – at all.

“I was being reserved,” Katherine said. “I didn’t want to start anticipating a relationship that might not work out. . . . After lunch, he gave me a hug, and I’m not really a hugger.”

Katherine Mierzwa, 27, and John Bowers, 28, had met at the Fellowship of Young Adults group (FOYA) at Saint Rita Catholic Church in Wellington. John helped found the group in fall 2007, and Katherine started attending in summer 2009.

“She was very quiet at first,” John said. “But then she got into a debate about something she was passionate about, and I thought, ‘That chick’s cool.’ ”

Katherine found herself attracted to John as well, especially because a friend had given him a five-star review. (Wink, wink.)

Despite the disastrous lunch, John continued to pursue her. “I felt like I didn’t have that much of a choice. I was just continually drawn to her for some reason. I didn’t know why. I wanted to have more from it.”

They began talking on the phone more in depth, exploring their backgrounds and gradually shedding their inhibitions with each other.

“We met at just the right time,” Katherine said. “Our paths could have crossed before, but they never did. We met when we were supposed to meet. If we had met before, I would have been different, and he would have been different.”

As they drew closer, they discovered a strong commonality: close families with fathers who are lawyers. Both of them grew up with loving parents — Mollie and David Bowers, and Matthew and Valerie Mierzwa — who were always there for them as role models.

“I wanted to have a relationship like my parents have,” Katherine said.

John’s family is of Irish descent, and Katherine’s family is a blend of Italian and Polish with a dash of Irish.

“There are certain aspects about Katherine that are like my mother, such as a conservative personality and quaintness,” John said. “A lot of the traits I love in Katherine are traits I learned to admire through my parents. The relationship with my parents set me up to love Katherine the way that I do.”

Yet, she still remains a bit of a mystery. “I never know what she’s thinking about. She can be quiet. She doesn’t articulate her feelings a lot,” he said.

Their personalities complement each other. Katherine is detail-oriented and candid, while John is relaxed and carefree. John exercised a bit of a wild streak during his college years, graduating from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, while Katherine followed the straight and narrow at The Catholic University of America in Washington,D.C.

“Katherine is very faith-filled and believes in her principles,” John said. “She’s loving and always there. And, she’s very consistent. Her strengths help me with my weaknesses,” John said.

Katherine won not only the heart of John but also his family. She wooed one of his sisters, Elizabeth, by baking the family a plate of cookies during Christmas.

John’s dating experiences in college taught him what he did NOT want in a bride: “high maintenance, uninspiring, hypochondriac, or narcissist,” he said. So, when Katherine graced his life, it was easy for him to love her unequivocally. Conversely, John was Katherine’s first serious boyfriend, despite an odd pedicure date with a man who is now in the seminary to become a priest.

Katherine is certainly no Bridezilla. “I’m one of those weird girls who never thought about my wedding, my dress, my flowers, etc.,” she said. “The only thing I cared about was going to Italy for my honeymoon.”

That fantasy is becoming reality, as they are honeymooning in Rome for three nights. The rest of their adventure is a surprise, which John and his father are planning. Katherine says she is more excited about the honeymoon than the wedding.

That’s not the only vision coming true for Katherine. In high school, she dreamed she was marrying a tall, dark, handsome man who was perfect for her, but she couldn’t make out his face.

Now she can look into John’s brown eyes every day and find comfort in the adoring face that eluded her as a teenager. And he is tall. And dark. And handsome.

And when did Katherine decide he was perfect for her? Actually, the very same day John realized she was perfect for him.

It was February 27, 2010 — Katherine’s birthday. John arrived at her home with a wild birthday hat and elegant diamond earrings for her. She was a vision to him, even in her sweats, surrounded by her family. The close-knit gathering felt familiar and comforting to John, making him realize she was The One.

“It was my first birthday I had celebrated with a significant other,” Katherine said. “I believe in signs from God. I became sure at that point. It felt very right. This is how it’s supposed to feel the rest of my life.”

Nine months later, John asked Katherine’s father for her hand and gave him $1 to ensure attorney-client privilege.

On December 11, 2010, John proposed in front of their parents and 15 of their Fellowship friends while Santa and Mrs. Claus reigned over a holiday party. John, as host, had rigged the secret-Santa gift exchange so Katherine’s gift would be from him, to his guests’ surprise as well. He dropped on one knee as she opened the dazzling, one-carat, round-brilliant diamond, set in platinum, from Tiffany & Co. But Katherine hadn’t even noticed him as she tore into the paper, so he began firmly calling her name to get her attention. As John’s intent unraveled in the shredded wrappings, Katherine’s excited screams were just the reaction he had been hoping for.  The group popped Champagne and snapped pictures in celebration, while John inwardly toasted to his unspoiled surprise.

“I was hoping he’d propose by the end of the year,” Katherine said. “And, I wanted it to be exactly how he did it: surrounded by friends and family.”

Fathers Brian Lehnert and Brian King will marry the couple January 14, 2012, at Saint Therese de Lisieux Catholic Church in Wellington. To personalize the traditional Nuptial Mass, Katherine’s mother quilted a lectern cover depicting an Irish Claddagh and cross, and John’s parents and aunt, Margaret Kenny, will sing.

A reception will follow at Wycliffe Golf & Country Club, where John and Katherine will delight their guests with choreographed rumba and swing for their first dance. And, what does a bride do right before her wedding? Well, bake 1,200 cookies for wedding favors, of course. Chocolate chip, toffee almond sandies, snickerdoodles, and cranberry walnut oatmeal, to be exact.

When not absorbed in wedding planning, the couple has been house hunting and enjoying dance lessons, baseball games, reading, and movies together.

John plans to be a supportive father and a loving husband, who puts others’ needs before his own.

“I want Katherine to always be shriekingly happy like when I proposed,” he said. “I want her to always be happy with her efforts and to get what she wants, to feel full and complete, for her cup to overflow.”

Katherine looks forward to learning from each other and taking on each other’s interests. She is excited about spending the rest of her life with the person she loves, bonded by trust and strong faith.

“I want John to be able to grow as a person and to become who he’s supposed to be through experiences in life, to follow whatever God’s plan is for him; for him to be secure and at peace wherever life takes us,” Katherine said.

John hopes they will strive to make each other just a little happier every day, whether they are living close to home or perhaps even in Italy one day.

But in the next five years, they hope to start a family and grow in their jobs – John in banking and Katherine in social work. When John asked Katherine how many children she would like to have, she replied, “However many kids God has planned for me.” While this made John a bit nervous initially, he has become more comfortable with waiting to see what their future might bring.

Perhaps Katherine and John’s choice of Italian cuisine on their first date foreshadowed their destiny. Let’s just hope Italy indulges them with better food and service on their honeymoon — and they spoil each other with love and devotion the rest of their lives.