Smitten by Nancy, Charlie chased her down at a charity walk. Lisa, landlocked in Florida, fell for Thomas as his ship crossed the Mediterranean, and agreed to marry him before meeting face-to-face. Ready to give up, Penny gave online dating one last try — and there was Ray "with a twinkle in his eye."
No two Valentine's stories are alike.
Still, there's inspiration to be found in the way couples meet and realize they'll be weaving their lives together.
For example, if you feel like playing matchmaker for single friends, it might be an OK idea. A fourth of those who are married or in committed relationships say they met through friends — the most common way for U.S. couples to get together, an Associated Press-WE tv poll found.
Looking for love at school or work remains ever-popular.
Less than 10 percent of serious couples say they met at a bar or party. About the same portion credit a dating website or app, although those are trending upward in more recent matches. Meetings at religious services are close behind, the survey shows.
Of course, romance isn't meant to be pigeonholed in neat categories. Annie and Matt Waters, for instance, say they met at a bar — and in a church.
Here are just a few of the how-we-met stories that couples will celebrate Saturday:
Go to the AIDS Walk, the rabbis at Charlie Breslin's Manhattan synagogue urged. It's a good deed and "Who knows? You might meet someone." Charlie found the notion of chasing love while raising money for a heartbreaking illness "terribly tacky" — until a friend introduced Nancy at the starting line. "I was instantaneously smitten," he says. Nancy remembers noticing Charlie "had a nice smile, but I didn't think that much of it." She was there to honor the memory of a beloved mentor, not to mingle.
Nancy purposefully plunged into the throng, leaving Charlie to search for her along the 6-mile route. Finally he glimpsed her ahead in the distance. A strategic shortcut through Central Park allowed Charlie to catch up and "accidentally" bump into her again. His idea of breaking for cookies was a hit; that led to coffee after the walk.
Fourteen years later, Charlie and Nancy Breslin, both 46, are raising their three children in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. They mark special occasions with donations to the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the beneficiary of AIDS Walk New York.
Thomas Baytarian was at sea — literally — when he found love. His sister talked a lot about her cool new friend Lisa. Thomas, a Marine corporal, looked up Lisa on Facebook to say hello, just before deploying for nine months aboard the USS Kearsarge. While the ship crossed the globe, helping flood victims in Pakistan and civilians in the Libyan civil war, Thomas and Lisa messaged and talked. Working two jobs cleaning houses and delivering pizzas back in Florida, Lisa gave up sleep to reach him in her only free time. Thomas had to wait his turn for a ship computer or phone.
"It was nonstop, trying to find time to communicate with each other," Thomas says. They started talking marriage, even though they'd seen each other only in photos. Lisa nervously awaited his return alongside jubilant Marine families at Cherry Point, North Carolina: "I felt like, is this going to be real when we meet? Is everything going to change?" Nothing changed, except they could finally kiss. "It was just like we'd been in each other's presence for that nine months," Thomas says. They married a month later, June 2011. He's out of the service now.
Thomas and Lisa Baytarian, 25 and 27, are raising their 2-year-old son in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Penny Matteis was single, 52, and devoting crazy hours to a Silicon Valley startup when she decided to channel her workaholic ways toward finding a man. She launched her project on Easter 2006: Each week she would peruse Match.com and arrange a dinner date in San Francisco. The result? Lots of Friday night duds. By Thanksgiving she felt defeated. "I thought I'll give it one more go," she says.
That Friday's date was Ray: divorced father of two and fellow tech worker, living near her in tiny Aptos, California. She liked "the little twinkle in his eyes." They moved in together, and last year Ray's mother persuaded him to make it official. The wedding was timed to a Santa Cruz County tradition: Valentine's Day courthouse ceremonies are streamed live online, meaning Ray's mother could watch from her nursing home in Tacoma, Washington. She died five months later.
"I'm grateful that she gave him a little nudge," Penny says, "because she was the only other woman on this Earth he would listen to." Ray and Penny Matteis, both 60, are marking their first anniversary.
Matt Waters protested when his roommate wanted to check out the Saturday night pickup scene at a nearby bar: "We were both Christians, and I said 'This is a waste of time. None of these girls will be in church tomorrow.'" But he was drawn to Annie, a 21-year-old visiting Washington, D.C., for an internship, who sat demurely sipping lemonade. Matt tried an intentionally goofy line: "How about you and me play a round of putt-putt golf?" She found him nerdy but harmless, and gave her number.
The next morning, Annie woke early to travel alone by subway and taxi to a giant Presbyterian church in Maryland, on a quest for a lively congregation that also suited her deep faith. She was astonished and a bit embarrassed to bump into one of the guys from the suburban Virginia bar — Matt's roommate. Matt soon appeared and tried a new line suitable to the setting: "Are you a Calvinist?" he asked Annie, who was, in fact, a senior at the Michigan college named after John Calvin. "He said, 'Baby, it's all about predestination!'" she recalls. "He was really cocky. The confidence was appealing."
Matt and Annie Waters, now 47 and 38, live in Alexandria, Virginia, with their five children. They say it was meant to be.
Amirah Naim and Teddy Lawson were born four days apart in August 1970. They went to the same high school in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, and double-dated to the prom; he took one of her best friends. But Amirah and Teddy mostly hung out in different circles. After graduation in '88, he moved south, got married, had three daughters, got divorced. She left for college, built a career in Philadelphia, stayed single.
A few years ago they became Facebook friends, the way old classmates do. Last July, Teddy cooked up a good-looking platter of blue crabs and posted a photo. Seafood-lover Amirah jokingly responded: "I'm coming over, save me a plate." A couple of hours later he teased her: "Your food's getting cold." That started them chatting online. Soon they were calling every morning and falling asleep on the phone at night. Technically they're still separated by 700 miles, but Teddy doesn't speak of it that way: "That day I cooked those crabs and she commented, since then we've been inseparable," he says.
She's preparing to join him in Atlanta. Their wedding is set for April on a beach in South Carolina's Sea Islands.
Michelle Philippi's mother was in community college, and she kept complaining about this big guy in her bowling class who would wave his arms and whoop in triumph every time he rolled a strike. Every week it was the same: "Oh God, I had that class with that guy again. He's so annoying." Then one day Mom came home and said, "That guy in that class, he's so obnoxious, he's so loud — and here's his phone number. I think you'd be perfect together." So Michelle called "that guy" — Robert — and he invited her to go fishing. Michelle had no interest in fishing but agreed to meet him on the nearby Antioch pier, in the San Francisco Bay area.
Robert turned out to be a nice guy, who wasn't loud outside of bowling alleys. They talked and laughed on the pier through the night, until 8 a.m. At one point, the song "Kayleigh" played on Robert's radio, and they agreed if they ever got married and had a daughter, that's what they would name her. "I think we kind of left knowing that this was something different," Michelle says.
Michelle and Robert Philippi, now 44 and 46, settled in Boise, Idaho, where they're raising a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, Kayleigh.
It all started on Stone Mountain. Nearing age 40, feeling new aches taking hold of her joints, Jane Watts began serious training for her final multisport "adventure race." Needing a training partner to keep her motivated, she recruited longtime friend June Riner. That meant trekking together 1.2 miles up Stone Mountain near Atlanta early every morning.
"Doing that day after day, you start talking about life, and what's good and what's bad and what's great about it," Jane says. Says June, "You get to know each other on a different level." Jane had been hoping to expand her business, and one mountain morning it dawned on her that June would be the perfect business partner. As she urged June to invest her life savings the conversations intensified, and grew more personal. "Before the papers were signed, we were a romance," Jane says. They've been a couple for a decade now and own four Batteries Plus Bulbs franchises together in Atlanta.
Jane Watts, 52, and June Riner, 50, say they'll wed someday, if Georgia's ban on same-sex marriages is lifted.
The AP-WE tv Poll of 1,315 adults was conducted ahead of the launch of the show "Match Made in Heaven." The poll was conducted online Dec. 19-21, 2014, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
Online: AP Surveys: — http://surveys.ap.org/
Follow Connie Cass on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ConnieCass. AP News Survey Specialist Emily Swanson contributed to this report.