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“We met through work,” says David. “I was in Charlotte Russe’s construction department, and she was in operations. We started dating secretly, without letting anyone know, as we weren’t sure if it was acceptable or not. After a year or so of dating, I knew. We took a vacation down to Mexico, and I proposed and gave her a ring. I already had another job lined up.”

“He asked me out on a date, and I said no. I didn’t think it was right,” explains Traci. “Then I thought, ‘Why isn’t it right?’ So we went out on a date, and for me, it was on that first date. There was a connection and a chemistry, and it was pretty serious after that.”

“Our first date was the play Beauty and the Beast,” says David.

“It gets even better,” says Traci. “After he proposed, we announced it at work, and he gave notice that he was leaving for another job. The chairman of the board at work said, ‘You are not quitting.’ After that, David, the president of the company, and everybody was in on planning a surprise wedding for us. I knew nothing about it. I thought I was attending a meeting.”

“One week prior to a big meeting,” says David, “I drove down to Las Vegas and did the paperwork at the courthouse and arranged everything. The next week, I told her we were going to elope and wouldn’t have a lot of time, so she had to wear some type of wedding gown to her big district manager’s event. So she had picked out a real nice white dress.”

“It wasn’t one that would stand out,” says Traci. “I thought I was walking into a lunch with the owners and everybody, and I walked in, and it was a wedding! Our family and friends and everybody from work was there. It was amazing.”

“She thought she was having lunch on the third level at Rio, which is the chapel floor,” adds David. “So we covered up all the signs that said there was a chapel there.”

“It was awesome,” says Traci.

The Steys

Hank and Dorothy Stey grew up in the Yorkville section of Manhattan and have known each other since they were kids. After working for 41 years as a crew chief for American Airlines and as a part-time police officer, Hank now enjoys retirement with Dorothy in San Carlos. Besides being a homemaker, Dorothy worked as a nurse’s aide in a hospital cancer ward and as a waitress. The parents of five kids, they have ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, some of whom visit nearly every day.

The Steys’ relationship was nurtured by World War II.

“He was in the Navy,” Dorothy says. “I was 15 and he was 17. He and his Navy buddies went around with my girlfriends, and I went with his friend. I didn’t really like his crowd. They were real salty and drank beer all the time. But one summer night, he was coming out of the ice cream parlor, and we took a walk. Then he went overseas for 11 months, and when he came back, we went on our first date, on September 21. We got engaged on Christmas Eve and married on March 4 — and my father almost killed him! We eloped at a church a few blocks away, and the Catholic priest — Hank’s Catholic and I’m Protestant — performed the ceremony. Hank was underage, and he forged his baptismal papers to say that he was 21. Boys had to be 21 and girls had to be 18 to get married then. Our kids always teased us, asking, ‘Mommy, are you sure you’re legally married?’ ”

“I was 17 in 1947,” says Hank, “and the war was over in 1945. But they didn’t actually sign the peace treaties until July of 1947. They saw me coming and they gave up!” He laughs.

After 52 years of marriage, Hank jokes that the success of their marriage is tied to two special words: “Yes, dear.”

“A woman once told me that whenever you want to really speak your mind, just remember to put your tongue in your cheek — and don’t!” says Dorothy.

“My wife goes by what this African princess once said to her,” says Hank. “Dorothy asked her who was the head of the family in Africa, and she said, ‘The man is the head of the family. But the woman is the neck that turns the head.’ And that’s our philosophy!”

Daniel and Rachel

Daniel Morris, 23, and Rachel Vehamen, 19, have been dating for eight months. Residents of Allied Gardens, Daniel works in construction, and Rachel is a nanny. They met at their church, First Assembly of God.

“We both work with the church youth group,” says Daniel, “and we kind of met doing that. We started hiking up Cowles Mountain, and we were exercising and doing devotions up there and kind of fell for each other.”

“I knew all his family, but not him,” says Rachel. “That’s how I knew I would like him, because he’s a Morris, and I knew all the others and liked them. Then we started walking. His relationship with the Lord made me fall in love with him.”

The Babcocks

El Cajon residents Keith and Cecilia Babcock have been married for 53 years. Keith, 78, knew he wanted to marry Cecilia, 76, after their first date.

“We are actually distant cousins,” says Keith. “We first met at a relative’s house, and about a year went by and I needed a date for a dance. A friend of mine suggested that I call Cecilia. So I called her, and when I came home that night, I told my dad that she was the girl I was going to marry. We got married in June of 1949, after I graduated from Ohio State.”

“When he says we’re distant cousins, it goes way back — about three great-grandfathers,” explains Cecilia.

“Old Moses Hostetler lost his first wife, and he remarried and had more children,” adds Keith. “I’m from one side, and she’s from the other side.”

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