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How We Met

Tales of chance encounters that led to romance 

Photography by Mary Catherine Baird, Two Otters Photography

Green Bay couple Mark and Morgan Moran met in an online chatroom as teenagers. She lived in Wisconsin, he lived in England. They spent 10 years as long distance virtual friends before finally deciding to meet. On their third in-person meeting in June 2010, they got married at the Green Bay Botanical Garden. 

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Morgan: Basically my parents got the internet. I was the ripe age of 14. I started going into chatrooms immediately. Somewhere in this melange of chatrooms we started chatting. He swears it was a Yahoo Chat, I swear it was an MSN chatroom. We don’t remember.

Mark: I remember.

Morgan: Okay, whatever. Mark’s username was “original_doofus” and I was “glimmering_blonde” or something horrible. We started IMing and chatting and we would talk to each other sometimes everyday, sometimes once a month. I remember talking about The Spice Girls and Elton John. Cars. Stupid things like, ‘Are there calories in an apple?’

Mark: I’ve told people we have met online and I think people assume it was through a dating site, but that was not the intention.

Morgan: We talked for 10 years.

Mark: But not constantly. We would be in touch for two months then not for eight months. Then we would randomly message each other.

Morgan: I was getting out of a relationship and then we started talking again. He was just finishing school, university, and I figured he probably wasn’t a murderer. I think 10 years have proven that. So I emailed him and said, ‘Do you just want to come here?’ I think you booked a flight that week, like it wasn’t even a thought.

Mark: I don’t think it was quite that quick.

Morgan: It felt that quick. I thought, let’s just do this. You’re a real person, not just this abstract notion anymore and I’m going to meet you. So we met in Chicago. I picked him up at O’Hare [Airport]. I was going to throw up I was so nervous. It was decided on maybe day four, that we should get married. I kind of knew when he agreed to meet me that we were going to get married.

Mark: I think it was a mind shift for me. I had never thought about it really in this way until you sent that email that kind of changed things. I’d intentionally shut it off and when that possibility was opened that was when I started thinking about it and it seemed obvious at that point.

Morgan: When you communicate for 10 years you would know if he is selfish and I got to see how he treated his girlfriends throughout the years. We went from that, to living with each other and getting married within three weeks. All of it is so awkward to have to explain to people. It sounds rushed and weird and creepy. But it was only the fear of other people’s opinions – it was never a worry about us.

Mark: She is adventurous which is probably why I’m here in the first place. She’s open-minded and willing to try things like invite a weirdo over from a different country.

Morgan: We were really successful pen pals. —Edited by Amelia Compton Wolff

Both single parents, Dan and Laura St. Onge of Fremont met at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 1999 while attending their individual company picnics. Their kids started playing and the families hit it off. At the end of the day, they realized that in the massive zoo parking lot they had parked right next to each other. They have been together ever since. 

_77A6493Dan: I know it was September 12, 1999. I still have a receipt with your phone number on it to prove that.

Laura: Yes, you do.

Dan: I was raising three kids as a single father. Laura was raising two kids as a single mom. We had our company picnics at the Milwaukee County Zoo on the same day, so we just both happened to be there.

Laura: The day of the picnic, my kids asked if they could bring a friend and I said no. They got annoyed and said fine we aren’t going. They both walked out of the house and went to separate friend’s houses. Not even 10 minutes later, my son came back and 30 seconds later my daughter came back and said let’s start over. I would not have been at the zoo that day had my kids not come back. So we went to the zoo and parked in the entrance. I love the apes and the monkeys, so we went to the ape house.

Dan: Me and my kids had wandered to the ape house. They are playing by a gum ball machine and I start looking at two monkeys sitting on a log. I didn’t even realize there was another person there.

Laura: I was looking at these two apes sitting on a log. They reminded me of my dad and my uncle because they would sit and talk on a bench between their land. Then I heard my kids talking to some other kids. Turns out they were talking to Dan’s kids. Two seconds later, Dan walks around the corner. I had no idea who he was, but for some reason I said, “Aren’t [the apes] just so humanlike?”

Dan: What struck me as neat was our kids were just hanging out talking. We started talking. There were never any spoken plans. We just started slowly going through the ape house together.

Laura: We ended up touring the entire zoo together. All seven of us. It was almost like we were a family already.

Dan: Anyone from the outside looking in would never have thought that we were anything other than a family walking through the zoo. When we came out of an indoor exhibit, there was nobody in the zoo. We were the only seven people.

Laura: We closed down the zoo.

Dan: We were being herded out into the parking lot. We walk out of the main entrance and the parking lot was empty except for two cars sitting in the same row and both two from the median.

Laura: We both started heading to our cars.

Dan: She was ready to leave.

Laura: I was content with my life at the time. Meeting someone was not in my mind.

Dan: I said that was a lot of fun. I’d like to do it again. She gave me her number. All I know is there’s never a time I would rather be doing anything else with anyone else.

Laura: I believe in fate. He didn’t believe in that at first.

Dan: I tend to be more logical and analytical, but something was pulling us through that day. Something aligned, something else was at work there. —Edited by Amelia Compton Wolff

Neenah couple Tod Raehl and Kathy Devereaux would never have met without their mutual cleaning lady, Donna, who set them up last July. A year and a half later, Tod and Kathy’s relationship is stronger than ever, and they’ve learned about each other and themselves along the way.

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Tod: We had a mutual cleaning person for a couple years. She was talking to Kathy, [who] was saying she’s ready to get back out in the world. So I get a phone call—I still have the voicemail.

Cleaning Lady’s voicemail: Hi, this is Donna. You dating anyone yet? I got you a catch, and it’s a good one too. I’ll text you her name, and you can check her up on Facebook. She’s 54 and she’s extremely nice.

Tod: I haven’t deleted that, and it’s from over a year ago Donna the cleaning lady sends me this, and I had dated a few people [since] my divorce, but I was kind of laying low. So I called her on a Monday night. I don’t remember, did you answer or did you get a voicemail? Do you remember?

Kathy: I think I answered.

Tod: Details are so important to me. So she answers me, she doesn’t know me, we have no idea of our background, and I am not a person who sits on the phone as a rule. But she was just too easy to talk to and it just worked on the phone. Forty-five minutes later I say, “Would you like to meet for a drink or a coffee or something?” She says, “How about Perkins?”

Kathy: Because we know they’d be open [in the evening after work]. Better than McDonald’s. And it was really nice out.

Tod: It was a gorgeous day. And in the back of my head, I thought, “The last thing I want to do is sit in Perkins and have coffee because it’s just too nice.” So we talked and she said, “It’s kind of a nice night to sit outside. Let’s go to the Ground Round; they have a patio.” So we went [there and] talked for maybe four hours, and I fell in love. She was very straightforward, she had a passion for life, a passion for what she does.

Kathy: It was comfortable. He made fun of me from the beginning. It seemed like I knew him for a long time. I realized I was looking for an old married relationship, and it fell into that fast, but we try to be careful with not taking each other for granted or falling into a rut.

Tod: We broaden each others’ horizons in a lot of ways.

Kathy: It’s good because we can still learn from each other. We have similar interests, but we have fun together. Some of our flaws are similar, as far as being too—

Tod: Flaws?

Kathy: It’s just meant to be from the first day. I was doing just fine by myself. I don’t need another person to have my life be complete, and so if I’m going to be with anybody, it’s such a nice feeling to know I choose to be with someone that makes my life happier. And the timing was perfect.

Tod: There’s no way our paths would have crossed if it weren’t for Donna the cleaning lady. — Edited by Cody Wiesner 

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