Lance Nelson and Victoria Sterkel of Delta
Lance and Victoria first met in high school. Victoria grew up in Johnstown, on the Front Range.
Lance's dad also lived there, and Lance visited his father every summer. Victoria's family, however, lived in the country — an eight-mile bike ride away — and so the two never met.
When they were sophomores, Lance enrolled at Roosevelt High School. One of the 66 students in his class was Victoria.
"He was this tall, lanky blond guy," she said. "Very quiet and very shy. And I always had a crush on him."
The crush wouldn't be realized for a while yet, though. "He was swooped up by an upperclassman," Victoria said, only half-joking. "She was a cougar even then."
When they were seniors, Lance played basketball and Victoria was the team's manager. During one of the games, they connected and ended up dating for the rest of the year.
They graduated in 1989 and spent the summer together. At the end of summer, he was off to college in Alamosa where he studied criminal justice and sociology. She decided to go to New York City, where her sister worked as a fashion designer. Victoria worked in the Garment District for a while and attended Parsons School of Design.
Lance visited Victoria once when she lived in New York. She bought two stuffed rabbits and gave one to him. "I told him that maybe someday our bunnies would be reunited," she said. "Do you remember that?" she asked Lance.
"No," he replied.
"Well I did. In my mind I knew we were really good together but we needed to grow up," she said. "And so he left."
Twenty years passed. For Victoria, an artist, those 20 years were spent moving from place to place, eventually landing in Mexico in 2006. For Lance, that looked like a marriage, two sons (Sawyer, 17, and Leif, 13), a divorce, and a job at Bowie.
"I never knew where she was, but I always wondered about her," Lance said. Victoria always wondered about him, too. Every time she spoke to a mutual friend, Mike, she would grill him about Lance.
Even though Lance doesn't really like Facebook and doesn't log on very often, one day he did. A former high school classmate had posted a link to a website of an artist — Victoria's website. "It was just a stroke of luck," he said. "Facebook isn't all bad, maybe," he said, grinning. He clicked through her website and then emailed her.
"Instantly I knew something was up," Victoria said when she read the email. "I got butterflies."
The two began Skyping and became reunited. Lance revealed that, even though he isn't a saver, he had kept his stuffed bunny all that time, along with their senior prom picture.
"How adorable is that?" Victoria said.
After a month of Internet chatting, Lance flew to Mexico to see Victoria for the first time in 20 years. There was no romantic airport connection. He flew into the national airport; Victoria was waiting at the international airport. She was mad that he hadn't shown up and he thought he'd been left alone in Mexico. "But after two hours, we figured it out," Victoria said, laughing.
They spent 15 days together. When he was leaving, he told her, "If I didn't have kids, I wouldn't be getting on this plane."
At that point in her life, Victoria was in transition. By the time Lance left, a deal she thought she had worked out fell through. "And I thought, you just have to go for these things. I said, okay let's do this." Two months later, she packed everything she owned, and she and her paintings made the flight here.
They were married on April 19, 2013, at the Delta County Courthouse. "As good as we were, we never really knew each other," Victoria said. "We're so compatible. He gets my jokes and I get his. He puts up with me and I put up with him."
Jack and Bobby Miller of Delta
Two scared kids — that's how Jack Miller describes himself and his wife Roberta (Bobby) in the early years of their life together.
Jack was in the Air Force, stationed in Westover AFB in Springfield, Mass., in 1961. Bobby was working at a snack bar at a store called J.M. Fields when the two met. "I fed him, and that made him happy," Bobby said. She was 17; he was 20. Bobby joked that she was the first woman he met after spending a year stationed at Thule AFB in Greenland, a scant 947 miles from the North Pole.
On their first date, Bobby took Jack to her aunt and uncle's anniversary party. When they walked in the door, Bobby's mother said she knew right away that Jack was the right man for her daughter. "And he was," Bobby said. "He got stuck with both of us."
The two dated about two years before getting married in May 1963. By October 1964, they had a five-month-old son, Tom, and Bobby was expecting their second child. They were also on their way to live in Wiesbaden, Germany.
"And we were going to Germany," Bobby said. "It was fun, though. I loved every minute of it."
It was probably that attitude that really contributed to their success as a couple. When their friends in the Air Force struggled with their marriages, Jack and Bobby managed to hold on through 27 1⁄2 years in the service, living all over the world, a one-year stint in Vietnam, three children and all the ins and outs of a relationship.
During one of their times in Germany, Jack noticed problems some of the other couples had. On base, there was no television, no radio, a civilian force speaking a foreign language and not a lot to do. "The kids that worked for me didn't know how to react to all that, all those things that can tear up a marriage. The guys all worked and the wives had nothing to do," he said. "Wives have to be much more adaptable in military life than in civilian life. If your wife can't adapt and understand what's going on, you're not going to make it."
Bobby was nothing if not adaptable. Once, she visited an off-base bakery and matter-of-factly told the baker that Americans didn't like marmalade in their doughnuts. They needed to start making doughnuts with jelly in them. And not just any jelly — red jelly. Any flavor, as long as it was red.
Jack laughed when he said, "About a week later, there was a sign in that bakery that said 'American jelly doughnuts.' That's called adaptability. Instead of worrying about why you can't get your local TV station, go out and do something positive."
"Well, Americans don't like marmalade in doughnuts," Bobby reiterated.
What's their secret? It's simple, Bobby said. "You have to enjoy each other and enjoy your life as it is at that time. You can't just walk away. We enjoyed seeing the country and meeting new people and that was a part of staying together."
They loved traveling and living all over the world — a good thing, since Jack's career kept them hopping. All told, they moved nine times around the world. "I was always ready to move," Bobby said. "It was never a hardship." She looked over to Jack and joked, "We should move again. We've been here too long."
"No more moving," he said, to which she laughed. They've lived in Delta nine years.
Jack retired from the U.S. Air Force after nearly 28 years of service. He was last stationed in Colorado Springs, where he retired at the rank of chief master sergeant. They continued to live in the Springs for 25 years, where Bobby worked first as a real estate agent then managed a mortgage company.
They now spend their time enjoying retirement and volunteering. They both volunteer for Hospice and volunteered for Meals on Wheels before that program shut down. Jack dedicates a lot of time to the Knights of Columbus and Bobby was recently made the president of the hospital volunteers group. She also sits on the board of the Delta County Federal Credit Union.
Last year, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, surrounded by family and friends. They have three children and two grandchildren.
Tom and Jane Wills of Hotchkiss
Almost nothing about Tom and Jane's relationship is ordinary.
About a year after Tom's first wife died from cancer, late in 1987, he found himself living alone with 10 cats in a cabin in Glade Park. There was no running water and no electricity. He placed a personal ad in the Nickel Want Ads. It read, "31-year-old artist who lives in a cabin in the woods would like to meet an intelligent woman who likes music, books and art."
And 47-year-old Jane, sitting in her house in Grand Junction, said, "There's my man." She immediately wrote him.
Unfortunately, 10 or so other women also thought Tom was their man. After reading letters from the first two or three women, Tom remembers thinking, "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
"Some I didn't even answer," he said. "I met some really weird people. It was really depressing." So when Jane's letter came in the mail, he stuck it in a book on his bookshelf and forgot about it until several weeks later.
Something made him pick up her letter though, and he wrote her. She immediately wrote back. Tom stopped writing to the other women, and he and Jane exchanged letters on a weekly basis for about six months. They did not exchange photos.
One day — June 10, 1988 — Tom went to Grand Junction to meet Jane. When he knocked on her door, she opened it and invited him in. "I'm a floozy," she said, laughing.
Tom, ever the gentleman, instead invited her to go dancing. They did, and they spent the whole day together. At one point, they parked on Little Park Road (playing games teenagers play). A car kept driving past them and honking. Jane recognized the car as belonging to the friend of her daughter.
When it came time for Tom to drive home that evening, his car began overheating. As a self-proclaimed "old hippie," Tom thought nothing of driving the clunker anyway, and stopping occasionally on the ride home to let it cool down. Jane, still playing the floozy, insisted he stay the night.
"And he never left," she said, grinning. "I just kept him. There was no reason not to."
The next day, Jane's daughter phoned, yelling at her mother. "She told me I was embarrassing her. I told her this was the guy I was going to marry." Which they did — that very day.
Jane and Tom are common-law married. So when Jane said he never left, that's the truth. The two made the trek back to his cabin to pick up some of his belongings, but since that first day, they've not been apart. "We had a hippie marriage," Jane said. They each sat down and wrote lists of what they wanted in a partner, and what they did not want in a partner. And that was that. A few months later, Jane went to the courthouse where she changed her last name.
A full-time artist, Tom spent his winters working and his summers traveling around the state at arts and craft fairs selling his work. At one of these fairs, Tom got Jane her first wedding ring. A man at the booth next to him sold jewelry, and Tom traded a painting for a ring. Jane still has it. "I wouldn't give that ring up for anything," she said.
They lived for a while in Grand Junction while Jane finished college, and then they lived in his cabin. Tom's dream had always been to own a bookstore/art gallery, so they began looking at small towns in Colorado in which to do that. In 1990, they landed in Hotchkiss with only $500 and a beatup VW microbus. They own Wills Gallery & Used Books on Bridge Street, and have spent the last 23 years being active in their community.
Not bad for a couple of old hippies.
Earl Gleason and Cynthia Dietrich
The love story of Earl and Cynthia hasn't exactly been smooth sailing. First, there's the age difference. Earl is 10 years older than Cynthia.
Then there is the fact they don't live in the same city. Earl has lived in Delta his entire life, until he recently relocated to Grand Junction. Cynthia lives in Boulder.
Different cities wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that both Earl and Cynthia are wheelchair-bound, which makes traveling to see one another very difficult.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is their families, who want what's best for them, but sometimes doubt that Earl and Cynthia are what's best for each other.
About six and a half years ago, after his divorce, Earl contacted Cynthia through an online dating site. She immediately ignored him. "I was in a place where I wasn't in the mood to have a relationship with someone with different abilities," she said. "I pretty much told him to get lost."
Earl waited about a year and a half before contacting her again. That time, she agreed to meet him for dinner. He was traveling to Denver with a friend; it took Cynthia two hours by bus with several bus changes to make the trip. They met at Earl's hotel restaurant for dinner.
"And that's pretty much history," Cynthia said. "It was basically love at first sight." The two stayed up all night talking and getting to know each other.
"Love" seemed like the easy part — the next hurdle was meeting each other's families. Cynthia has spina bifida, and has been in a wheelchair since she was 10 years old. At 21, when she met Earl, she still lived with her parents and hadn't spent more than a night away from them. Earl has cerebral palsy and has been in his chair since he was 11. After a short but rough marriage, his family wasn't too excited to see him fall head over heels again.
The introduction to her family, a month after their first meeting, was disastrous. "Her animals didn't even like me," he said. (Her dog jumped up on him and spilled his coffee). "The big issue is that I'm a redneck and they just aren't," Earl said.
The trip was so bad that Cynthia's family asked him not to come back, and they didn't see each other for about two years. "We kept it together with duct tape, baling twine and spit over Skype," he said.
Eventually, even family couldn't keep them apart. About once a month, Cynthia would come to Delta or Earl would go to Boulder, where they spent two weeks at a time together. The first time Cynthia came here to see him was the longest she'd ever been away from home.
On one of those trips, the two discussed getting married. Both families had reservations. "They think two people in wheelchairs won't work," Cynthia said. "That is a big thing with both families."
The couple even deliberated the issue themselves. "We said, wait a minute. We're both in chairs. Can we handle being with someone else who is in a chair?" Cynthia said. "But actually that is a lot of the glue that has kept us together."
This past Christmas when Cynthia was visiting, Earl was unable to do much because of chronic pain. At one point he was lying in bed while Cynthia sat next to him. "He told me that I should leave, that I needed someone different," Cynthia said. "And I told him, 'I'm right where I want to be.'"
They both want a spouse, not a caretaker, so they take turns being both. "She keeps me going," he said.
A few summers ago, Earl asked her father permission to marry Cynthia. Her dad refused. Earl asked for a long engagement. Her father told him, "Ask me again in five years."
Instead, Earl and Cynthia went for a walk. They walked right to Target where Cynthia picked out an engagement ring. Earl had planned to keep the ring and propose down the road. But on their way back to Cynthia's house, he stopped. "My gut wouldn't let me wait," he said. In the middle of the sidewalk, he proposed. She accepted.
Earl has relocated to Grand Junction and Cynthia is planning to join him within a week. They hope to be married next year.
"There have been hundreds of times that this could have and should have fallen apart, because of the circumstances that we've been in," Earl said. "And we've always come back stronger. And it's only because we had the courage to go through the hell together and the faith to trust that love will win out."blog comments powered by Disqus