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The love story of Northbrook residents Kevin and Karen Nelson was selected as the winner of this year’s How We Met Contest. Photos Submitted
Northbrook residents Jerry and Sandy Bober have been married for nearly 60 years. Their love story got its start in high school. Photo Submitted
Northbrook resident Joli Fridman submitted a love story about her daughters, Nina and Maya.
Northbrook residents Leigh McDonald Carrington and Steve Carrington submitted their love story, which got its start at Little Bear Park in the Glen.
Staff report
4:22 am CST February 13, 2020

We meet new people every day in any number of ways. 

Some encounters are brief. Maybe it’s the person serving us coffee on the way to work or the random stranger we bump into while buying groceries at the store. Most of the time, our exchanges with these strangers are positive with both parties going about their day without much thought about the encounter after the fact. 

In much rarer cases, we might meet someone that changes our lives forever. If it’s a significant other, this first meeting is something we’ll never forget for the rest of our lives. 

At 22nd Century Media, publisher of The Northbrook Tower, we currently hold six contests every year, so roughly one every two months. We sometimes talk about adding new ones, but most of the six we’ve been running for many years. 

Our How We Met Contest is always one of the most popular that we run. This year was no different. 

Since we launched the contest last month through the conclusion on Friday, Feb. 7, we’ve received plenty of quality entries. 

Every love story is unique, beautiful and special in its own way, so choosing a winner was very difficult per usual. 

In the end, The Tower’s editorial team selected the entry of Northbrook resident Kevin Nelson as the winner of this year’s How We Met Contest. 

The Nelson family will receive a gift certificate from Northbrook’s Eataco for the winning submission. The Tower would like to extend its thanks to Eataco for its gracious support of the contest. 

Below, readers can find the winning love story and another favorite submission. Stay tuned for our next contest — Mother’s Day Essay contest in May.

Editor's Note: The below How We Met Contest submissions are presented as submitted to The Tower

‘Thank goodness I didn’t go to Wash U’

Submitted by Kevin Nelson, Northbrook resident 

I first saw her in the cafeteria at Wright Quad at Indiana University — I was leaving the table and froze halfway between sitting and standing when she sat down at the far end. I was smitten.  Some days later she showed up at my dorm room and I couldn’t even remember the conversation right after it happened; something about the math class we had together.  Something about her made my brain malfunction. But as I got past the fact that this breathtaking woman was actually talking to me, and we got to spend some time together, a deep friendship developed. 

I got to know the incredible person that had even greater beauty within. But just like that, it was over: she left after the first semester to pursue other educational opportunities. And I thought she was out of my life forever.

Two years passed when out of the blue I got a letter from Karen (Yes, an actual letter — it was that long ago!).  

While we were both going through some personal struggles, she was moved enough to reach out to me and draw on a deep but short-lived friendship for support. 

After about a year of dutifully writing letters back-and-forth, a different kind of love developed between us. 

I had a Karen-shaped hole in my heart. And after a three-hour drive to her home to surprise her on New Year’s Eve, we saw each other for the first time in three years. That was 1998. We’ve been together ever since.

Along the way, she has helped me to fill the God-shaped hole in my soul. We have been blessed with a wonderful family, including two amazing sons. And as we get ready to celebrate 18 years of marriage in June, I am forever grateful for the incredibly intelligent, infinitely kind, supremely supportive, and (yes, still to this day), absolutely breathtaking woman that I am fortunate to share my life with. 

I’ve learned that life throws lots of curveballs at you, and you need a rock to build a strong foundation on. She is my best friend, my teammate, my fan and my hero, and the best gift I ever received.  

Thank goodness I didn’t go to Wash U.

Honorable mention

The Tower received numerous great contest submissions this year. Below, we’ve included another of our favorite submissions. Because of space constraints, we could not include all of the entries that scored high marks with our judges.    

50-plus years of marriage

Submitted by Jerry Bober, Northbrook resident

I was a high school junior and Sandy Giacchetti was a sophomore. I’d seen Sandy a number of times around school, Kelvyn Park HS in Chicago, and thought she was absolutely lovely.  

I had never spoken to her and didn’t know her name. One day at school, I was walking up a quiet stairway and encountered her as I left the landing and stepped into the hall, as she was on her way to the school gym. Just us two. I thought this was a great opportunity to meet her.  

Without much forethought, I walked up to her and said, “Excuse me. If you have a minute, I’d like to speak to you. I’m conducting a survey of pretty girls.”  

She looked at me with a skeptical “oh brother, are you kidding” look, but did chat with me, and finally did give me her phone number, and I called.  We dated throughout high school, and we married after dating steadily for several years, through college and my military service.  We’ll be married 58 years in June.  We’ve been residents of Northbrook since 1966.  We’re in our third Northbrook home, in Charlemagne since 1987.  Sandy is still the loveliest, prettiest, nicest girl I’ve ever known, and is the wonderful mother of Chris and Jocelyn, the fabulous grandmother of Søren, Stellan, Jack, Megan, and Annie. I love her! And, I’m grateful that she participated in that interview!!  Sandy is my valentine!

Living our their dream 

Submitted by Leigh McDonald, Northbrook resident 

“We met in August 2008 prior to starting our senior year at Glenbrook North. Steve was on the volleyball team and became friends with his teammates who were my close friends. The first time we met we were all hanging out at Little Bear Park in the Glen. The two of us sat on a park swing for hours competing with one another about whose sport was more challenging: volleyball vs. figure skating. We began dating shortly after that. 

We attended our senior prom and GBN graduation together prior to spending our first year of college long-distance when Steve went to U of I, and I attended Indiana. I transferred sophomore year to Illinois for their Animal Sciences program. Junior year, Steve studied abroad in Sweden for five months and though the 6 hour time difference made it challenging to be apart we got through it. We completed our undergraduate degrees—Steve in Mechanical Engineering and me in Animal Sciences—in May 2013. 

The next few years were long-distance again as Steve attended the University of Chicago Law School and I the University of Illinois College of VetMed. With both of us being in professional school, it was helpful to just try our best to support one another, even 2.5 hours away.  Steve graduated in 2016 and began working in Chicago as an attorney. I thought one of the coolest things was he able to “hood” me at my graduation in 2017. We moved in together in Oak Park initially with our dog and cat as it was halfway between each of our work places, but it just wasn’t home. 

In March 2018, we closed on our home in Northbrook, and in May 2019 I accepted a veterinarian position at Northbrook Animal Clinic. This was my dream job at my home clinic I grew up taking our pets to, and I couldn’t be happier serving our community.

Steve and I were married on September 1, 2019 at The Glen Club, and had our first look pictures taken where it all began in Little Bear Park. It was the best day ever and we can’t wait to see what the next 80+ years have in store!”

'To the lights of my life'

Submitted by Joli Fridman, Northbrook resident 

Love at first sight. I never believed in it and always considered it a fantasy, something you see only in movies or romance novels.

Our relationship started out slowly. We hadn’t met in person, but talked every day, or rather, I talked, and she listened. I told her all about myself, starting from the beginning and leading up to the present. I told her about my likes and dislikes. About my work and hobbies. About my family and friends. Every evening I would lie in bed and talk to her. It became a nighttime ritual of sorts. Finally, after many months, a date was set for us to meet in person. I had never looked more forward to anything in my life. I literally was counting down the days. I was a ball of emotions, nervous and apprehensive and at the same time excited and elated.

Some might think our first meeting wasn’t going too well as she was crying. And these were not tears of joy, she was all out crying. But then she heard my voice, the voice she had listened to every day for the past three quarters of a year and she calmed and the crying stopped. And as the nurse handed her to me, and I looked into her eyes, my heart melted. And I understood.  For the first time in my life, I understood the power of love at first sight.

It’s baffling how a seven pound bundle can grab hold of your heart so instantly. At that moment I realized there is no love in the world as fierce and all encompassing as a mother’s love. I had an intense desire to protect her, inspire her, and bring out the best in her. And in the process, she would end up bringing out the best in me.

Some say love at first sight does not last and as the years pass, the love dims. But after nearly twenty years as a mother I can attest to its enduring, everlasting light that is stronger and brighter with each passing year.

To the lights of my life: Nina and Maya.


'It was fate'

Submitted by Andi and Mike Swiler, Northbrook residents 

It was fate ... Andi was engaged when she began her career at Helen Keller Jr. High in Schaumburg in September 1969.  As she fixed up her classroom a week before classes began, a handsome young man entered and introduced himself. They discovered they were both raised on the southside of Chicago and Andi even knew one of his cousins.  And then Mike noticed that Andi was wearing an engagement ring and she shared that she would be getting married in July 1970. Mike left shortly thereafter.

Andi and Mike became friends during the school year.  He dated one of the other single teachers for a while.  Mike even asked Andi if she had any single girlfriends he could meet.  Her friend Merle went out with him on a Saturday night and then a study date on Sunday.  Merle really liked Mike and told Andi that Mike told her what a good teacher Andi was!! She wanted Andi to discover if he'd be asking her out again but Andi didn't feel it was her place to do so.

Fast forward to February 1970.  Andi had already broken her engagement when a mutual colleague of Andi and Mike's asked her how her Valentine's Day had been.  Andi responded "not so good...broken engagement". This colleague ran to Mike and hold him the news. Apparently Mike wasn't too sad for her because he immediately called Andi and asked her out.  Their first day was February 28, 1970. He took her to the Ice Capades and out to dinner. The date had gone quite well!!

After that, they saw each other at school everyday; Mike stopped by every night on his way home from graduate school to see Andi and four weeks later - March 28, 1970 - asked for her hand in marriage.  Same venue as July 1970; same food; same photographer; same band; same wedding dress; same attendants; DIFFERENT GROOM!!!

On December 13, 2020, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  Yes, it was fate; Andi and Mike were meant to be!!!!


'Greg has always been my best friend'

Submitted by Cathy Giometti, Northbrook resident

My husband Greg and I met and started dating when we were 14 years old.

Greg asked me on our first date while we were on a mission trip in the Appalachian mountains building homes. We were both incredibly active in our church youth group and saw each other at least once a week leading up to the big trip. My mom and dad said it was fine to go to the movie with him because they simply expected it to be one movie and then for me to move on.

Our first date was a double date with his sister and her boyfriend (we couldn’t drive...). I remember being outside in our cul-de-sac playing kickball with my neighbors right before they came to get me to see Pirates of the Carribian in theaters. Sweaty, exhausted, and terribly nervous I hopped into the car and immediately felt at ease.

Greg has always been my best friend. We have survived high school, college, two major home renovations, a Great Dane, graduate school, and two toddlers. We have had successful careers, built amazing networks both together and apart, and kept incredibly close with both of our families. The only thing we are not sure we will ever survive is the day our oldest daughter turns 14 and asks to go see a movie with a boy.