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Photo by Shane Wynn
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Till death do us part.
Well … not necessarily. If you’re a married American, your marriage is between 40 and 50 percent likely to end in divorce. And this is, in fact, good news.
After peaking at 50 percent in the ‘80s, the national divorce rate has been dropping steadily. And the younger generations — despite often being children of divorce themselves — are still romantics at heart: 88 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 29 believe they have a soul mate out there somewhere.
Feeling inspired, we asked seven local couples what brought them together, what keeps them together and what they’re learning as they go.
In the spirit of a wedding toast: May their candor surprise you, their commitment inspire you and their romance make you smile this Valentine's Day.
Randy and Carol Malick
One of things Carol and Randy Malick share is an offbeat sense of humor. Her favorite words of marital wisdom come from Randy's mother: "The first 10 years are hell. After that, it gets easy."
How They Met
She got the desperate call while sitting in her car at Swenson's. Her just-ordered mushrooms were still steamy hot. Carol Hackel agreed to handle a last-minute photo shoot at a middle school confirmation dance in Fairlawn, but she wasn't happy about it.
Little did she know, that dance would change her life.
"I spotted her out of the corner of my eye," says Randy Malick, St. Hilary's director of religious education. "She took my breath away."
Carol and Randy knew all the reasons their relationship couldn't work. She was 30; he was 40. She's spontaneous; he likes to take his time. She cranks up the stereo and bangs the pots and pans. He enjoys classical music and solitude.
"It's not the same as when you're both 21," says Carol, about merging two established single lives.
Growing Cast of Characters
Their decision to get married was five years in the making, but once they tied the knot in 2005, they wasted no time starting a family. By 2007, they had two children. So many changes in such a short time lead them to describe their life today as "shared insanity."
Carol has an active wedding photography business. Randy, a long-time ventriloquist, performs (live and in videos) with his alter-egos Rupert the Bird, Missy Mouse, Bear Lee Heer and Ruffles the Rabbit.
Lily Marie, 4, and Joseph John Paul, 3
Tom and Noelle Beck
Tim Beck is an idea guy. His wife, Noelle, cares about people, sees injustices and wants to help. Even they seem surprised at what they've been able to accomplish together.
A Year to Remember
Noelle Hone and Tim Beck met at a New Year's Eve event when they were both 19. He was in a five-year mechanical engineering program at The University of Akron. She had already determined she'd spend the rest of her life as a single missionary.
After a year of doing service projects together, Tim bought a ring, asked her parents' permission, got down on one knee and proposed ó all on New Year's Eve ó the one-year anniversary of the night they met.
Following Your Heart
Noelle was working in an established youth ministry when Karen Freeman (a friend and wife of Councilman Mike Freeman) asked them to reach out to some kids at the Kenmore Community Center. They expected five kids on the first night; 22 showed up.
By 2004, Noelle wasn't sure where the funding would come from, but she knew she wanted to focus on the Kenmore outreach full-time. She quit her job and, two months later, against the advice of many people, Tim quite his engineering job at Loral.
"We were really poor, but we had a lot of fun," she says.
Noelle is the executive director of First Glance, a ministry that serves more than 2,100 Kenmore students and has 120 volunteers. Programming now includes two weekly recreation nights and mentoring for teen moms.
Tim serves on the First Glance board and overseas its skateboarding ministry, technical systems and fundraising. An entrepreneur, he has started three businesses, including one based on his design for safe, inflatable Sumo wrestling suits.
Tim and Noelle don't proceed if they can't agree. "We don't play the, ëThis Is Really Important to Me Card' very often, but when one of us does, the other listens," Noelle says.
Anything outdoors: walking at the Gorge, biking on the Towpath, kayaking and skiing
Spike, a Shitzu poodle
Douglas and Cyndi Drenth
Eleven years into their marriage, Douglas and Cyndi Drenth still love going out on dates. "You get to hang out with the person that you fell in love with," Doug says. "Going on dates reminds you why."
Work Hard, Play Hard
Cyndi Siegmund hadn't dated in three years when she met Douglas Drenth, a young medical resident from California (now an ER doc at Cleveland Clinic's Medina Hospital). She was, at the time, playing pool with her brother at Jillian's in downtown Akron. Like Doug's father, Cyndi was an optometrist. Doug liked her genuineness. Cyndi liked his sense of humor. "Our first phone conversation lasted 45 minutes. I hadn't laughed that hard in years," she says.
Wild and Wacky Wedding
The Drenths were the first couple to be married inside the Rainforest at the Cleveland Zoo. Their wedding was in the Orchid Room, and cocktails and dinner were served throughout the building. There were ice sculptures, a steel drum band and dancing to "Disco Inferno." Birds dove unexpectedly for sushi and competed with other guests for appetizers on the tables. It was, to put it mildly, a memorable event.
Oh –and ...mid-ceremony, Doug announced, "I'm going down" ó and then fainted. They finished their vows seated in chairs.
Dating My Spouse
Douglas and Cyndi love to dance and try out different nightclubs in Akron and Cleveland. They plan overnight dates in Pittsburgh and Columbus, too. Nearly every Wednesday night, they go out to dinner just to reconnect. Crave and Bricco are two favorite dining spots.
"Our relationship is so easy," Cyndi says. "What he likes, I like."
With the exception of installing a fireman's pole in the middle of the living room (which she vetoed), she left the design of their Bath home to Doug.
Hunter, 8, and Dakota, 6
Todd and Bethany McKenney
Bethany Edwards (once described by Scene magazine as a "Pre-Raphaelite hippy princess") got Todd McKenney's attention the first time he heard her sing. "She was irresistible to me then –and still is," He says. She admits to dating other guys after going out with Todd, but says, "he was always kinda my gold standard." They married in 1997.
The Early Years
As newlyweds, Todd and Bethany converted their five-bedroom home on Kling Street into a bed and breakfast ministry for international students. Each room was decorated like a different country. Volunteers from The Chapel, where Todd worked as a pastor, helped with meals. They lived there until sometime after their youngest son, Noah, was born.
There has been no greater heartbreak in their lives and no greater strain on their marriage than Noah's death in 2005. They went through counseling to learn to grieve in healthy ways. "Ultimately, God brought us through it," Todd says. "Little by little, He healed us and gave us joy again."
After practicing law for more than 20 years, Todd decided to run for public office. The first vote he had to win was his wife's.
Campaigning was hard on the family, so "win or lose, we were going to a water park after the election," Todd says. But winning made their mini-vacation way more fun. Todd began his first term as an Ohio State Representative in the 43rd district in January.
"Their" Romantic Spot
Brandywine Falls, where they honeymooned
Selah, 10; Nathan, 8; and Noah, who died at 14 months of brain cancer
Jane Snow and Tony Kawaguchi
"There's some ineffable thing that makes us click," says food writer Jane Snow, about her four-year marriage to Tony Kawaguchi, owner of Sushi Katsu in Merriman Valley.
Chemistry in the Kitchen
When she walked into his restaurant for the first time, he came out from behind the counter and hugged her so enthusiastically that he lifted her feet off the ground.
"You could have felt electricity in that room," Jane remembers.
"You're going to be my girlfriend," Tony announced.
Two weeks later, they were engaged. The next year, they were married in Vegas.
The Back Story
Tony was born in Japan, where he apprenticed for a sushi master before moving to the U.S. in 1982. He worked at five-star restaurants in places like Hawaii and New York City before coming to Akron at the request of Hibachi Japan, whose customers (Japanese executives from Bridgestone/Firestone) were looking for high-quality sushi here.
Jane was born in Liverpool, Ohio, and came to Akron to work for the Beacon Journal. Her research for a sushi story brought her to Tony's restaurant.
Coincidentally, Tony's dad owned an American restaurant in Japan right outside the gate of the Air Force Base where Jane's dad was stationed in World War II.
You Say Tom-A-to, I Say...
Tony likes Bob Evans and Alexandri's; Jane prefers the Sweet Pea Café. She likes dogs; he has a cat. Tony loves tractors, ATVs and bow hunting. Jane prefers the arts. They go to different movies together ó she slips into the chick flick while he heads into the action film.
"He's more American than I am," Jane jokes.
They love skiing; biking; going to fancy restaurants, flea markets and county fairs; and spending time with Tony's 16-year-old son.
Making It Work
"We're two very alpha people, but we each have our own areas that we allow the other to lead," says Jane.
A sign Tony hung in their bedroom reads: "Forever. For Always. And No Matter What."
David and Ann Amer Brennan
David and Ann Brennan will be married 54 years this July. "Forty of them were pretty good," he says with a wry grin.
His signature white Stetson and alternative education company have been in the news for decades. Her civic leadership has made plenty of headlines of its own. The Critical Care Center at Summa Health System's Akron City Hospital campus bears their name.
It was a hot summer day in 1955 when David Brennan first saw Ann Amer. "She was wearing very nice shorts," he recalls with a glimmer in his eyes. "She has great legs."
"The best part was, he was tall," Ann remembers. "I was tired of walking around with my knees bent."
Their traditional wedding at St. Sebastian's was followed by a brunch at the Women's City Club and a honeymoon in Port Huron, Michigan.
The Early Years
They fought a lot, as each brought different expectations to the marriage.
One Thing They Did Right
They decided early on that they didn't want to be "one of those couples" who tear each other down with words. They made it a practice to avoid making smart remarks or digs that come easily for two strong, opinionated individuals.
They're content spending quiet evenings at home. He likes watching The History Channel; she plays bridge on her computer.
In Naples, Florida, where they now spend most of the winter, they frequent the Silverspot, a unique reserved-seating movie theatre and restaurant/lounge.
On Life Together
"It's been a series of fortuitous, timely events," Ann says. "Cliffhanging –but life without David would be boring."
"It's worth it. You'll be stunned how enjoyable these later years can be if you stay together," David says.
Four children; 10 grandchildren
Tom and Linda Tucci Teodosio
Judges Tom and Linda Tucci Teodosio met at The University of Akron Law School. "They sat us alphabetically," Tom remembers. "The first year, I thought she was really cute. The second year, I shaved my beard. She noticed me."
They got married in July 1983. Both came from Italian families with similar traditions and mindsets. Even though they had much in common, they never entertained the idea of practicing law together. "We're both opinionated," Linda says. "We both wanted to do things our own way."
Kickin' It Old School
The Teodosios' jobs demand lots of nights out at banquets, fundraisers, community events. Still, they like going out to the Carovillese Club for spaghetti on Tuesdays.
"The men cook; women wait the tables. We just love the sauce," they say.
Other local favorites: Vaccaro's, Russo's, Bricco and Moe's. And "anywhere where we can have an intimate dinner ó just the two of us," says Linda.
When they have time, both like to cook. He grills, makes great salads and killer eggplant (his mom's recipe.) She does pasta, sauces and meatballs.
An Uninvited Guest
A thunderstorm on their wedding day caused power outages all over town. In an effort to cool down, the church doors were propped open ó and a dog came inside to get out of the storm. When he headed down the aisle, shaking the rain off his fur, one of the invited guests escorted him out.
Christopher, 24, and Andrea, 22