For this Valentine’s edition of Virginia Magazine, we engaged in a little romantic research and unearthed more than 10,000 Cavalier Couples—marriages of two Wahoos. We invited them to tell us some stories, and more than 2,000 responded.
Even if you’re not part of a Cavalier Couple, we believe you’ll get a kick out of reading these short stories—ranging from the serendipity of first glances and the clumsiness of dating, to creative proposals and wedding mishaps. You may be surprised that some of these pairs ever made it to the altar!
Go ahead, laugh along with your fellow ’Hoos at their (often incredibly uncomfortable) remembrances. And have a happy Valentine’s Day!
How we met
I met my future wife while on a date with her sorority sister at her sorority formal. Oh, and I was tied naked to a tree outside of her sorority house by my fraternity brothers—while she was on the phone with her parents.
—Heath Umbach (Col ’94), married 21 years to Deborah (Crotteau) Umbach (Engr ’94), Sudbury, Massachusetts
We were the first two students arrested at the 1970 Vietnam protest and were held in a Mayflower moving van until charged and released pending trial.
—Ginny Shapiro (Educ ’70), married 47 years to Bill Shapiro (Law ’71), McLean, Virginia
I met my wife when her car was on fire outside my apartment on JPA. I like to say, “I did not light her fire, I put it out.”
—Joseph Witt (Com ’82), married 35 years to Kathy Witt (Educ ’83), Newport News, Virginia
It was a freezing January 1966, my first year at Mary Washington (no women at UVA then, we were the “women’s division” in Fredericksburg). The phone rang in our Bucknell dorm hall (one pay phone for a whole dorm floor). Four dates are needed for four guys coming up from Charlottesville that night. Anyone interested? OK, I went along with three other girlfriends, and that’s how I met my husband. Funny thing, he wasn’t even my date that night.
—Georgia Wirth Autorino (Nurs ’69), married 50 years to Arthur Autorino (Engr ’69), Eastham, Massachusetts
We met at the Colonnade Club at a Gay Student Union dance. I was out for dinner with someone else, in whom I was not interested. Went to the dance with him and another friend and promised, though I wasn’t interested, I would never meet anyone else at the dance, as that was just plain rude. I spilled my drink and my now husband, who was taking tickets, came over to help me clean it up. We started talking and dancing, and before we knew it, the place was empty except for us and the staff, as the dance was over.
—John Weltman (Grad ’84, Law ’84), married 30 years to James "Cliff" Atkins (Col ’81, Nurs ’83), Cohasset, Massachusetts
I needed a ride home for Christmas break our first year, so I went to the ride board at Newcomb and pulled a tag off the board of someone heading my way. I climbed into the front seat and sat next to this guy named Larry. For him it was love at first sight. For me, we were “just friends” for at least two years. Long story short, we got married at the chapel 11 years later.
—Joan (Lesoravage) Conway (Com ’86), married 25 years to Larry Conway (Col ’86), Warren, New Jersey
Memorable dating moments
He was walking me home one night shortly after we met and suddenly ran up a grassy hill and disappeared for a few minutes, saying he’d be right back. When he returned he had a handful of daffodils he had picked for me. I thought he was so romantic! Years later, after we were married, I found out he really had to go to the bathroom and saved face by bringing back the flowers.
—Sharon (Miller) Brown (Educ ’82), married 32 years to Thomas Brown (Col ’82), Millwood, Virginia
At Clark Hall, our third anniversary of dating, we went to quietly study across those old long tables. It was approaching finals. We kept looking up to check in on each other, and then nod; we each saw no one else in the bustling but silent room. Somehow we created too much flirtatious tension for some unknown fellow Wahoo. He briskly dropped a hand-scrawled note on my textbook and walked on. It directed me to “Go kiss her, you idiot!”
—Mark Megaw (Col ’82), married 34 years to Karyl-Leigh Megaw (Col ’82), Earlysville, Virginia
When I met my betrothed, I was dating someone else long distance. On one of our first dates in Charlottesville, we went out for Chinese and I received a fortune that said, “Stop searching forever. Happiness is right next to you.” I felt like it was divine intervention. I still carry that fortune around in my wallet.
—Merideth Kelso (Col ’96, Educ ’96), married 22 years to Glenn Kelso (Col ’93), Chesapeake, Virginia
Jess was the Honor Chair and, in playing her role as a pillar of the community of trust, made a point to keep her Lawn room unlocked all day. Her University Guide friends, knowing this, would take their tours there, to show off a real live Lawn room. The sole exception to Jess’s unlocked-door policy was when she’d ask me to lock it, so we could have some privacy. Which, naturally, I failed to do on one notable spring afternoon. Fortunately, our dear friend and University Guide that day had the good sense to peek his head in before bursting into the room, tour in tow. His eyes met mine, got really wide, then he quickly closed the door and smoothly told his group that “she’s … napping. Let’s see if we can find another room to look at.”
—Brooks Taylor (Engr ’09), partner for four years to Jess Huang (Col ’09), Mountain View, California
Dave invited me and another girl to the same party at his fraternity house. He would hang out with me upstairs and with her downstairs. That worked for about an hour before we both caught on.
—Shauna Edwards (Col ’90), married 28 years to David Edwards (Col ’90), Charlottesville
Our first date was January 21, 2012. Because I lived in Alexandria at the time and my (now) husband lived in Richmond, we agreed to meet in the “neutral territory” of Charlottesville. We went to my classmate Billy Hamilton’s restaurant (Hamilton’s, of course), then to The Virginian for a drink after dinner—thus raising the average customer age in the bar by at least 40 percent. The nice young fourth-year girl standing next to me, with whom I was discussing the joys of a teaching career, got upset when some people bumped into us and bent us slightly backward over the bar. She blurted, “Stop that! Stop that! You’re crushing parents! You’re crushing parents!” thereby making us feel even older and more uncool than we already did. But we’ve enjoyed telling that story ever since.
—Kate Keith Pearsall (Col ’89), married four years to Rob Pearsall (Col ’83), Richmond, Virginia
You mean the time I ran over to her apartment (from the gym) to take a shower when she and her roommate were away studying and I ran into a bat as I stepped out of the shower … and I couldn’t find a tennis racket so grabbed a box fan out of her window and chased the bat down in the buff … and after “getting the bat,” placed the large fan in the wrong position of the window and watched it fall three stories down and smash in the parking lot below as her roommate entered the apartment. Awkward?
—Vic Marks (Med ’05), married 14 years to Sarah Jones Marks (Med ’05), Danville, Pennsylvania
Shortly after beginning to date Margaret, we drove her parents’ car down to the Outer Banks with friends to get away for a week. When we got there, I was so excited that I stepped out of the car with my pillow and started having a pillow fight with the car. The sunroof, upon impact, shattered and rained glass shards down on Margaret. I now have a physical scar on my right arm from the glass but also emotional scars from presenting her parents with a check and an explanation.
—Jacob Feldman (Col ’10), married five years to Margaret Montague Feldman (Col ’12), Arlington, Virginia
After one of our first dates, we were walking the Downtown Mall and were holding hands for the first (or one of the first) times. We walked by a restaurant with a wall of glass, where dozens of our classmates were attending an event. As we saw them staring at us, our hands suddenly disengaged. To this day, neither of us will admit being the one who let go. We still laugh about that moment any time we’re holding hands.
—Christopher Ende (Law ’02), married 15 years to Debbie Fruci Ende (Law ’02), Westwood, Massachusetts
On bended knee
My mother had given me my grandmother’s engagement and wedding rings. On our second date, I told my girlfriend I knew what I was going to give her for Christmas. I brought out the rings. She said get down on your knee. I asked her to marry me. She said yes. The next day we went to Keller & George to get one ring reset. The jeweler asked how long we had been dating. I said two days. He just stared at us and smiled.
—John M. Millar (Darden ’72), married 48 years to Mary Susan Millar (Nurs ’71), Virginia Beach, Virginia
On the night I proposed to Shayna, I took her to dinner at C&O. I was so nervous that I left my wallet in the car and she had to pay. When we pulled out of the Water Street garage, I forgot to turn my headlights on and got pulled over. I was so nervous that I bumbled the sobriety test (couldn’t say my ABCs backward) and had to show the engagement ring to the officer and take a breathalyzer test. That sort of helped to clarify her expectations for being married to me!
—Tim Showalter (Med ’04), married 13 years to Shayna Showalter (Col ’99, Med ’04), Charlottesville
Hilary told me on the day that I was going to propose that she felt like something was not right and that I might actually be preparing to propose (something she had said not to do). The engagement stone and ring set was in my pocket when she mentioned this to me. The restaurant staff, owner and other patrons knew that I was going to ask her during dessert, and the music stopped and the lights dimmed for the big event. After I asked for her hand, she didn’t answer. Instead, she proceeded to drink all of the drinks on the table: two waters, two wines, etc. After what seemed like an eternity she finally said, “I have to go to the restroom.” I said, “You cannot go to the bathroom.” The waiter sheepishly came over to the table and refilled all of the glasses again, which Hilary proceeded to drink. Finally, after several minutes she said, “It’s not romantic anymore. You have to ask me again.” I did, and fortunately she said yes, much to the relief of the owner, our waiter and our fellow diners.
—Andrew Lee (Col ’85, Med ’89), married 25 years to Hilary Beaver (Med ’91), Houston (Bellaire), Texas
I got my future wife a puppy and a ring for her birthday, and she asked if she could take it back. Fortunately, she meant the puppy and not the ring.
—Bill Dister (Col ’87), married 28 years to Candace Mason (Col ’87), Crozet, Virginia
My husband proposed at Reagan National as I returned from spring break my first year of law school. I got off the plane and really had to use the bathroom, and there he was with a sign reading, “I love you! Will you marry me?” I nodded yes, but my first words were, “I need a bathroom!”
—Genevieve McCormack (Law ’02), married 17 years to Bill McCormack (Darden ’02), Haverford, Pennsylvania
TJ was visiting me for the weekend and wanted to go into D.C. to see the monuments and go on the pedal boats in the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial. It was really beautiful but extremely hot. He kept wanting to stay out on the boat, and I was dying from the heat and couldn’t figure out why he kept stalling. Finally he stood up in this tiny little pedal boat and almost capsized us. He seemed really nervous, so I thought he had to go to the bathroom and was going to pee off the side of the pedal boat into the tidal basin in broad daylight. But then he turned to me and got down on one knee and proposed. I was so totally surprised!
—Kathy (Sheehan) Cawley (Col ’86), married 17 years to TJ Cawley (Com ’87), Morrisville, North Carolina
The night of our wedding, we were walking from Pavilion VII to the Corner for the after party. I (the bride) got knocked over at the foot of the Rotunda steps by a streaker. A bride and a naked guy on the lawn, who wasn’t my husband. It was classic.
—Catherine Irwin Corbin (Arch ’04), married nine years to Matthew Corbin (Col ’02), Chicago
An uncle, who was the driver for a few family members to our wedding, arrived partially dressed. His top half was in wedding attire, but he had wanted to be comfortable while driving and wore his typical cargo shorts and Crocs. Then he realized that he had forgotten his dress pants and shoes. My mom was directing helpers to find my uncle and the family members who would be in the procession. She kept telling people to find the “man with no pants.” Needless to say, the photographer was very creative and had him in the back row so he could still participate.
—Rejina Kaplan (Col ’13), married two years to Jason Kaplan (Engr ’09, ’12, ’15), Pittsburgh
We had two weddings: one at the Colonnade Club and the other in India. One of the best moments of the Indian wedding was having about 50 Wahoos—including my dad—sing The Good Old Song during the reception in Delhi. The Indian guests were a little perplexed but appreciated the choreographed singing and swaying.
—Stewart Ackerly (Col ’06, Law ’11), married three years to Neha Kumar Ackerly (Com ’08), Washington, D.C.
We had very little money for a self-funded wedding, so we drove to D.C. to buy liquor because it was so much cheaper. On the way had a major disagreement over whether we could afford wedding rings, and I forgot to get gas in the car. We ran out of gas on U.S. 95 by the Pentagon and quickly rushed to move the liquor from back seat to trunk, but I lost the car keys in the process. A Good Samaritan stopped to help, drove Mollie to get a can of gas and returned to find me trying to hot wire a car full of liquor. We eventually found the keys behind the back seat and managed to find enough money for wedding rings. Our self-funded wedding went on to include sunflower seeds and a pate made from Spam, and the “band” was a cassette tape featuring Pachelbel, jazz and Bruce Springsteen.
—Steve Colangelo (Col ’70, Law ’76), married 42 years to Mollie Danforth (Law ’75), Alexandria, Virginia
All photos are courtesy of alumni, with the exception of: Jacob and Margaret, 2012 (Allie Merrill); David and Shauna, 1990 (Chuck Lane/Aspen Photography); Catherine and Matthew, 2009 (Jack Looney).