For Valentine’s Day – How my wife and I got together

(I was going to save this for a few days from now, but I figured I’d give you a little tidbit to enjoy for the weekend. Plus, I’m an attention hog.)

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This is the story of how Kathleen Feindt — publisher and editor of Jacksonville Beach, FL’s weekly newspaper The Beaches Leader — became my wife. It’s a story I’ve been dining out on for decades, because it isn’t every “How we met” story that has two endings.

In July of 1988, a friend of mine called to tell me that Mandarin News — the now-defunct Jacksonville/Mandarin branch of the Leader — had a want ad for a reporter. I needed a job and, having some writing (and extremely minor journalistic) experience, I applied.

Kathy was then the editor of Mandarin News, so I interviewed with her. For the interview, I wore a red tie and a salt-and-pepper dress jacket (a la Barney Fife). For some reason, that made an impression on Kathy.

Later that day, Tom Wood (long-time Leader publisher) asked Kathy how the reporter job search was going. Kathy told Tom about me, going on about my wardrobe and demeanor in great detail. Tom said, “You know, Kathy, you’re interviewing for a reporter, not a husband.”

Kathy did not hire me, as I was living in Orange Park and she preferred to have a reporter who lived in the Mandarin area. However, she kept me on as a free-lance feature writer, to review local theater productions and such. For months, our brief phone conversations went like this:

“Steve, I have tickets for two to the latest production at the local dinner theater. You can review the show and, er, also bring a friend or a date if you’d like.”

“That’s great. I hope I can find somebody to go with me.”

Then one Thursday, I was dropping off a column at Kathy’s office. Kathy usually wasn’t in on Thursdays, but she happened to be in that day. I forget what we talked about, but the conversation was so intriguing, I found excuses to come back two more times to talk to her. When I got home, I took the coward’s way out, phoning Kathy and leaving a date request on her answering machine.

Long story short, three weeks later, I asked her to marry me — which she did, four months after that.

Now…I told you that story to tell you this one.

Kathy and I had both attended the University of Florida in 1981. One day shortly after our marriage, we were reminiscing about UF. Eventually, we realized we had worked together for about three months in UF’s journalism department.

We were polite to each other, but there were no sparks flying at the time. I thought she was too work-minded, and she thought I was too nerdy.

One Friday afternoon, Kathy told me that she and some friends were meeting that day at the Orange & Brew (UF’s on-campus pub), and would I like to join them? I said no because I had a class to attend. Kathy knew then and there, she had no interest in a man who would rather attend class than drink beer.

In March, Kathy and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. Years ago, Kathy asked me if I had any thoughts as to how we had lasted so long.

I immediately blurted out, “That’s easy. You’re too stubborn to ever admit you made a mistake.”

And I’m still quite happy for her stubbornness. Happy Valentine’s Day.