Originally created 02/11/01

Looking for - and finding - love

If you're looking for the love of your life in Augusta, ask your friends to play matchmaker.

That's the No. 1 way to meet your sweetheart, according to a poll by The Augusta Chronicle. Twenty-five out of 128 readers said they met their significant others through mutual friends or by being set up on blind dates.

It worked for Ella-Mae Burke when she met her future husband, Andy.

"Tell people to go look at their best friend's brother," the Augusta woman said. "We met when I had just turned 16 and got married when I was 20."

With Valentine's Day approaching, The Chronicle asked readers to tell us where they met their sweethearts so we could share the secret of their success with singles still searching for soulmates.

The second most common place to meet someone turned out to be church. That's where Courtnay Ford met her fiance. Manuel Reese started attending Evans Church of Christ after being transferred to Fort Gordon from Oklahoma.

"I was dating someone at the time," Ms. Ford said with a laugh. "But he just made it his mission to strike up a conversation with me whenever he would come visit. We started dating in February of last year, and by March we knew we would get married. It was easy to get to know each other because we shared the same beliefs."

The next most popular spot to meet your mate, according to our poll, was at work.

Marilyn Heath was working in the dental clinic at Fort Gordon more than 13 years ago when Sgt. Marvin Heath came in for his checkup.

"You know how you'll be all laid out in the dentist's chair?" Mrs. Heath said. "He's lying there waiting for the dentist to come in, and I was sitting down looking at his chart, and I noticed we had the same birthday. So I said `Oh, you were born on July 14?"'

A week later, he tried to call her but missed her because she was visiting her sister in Texas. He finally got in touch with her, and the couple - known as M&M because of their inseparability - were married in 1989.

One reader who called in reported - as a baby cooed in the background - that she had met her mate during a stint in the national vocational-training Job Corps program.

Even if people aren't meeting in a mutual workplace, they're in somebody's work space. Loretta Dunbar of Aiken was a volunteer teacher with the Peace Corps in Ghana when she planned a summer trip along Africa's Gold Coast. She instantly clicked with the agent in charge of the only nearby travel service.

"The rest of the story is pure romance," she said of her marriage to her late husband. "I doubt that our meeting place could be more unlikely than in the heart of the West African rain forest."

Concerts or events were other popular meeting spots, getting 17 votes in our poll. Aiken resident Marjorie Bennett Wood met her husband, Alan, when they served as judges at a beauty contest - in Malaysia, where she was working at the American Embassy and he was part of the British business community.

School, high school or college got 16 votes in our poll. Glenn and Darlene Williams of Graniteville were attending separate high schools when they met at her junior prom, which he attended with a friend of hers. A year later, after their schools were consolidated, they met again - decorating for the prom.

"We started dating two weeks later, and the rest is history," Mrs. Williams said. "We dated for nine years before we got married, and we've been married now for 11 years. So we've been together for more than half our lives."

Three voters in our poll said they met their mate through the Internet, where couples are "meeting," talking and clicking with each other before ever meeting face to face.

One couple who followed the same path but in a more old-fashioned way were Mary and Jerry Vest of Dearing, who started talking on the CB radio. Mrs. Vest's brother-in-law drives a truck, and she joined her sister in talking on the CB. One night she struck up a conversation with Mr. Vest.

"We talked about him being divorced and me being separated, our kids, where we lived, we were (originally) from - him Maryland, me California - and just little things like that," she said. "I just liked the way his voice sounded and the way he talked. I would just listen to him many nights. He just sounded like a very caring person."

The two arranged to meet at a convenience store in Thomson. Two years later, in 1994, they were married.

"I don't always like him," Mrs. Vest joked, "but I will always love him - and I'm sure he feels the same way sometimes. And he is the best."

Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223.

Here are the results of Sunday's poll asking readers where they met their significant other:

Mutual friend/blind date: 25

Church: 19

Workplace: 17

Concert/event: 17

School: 16

Bar: 9

Store/place of business: 5

Private party: 4

Personal ad: 4

Internet: 3

Other: Park, the gym, county fair, the beach, on a Greyhound bus, on a CB radio, out of gas on the highway, day care center, school bus.


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