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A Match Made in Steubenville

Franciscan Magazine

By Emily Stimpson

Franciscan University promises its students a first-rate education and strong faith formation. But the one thing it can’t promise is the best thing many take away from the University: a spouse.

            That’s what Franciscan Way learned a few months back when we sent out a query to alumni asking those who found their spouse at Franciscan to tell us how they met. At the time, we just needed a few good stories to use in the Alumni Survey for the Winter 2011 issue. What we got, however, was a lot of good stories. An awful lot of good stories. More good stories than could fit in the entire magazine, let alone a one-page survey.

            Hence the pages that follow. They’re full of tales about the ways God brought our alumni together. Some of those ways are funny. Others are touching. Some straightforward. Others quite crooked. All, however, are mysterious and miraculous. Which, when both God and the human heart are involved, is pretty much par for the course.

Allen ’69 and Janis (Bates ’70) Abel
Married July 1970
I met my true love Janis in 1968. It was love at first sight, and we dated throughout my senior year. I wanted to do graduate work so I could stay at school longer, but at that time it wasn’t an option. So I began my teaching career, and almost every weekend jumped into my Corvair (unsafe at any speed) and headed back to Steubenville. I soon asked Janis to marry me, and in July 1970 we were the first couple married in the new Christ the King Chapel.

Chung Ho ’84 and Deborah (Coleman ’84) Yoon
Married June 1984
I met my husband, Chong Ho Yoon when we were fellow janitors in the work-study program. I didn’t pay him much attention at first, but one day my roommate insisted we go sit with Chong Ho and a friend at a Gospel concert because, as she claimed, they were great guys and really funny. We started dating right away and were engaged six weeks later. Chong Ho was an international student from South Korea, and he later admitted that he didn’t understand half of what I said when we first met because his English wasn’t very good. We’ve been married for over 26 years now, have five living children, and currently reside in Seoul…where, when he speaks Korean, I don’t understand half of what he says.

Joe ’70 and Rosemary (Jareb ’68) McCormack
Married August 1970
The year: 1967. The place: first day of a beginning French class with Father Gilbert Barth, TOR. There were 20 of us in the class that day, and my friend Howard and I took seats at the table in the last row. Just as class began, however, Father Gilbert asked everyone to fill in the front seats. There was a center aisle. I was on the right with Howard to my left. We moved cautiously to determine where we might sit. One seat was vacant next to a girl at the first table on the right. I was just about to cross over in front of Howard to take an empty seat on the left side when Howard shouldered me to the right, and before I knew it, I was taking that front row seat next to this girl. If it wasn’t for that nudge, I may never have gotten to know the girl sitting at the front table and probably would never have asked her to marry me.

Justin ’98 and Dawn-Marie (Brisson ’98) Orlando
Married October 2002
I first saw Justin standing in the Communion line at a mid-semester orientation Mass in 1996. The funny thing is I didn’t even have to be at that Mass because I’d gone to the vigil the night before. But I noticed Justin and felt a huge sense that he would be important to me. We met that night at the Meet and Greet for new students and hit it off. Justin, however, decided shortly after the semester started that he wasn’t going to date, just focus on studies and a possible vocation. The idea didn’t thrill me, but I eventually thought it was for the best. We still went to movies, dances, plays, dinners, and even had an adoration time together, but were never an official couple. Then, by senior year, Justin entered Living Stones. 

I didn’t know what to do. I tried liking other guys, but it always felt wrong. There was a pull to Justin and only Justin, so I decided it was time to pray. I asked St. Thérèse to send me a red rose if Justin was the one God had chosen for me. The night of the ninth day of the novena I was in my dorm room with no prospects of leaving until morning…or getting my rose. But then a household sister walked in holding a rose for me. I confided to some close friends what happened, and a few said, “Of course you’d get a red one. It’s almost a cliché.” Well, I thought, if that’s the case I’ll ask for a plaid rose during Christmas break. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Imagine my shock when the seamstress at the J.C. Penney’s where I worked tossed a plaid rose at me—a rosette made from some plaid fabric she had in her workroom.

I went back to campus for our last semester wondering how this was ever going to happen. Justin was not only in Koinonia, but by then we weren’t even speaking so he could better discern the priesthood. A few days before graduation Justin told me he still felt called to the priesthood and would serve on NET for a year. For the next year and a half, while Justin was on NET and looking for a religious order, we kept in touch. But in late 1999, when he finally joined a religious order, we said our “final” goodbyes. I was devastated and confused to say the least. After a year, however, for whatever reason, I sent Justin a Christmas card, thinking it would get sent back unopened. It did get sent back, but inside was a letter he’d written, saying he’d left the order and hinting at feelings for me. I called him immediately at his parent’s house to see what was going on.

Nearly four years after we first met he confessed his feelings for me and a desire to date. We were married in 2002. I still have the plaid rose in a keepsake box.  

Jim ’73 and Karen (Lucke ’73) Fonow
Married September 1975
I was from Cleveland. Jim was a “townie.” We met at the student center our junior year, and that was it. I’ve been here ever since and claim now that I am also a “townie.”

Patrick ’93 and Christine (Gartung ’93) Hanus
Married December 1992
My husband, Patrick, and I met in the cafeteria at our freshman orientation dance in 1989. While Pat likes to say he knew I would be his wife from that moment, the truth is we only danced once. Then in October of our sophomore year, I attended a function in the chapel. I was praying and singing by myself in one of the pews, and felt as though I was experiencing a bit of heaven. I’d been preoccupied by the idea of marriage most of my freshman year, but had since begun to think that God was calling me completely to himself. That night, as I prayed, it was as if Christ sat next to me, asking me if I would give up everything for him, even a husband. It was easy to say Yes!  A few moments passed. Then I “heard” even more distinctly, “The man who sits down next to you in my place will be your husband, a manifestation of my love for you.”

I felt confused and refocused my thoughts, but two minutes later someone did sit down: Pat. I was alarmed because I didn’t love him, so I put the incident firmly out of my mind.

The rest is a long story, but I never told Pat about that night with Jesus, until he, after lying prostrate before God, came into the room where I was and asked me to marry him. By then I was completely in love.

Gary ’75 and Janet (Koerber ’76) Lowther
Married September 1979
Gary and I met in Mr. Welker’s accounting class. He sat in front of me and used to listen to the conversations between a friend and me, but never entered in. To be honest, I thought he was a little on the strange side. Although Gary graduated in 1975, he worked in a local steel mill, so he continued to frequent campus. We would bump into each other occasionally. Then, at the end of my senior year, he came to an awards ceremony on campus. I introduced him to my family, who were there for the ceremony, and my uncle invited him to sit with us at the senior/alumni dance the next weekend, which he did. That’s where we had our first dance. The same uncle then invited him to my graduation party, and he attended. A few months later, in August 1976, I was at the Fort Steuben Mall and bumped into Gary. He told me he was leaving in three weeks to go to Texas for a master’s degree, but would like to take me to dinner before he left. I agreed. We went to dinner on Friday, August 13, and have been together ever since.

Pat ’92 and Kathleen (Everson ’92) McCusker
Married June 1993
My Steubenville “mom” Anna Marie Sadler, one of the lovely women who work in the cafeteria, joked for years that she would find me an Irish husband before I graduated because I’d told her I would never marry a man who could not give me a last name to match my first

Accordingly, when I met Pat Cusker during my freshman year his last name alone meant he wasn’t a “candidate.” Besides that, we were both dorm presidents responsible for a Marian/St. Francis combo dorm party, and his planning skills irked me to such an extent that I quickly labeled him a “slacker.” 

Three years later, he was the editor of the Yearbook, and I was heading up Student Activities Board (SAB). One day he swung by our office, plopped down on the couch (making himself so comfortable…the slacker!) and asked if we had any photos he could use for the yearbook.

Ever the walking advertisement for SAB events I asked if he would be attending the upcoming Christmas formal. “No,” he said, explaining he couldn’t afford it. Since SAB members always earned a pair of tickets, and I didn’t need my extra, I offered it to him. Actually, what I said was, “You’re a senior. You should come to your last Christmas formal. Just tell the ticket lady you’re my date, and they’ll let you in for free. Don’t worry, I don’t want to date you, marry you, or have your kids. I won’t even see you all night because I’ll be working the event.” He stared at me with a bewildered look, mumbled something, then left the office quickly.

“The nerve,” I thought. “The man probably thinks I’m after a husband. A slacker that is stuck on himself to boot!”

A few days later, however, as I sorted out incoming decorations, Pat showed up and asked if he could speak to me privately. Once alone he asked me if I would be his real date for the dance. Now I was the one with the bewildered look.

“That’s so nice,” I replied, trying to let him down easy. “But I need to work this event. I’ll be busy all evening.” 

Pat said he’d enjoy helping me.

“I don’t even leave to get ready until the dance starts. I’ll get there late,” I responded.

 He said he was happy to wait.

I gave it one more try. “But I have to stay until 3:00 a.m. cleaning up.”

Pat said he would stay too.

That was it. I was stuck. So I said yes.

On the evening of the dance, when Pat and I arrived, I was expecting to work and avoid him most of the night. But, as it turned out, my friend Anita had arranged it so that the other SAB volunteers took over almost all of my duties. Suddenly, I had nothing to do but be with Pat all evening long.

As the night went on, however, it turned out that Pat and I had more in common then I realized. Our large families and Irish heritage were a ready source of discussion, and I hadn’t even known he was Irish given his last name.

“My grandparents took off the ‘Mc’ at Ellis Island so they would have a better chance of getting a job in America,” he told me. “My father is helping me with the legal work to change it back. I’ll soon be the first American McCusker.”

At about 3:00 a.m. Pat walked me back to the dorm. As I walked into my dark room, my sleepy best buddy, Stacy Bicknel, muttered, “So, ya getting married or what?”

“Me? Marry that slacker? I don’t think so…”

We began dating that February and were engaged by May. Pat’s name became McCusker and Student Government honored him at the End of Year Awards Banquet with the, “I Changed My Name to Get an Irish Wife Award.” To our knowledge, Pat has been the only recipient. And I’ve spent the past 18 years regretting ever calling him a slacker.

Daniel ’82 and Brenna (Jones ’81) Heffernan
Married June 1984
I attended my first Franciscan class the last Tuesday of August 1978. Sitting next to me was a pretty, blue-eyed brunette in the front row of Theology Old Testament class. She’s been my bride for 27 years.

Jonathan ’96 and Theresa (Smith ’96) Chamblee
Married January 1997
My husband Jonathan and I met during our sophomore year in the cafeteria. We became instant friends and soon, best friends. Although we both dated other people, we always made it clear to whomever we dated that we were each other’s best friend and nothing would change that. I guess that should have been our first clue that this would develop into something more.

After about a year of friendship, we were taking a walk around campus when Jonathan stopped, took my hand, and told me he was beginning to “flip over me.” I was taken aback, and as gently as I could told him that he would get over it. I didn’t want to risk pursuing a dating relationship that wouldn’t work out and, in the process, lose my best friend. He said he could respect that and didn’t mention it again.

Not long after that, Jonathan had to take a semester off. During that time, my household sisters secretly raised enough money to buy a plane ticket so that I could go and visit him. During that weekend visit, both of us realized we were kidding ourselves. Yes, we were best friends, but we were also in love with each other. We dated six months before Jonathan proposed.

John ’00 and Catherine (King ’02) Bovey
Married August 2002
John and I were part of the 70 or so older students housed in Trinity East for the 1998-1999 school year. We met orientation weekend, but there wasn’t anything more…at least for a few weeks. Early in the semester I developed flexor tendinitis in both my wrists, and it became painful to do everything—dressing, eating, writing, etc. Taking notes and typing were especially bad. Many of my dorm mates pitched in to help me in different ways, with John offering to type all my papers. What I thought was the kind offer of a disinterested friend turned out to be the kind offer of a friend who was interested in getting to know me better. We began spending a lot of time together as John typed my weekly papers for my Intro to Scripture class. After mid-terms, we sat down and admitted to each other how we felt. By the time the next school year began, we knew we were supposed to spend the rest of our lives together.

Paul ’58 and Shirley (Milhorn ’58) Simone
Married July 1958
My parents, Paul and Shirley, met the first day of Dr. Mary Scanlon’s freshman English class. They sat side by side for the first semester and traveled in the same group of friends for four years. They didn’t date until junior year and were engaged as seniors. They were married shortly after graduation and went on to have four children and two grandchildren. They live in New Middletown, Ohio.

Jonathan ’05 MBA ’08 and Gabriela (Martinez ’08) Frei
Married July 2008
I remember seeing Jonathan the first day of Freshman Orientation. He was sitting under a tree, barefoot, reading a book of poetry with his guitar next to him. I was intrigued. To my delight, I discovered a few days later that he was in my Survey of Physical Science class. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to strike up a casual conversation over a microscope, which would lead to a budding friendship and blossom naturally into true love. My hopes were quickly shattered, however, when Jonathan refused to say two words to me. No matter what topic I brought up—books, music, the arts—I could not convince him to talk to me.

I had completely given up hope of even having a friendship with this guy, when we bumped into each other one night at the Brothers’ weekly swing dance. He plucked me out of the hoard of girls hovering around the dance floor and asked me to dance. We ended up talking until the gallery closed.

After Christmas break, we both went on the March for Life. Although we hung out together in the lobby of Kolbe Clare Hall, waiting to get on the bus, we sat on separate ends of the bus. Jonathan says that’s the moment he first saw me as a potential girlfriend, when he watched me talking to other people, the Florida girl bundled up in her bright lime green ski jacket, with pigtail braids, and big smile. We started dating three weeks later on Valentine’s Day. Jonathan asked me to be his Valentine with Our Lady’s approval at the Grotto by the Port. He proposed to me in the same spot two years later.

John ’85 and Claire (Haskins ’85) Grabowski
Married April 1985
It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since I met John outside the elevator in St. Thomas More Hall. Both John and I were visiting campus for a “Come and See” weekend as high school seniors. We were introduced by Louis, a wonderful guy from Puerto Rico, who seemed to befriend everyone he met. Although Louis didn’t come to Franciscan the next fall, I like to think of him as our Puerto Rican angel. But we did come to Franciscan, became friends, fell in love, dated, stopped dating so John could discern his vocation, started dating again, got engaged senior year, and were married two weeks before graduation. Twenty-nine years, five children, and more blessings than we can count later, we look back on our years in Steubenville with gratitude for all God gave us as a foundation for a life together serving him and his Church.

Thomas ’69 and Donna (Imgrund ’69) Sokol
Married July 1969
I first met Donna in Economics class. I was pledging the TKE fraternity, and Donna saw me greeting at least 10 members asking if I could do anything for them. It was an ancient pledging ritual, but I think she felt sorry for me so she came up to say hello. Given the rigors of pledging, it was a welcomed respite. After much hand ringing, I got up my nerve to ask her on a library study date. Afterwards, we drove to a local fast food place for fries. That was the beginning of a love affair that has now lasted through 41 years of marriage. I’m so grateful to that cute little girl who took pity on a lowly pledge.

Originally published in the Spring 2011 Franciscan Way magazine.

Your turn: Did you find your husband or wife here? How did you meet? Send replies to, and we will share online or in Franciscan Magazine (submissions subject to editing).