CINCINNATI -- We asked for your love stories -- and boy, did you deliver.
In January, we asked readers to share how they had met their sweetheart for a chance to have WCPO cartoonist Kevin Necessary illustrate their love story. More than three dozen readers submitted tales of romantic run-ins, chance encounters and a variety of other entertaining “meet-cutes.”
We read through all the submissions (and maybe teared up a little) but finally managed to choose three winners. Thanks to everyone who entered, and happy Valentine’s Day to you all!
Now it’s time for a little romance.
Winner No. 1: Andrea Bellen of Bellevue, Kentucky
When and where did you meet? “We met just over three years ago. My husband is from Chennai, India, and he was studying to get his Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. I attended Northern Kentucky University. We actually met through mutual friends.”
Tell us how you met: “I was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Bellevue. My husband came to the United States to go to UC and get his Ph.D. in engineering. We met each other while he was attending UC, started dating and fell in love. Once he finished his degree, we flew to Chennai, where we stayed with his family. I spent 15 months in India with him, and we got married on Jan. 28, 2016.
"We both love traveling and hiking, and we were able to visit Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Indonesia. We hiked, stayed with locals, taught English on the island of Java in Indonesia and volunteered on an organic farm in Bali as well.
"I came back to Cincinnati on Dec. 20, 2016, to surprise my family. I am now here in the U.S. and my husband, Abhi, is still in India while we finish up his visa. I’m waiting for him to join me once more here in Cincinnati!”
Winner No. 2: Stephanie Linch of Lebanon
When and where did you meet? “We met in college at Eastern Kentucky University in 2006.”
Tell us the story of how you met: “My husband and I met actually on a dare in college. I was single, and my roommates wanted me to start getting back out there and meeting new people. They dared me to go on seven dates for seven days, and I agreed.
“They were successful at finding six boys but needed just one more for the seventh date. Then one night the boy next door happened to be outside with his roommates, and he agreed to go out with me. Date No. 1 happened to be the boy next door, my now husband, Ryan! We went to dinner and a movie where he nervously forgot this wallet, ha ha! He was funny, sweet and so handsome.
“As I continued on date No. 2, No. 3, etc., I honestly was just thinking about that cute boy named Ryan from date No. 1. I would call my mom after each date and tell her how it went, but I kept going back to Ryan and reminiscing about every second of that night! Date No. 7 finally came to an end, and I was so excited to be done. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I walked right next door to Ryan’s house and asked him back out. Now 10-plus years later, we have created an amazing little family with a beautiful baby girl!”
Winner No. 3: Margreet and Jerry Yanchek of Morrow
(Yes, unbeknownst to each other, the Yancheks both submitted their story for this contest! How could we not choose them after that??)
When and where did you meet?
Margreet: “We met in the Netherlands when Jerry visited my dad's windmill.”
Jerry: “We met during a vacation in 1983 at Bolsward, The Netherlands.”
Tell us how you met:
Margreet: “We met when Jerry was traveling with his best friend. He wanted to visit a Dutch windmill, and ours was on his route. We were pen pals for nine years before I ventured to the United States for a vacation. We got married in Holland and will be married 24 years in March. We have three beautiful kids, and he is my rock and love of my life. I couldn't have gotten through three surgeries in 2016 without him! There … have you ever heard a love story like this one?”
Jerry: “My buddy and I flew into Luxembourg for vacation. We rented a car and decided to drive along the North Sea - this was all spur of the moment. We drove through Holland and saw many windmills. We wanted to see what one looked like on the inside but just kept waiting for the next one.
"We were driving over the Offa’s Dyke from Amsterdam and thought we were leaving Holland. In desperation, we decided to stop at the next mill and knock on the door. Margreet answered. We had tea with her and her dad for about an hour, then drove on. We were pen pals for 10 years after meeting, and then she finally flew to the United States to visit.
“After that, I was hooked and followed her back to Holland, where I stayed for three months. She came back to the U.S. with me, and we got engaged on Thanksgiving at my favorite spot in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. (I was on crutches at the time and hobbled down the stairs to the falls to propose.) She had to return to Holland, so I planned for her immigration at home. We were married four months later in Holland on March 5, 1993, and she immigrated back to the U.S. with me afterward.
“We have been happily married for 24 years and have three lovely children: 18-year-old boy/girl twins and an 8-year-old girl. Our kids and I love returning to Holland -- Margreet's family is so nice. Margreet's sister lives in the mill now, so when we travel to Holland, we stay at the very mill we met. When there, I look around, and it feels like a dream come true. I am truly blessed and can't believe how lucky I am.”