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'He was the one': Residents share love stories to mark Valentine's Day

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Andrea Anderson
February 14, 2014

Michael Powers was shooting hoops in the Clinton High School gym when his future wife caught his eye.

Kristi, now his wife, was leaving the girls locker room, and he couldn't take his eyes off her as she “seemingly glided in slow motion the entire length of the court,” Powers wrote in his four-page love story.

Powers was among several people who responded to a Gazette request for Valentine's Day stories about falling in love.

'MY BEST FRIEND'

As Cupid pulled on Powers' heart strings, one of his teammates threw a basketball at his head, knocking him to the ground. He thought the relationship was over before it even started.

Michael, then a freshman, and Kristi, then a senior, began writing letters to each other in study hall. Their friendship blossomed through the letters and then through three-hour phone conversations. 

“I had always thought that people who talked on the phone for more than two minutes were dorks with no lives,” Michael wrote.

That was until he spent more than an hour talking to Kristi one night.

The two were friends for four months before they held hands and waited several months for their first kiss. Kristi went for a kiss on the cheek when Michael must have had a muscle spasm, he said, and the kiss landed on the lips.

It was his first kiss. When he came off cloud nine, all he could muster was, “So, how was I?”

Kristi roared with laughter, Michael said. 

The Powers are a religious couple. While dating, they read their Bibles together, prayed together and waited until marriage to become any more physical than sharing a kiss or two.

The two stayed together as Michael went through high school and Kristi worked in Janesville and attended college.

During Michael's senior year, Kristi made hints about a ring.

He was traditional and asked her parents for permission.

One Sunday, for about an hour and a half, Michael watched football with his future father-in-law.

With his heart beating quickly and his breathing short, he found himself pretending to tie his shoelaces in front of Kristi's father. He asked Michael what was wrong. Michael found words pouring out of his mouth.

“My mouth was running a hundred miles an hour, and I couldn't stop asking,” Michael wrote.

On Christmas Day 1986, Michael proposed to Kristi. On June 11, 1988, they were married. They have had three children.

The age difference and getting engaged at a young age was not a concern for the Powers.

“Looking back, I can see where some would say, 'Man that's weird,' but for us we knew it was God calling us together.,” Michael said.

Michael's message to Kristi on this Valentine's Day is this:

“You are the most beautiful, caring and compassionate person I have ever met. Thank you for the wonderful children and for all that you sacrifice and do for us. You are the most wonderful wife and mother in all of God's creation, and I feel more in love with you today than I did when we first kissed ... I love you and want you to know that you are my best friend and that you have made me the happiest man on Earth.”

'KID AT HEART'

Nancy Lentz met her late husband, Richard, when she was 18.

He was 43.

It was 1972.

They had their first date a year later and were married Aug. 9, 1974, with 80 of their nearest and dearest watching.

Richard was more concerned about the age difference than Nancy. Eventually, it didn't faze them or their families.

“We had quite a unique run for 38.5 years for being 25 years (apart),” Nancy said. “He was just 25 years (older), and most of the time it wasn't even brought up. We just got along.”

Richard died Feb. 15, 2013. The goal had been for him to make it to their 40th anniversary, Nancy said.

Even though they fell short of 40 years together, Nancy looks back at her life with her husband and remembers it fondly.

One Valentine's Day when money was tight, Nancy arrived home to find her bedroom decorated with cutouts from wrapping paper and cardboard hanging from the bedroom ceiling and fan.

Richard also knew Nancy loved cards, even more than presents, and made sure she received one for every birthday, anniversary and important date.

“If he couldn't get out and get me a card, he would draw me one and write a poem on the inside,” Nancy said with a smile.

The last card Nancy received from her husband was for Valentine's Day the day before he died.

He told her that he loved her and thanked her for their life together.

“I think it's been a very good journey,” Nancy said. “(It was) just instinct, I just knew he was the one.”

As the one-year anniversary of Richard's death approaches, Nancy is having an easier time parting with some of his belongings.

Richard loved rummage sales and finding mechanical toys.

Nancy still has a black and gray ostrich that runs in place to music while its neck moves back and forth. Nancy called it "the most annoying thing you will ever see.”

She is frequently asked who the toys belong to.

“They say, 'Oh, that's your grandkids',' and I say, 'No, that's my husband's,'” Nancy said with a chuckle.

“He was very much of a kid at heart.”

'IT WAS LIGHTNING'

On Labor Day weekend 1996, Tanya and John Martinez met at Dockers in Lake Geneva where Tanya was working. John was with Tanya's brother eating pizza. Later that night, John called asking if she wanted to meet for a beer. The two talked about hobbies, vintage cars, and danced.

A few days passed, and Tanya found herself thinking about John. When she was 10 years old, her psychic told her she would marry a man named John. She thought that was ridiculous.

“Who would ever marry a man named after a toilet?” she thought.

Then, a friend named Todd called her and said he would at her house soon.

At the door was John looking at Tanya and she, standing on the staircase, at John.

“It was lightning,” Tanya wrote in her love story letter. 

The two were married June 7, 1997.

Five years into the marriage Tanya asked John when he fell in love with her. Unexpectedly he told the same story.

Twenty years have passed since that date and the couple have two children and live happily in Lake Geneva.

'LIKE 16'

Helen Winchell of Janesville met her husband five years ago. She was 74 years old and a widow of 34 years. Her future husband, Everett Hodd, also was 74.

“He made me feel like 16 all over again!” Winchell wrote in her letter.

They dated for nine months and married at Rotary Gardens.

Winchell and Hodd had “four wonderful years together” before she lost him to a massive heart attack about a year ago.

“I feel the loss every day but am so blessed to have had five great years!” Winchell wrote.

'DIRTY DANCING'

Heidi Otterness of Lake Geneva and her husband, Orrick, met at a resort in northern Minnesota when she was 15 and he was 18.

For the two vacations Heidi spent at the resort with her family, she and Orrick, an employee at the resort, watched campfires burn, talked and laughed.

“People compare it to 'Dirty Dancing' and we laugh,” Heidi wrote in her love story.

The last year Heidi was there Orrick “put his cheek on mine and said 'until we meet again.'”

She and her family never went back.

They lost touch for 26 years until they found each other on Facebook on June 1, 2012.

After exchanging messages they talked on the phone for eight hours “about everything and yet nothing at all.”

They were married July 6, 2013.

Orrick works and lives in Minnesota, and Heidi is in Lake Geneva, but they see each other as often as possible.

“It is not easy, but we make it work as it is the greatest love I have ever known,” Heidi wrote.



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