Classified ad led to Valentine's Day proposal
Sometimes it takes a leap of faith.
In a dating culture dominated by online matchmaking sites, Karen and John Everett connected via an old-fashioned method--advertising in newspaper classified ads and exchanging personal letters.
Valentine's Day marks the 12th anniversary of their engagement. In October the couple, who bypassed computerized matchmaking and went on trust and a bit of gumption, will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
Their love story took flight in the fall of 2000 when Karen placed a personal ad in two newspapers. It went something like this:
Country Life: Soon to be 42, blue eyes, 5-foot-2, full-figured but not overly so, looking to meet somebody who is outdoorsy, warmhearted, with a good sense of humor, Christian values and enjoys hearth and home, must be gainfully employed.
"I was divorced with no children and felt stalled in my personal life and was unhappy with the changes being made at the hospital," begins Karen, who then was a surgical and orthopedic nurse at her hometown hospital in Dansville, New York. "A friend invited me down to Columbia, and I got a job working at Maury Regional Hospital in 1998."
Karen says she placed the ad in The Columbia Daily Herald and The Tennessean because her friends and landlord didn't know anyone available who would suit her. "It was my idea," she says, "but my friend warned me, 'Oh, you better be careful.'"
'Country life' piques John's interests
John grew up on a farm in the Leeville community with three brothers and a sister and graduated from Lebanon High School in 1975. For the past 12 years he has worked for the Wilson County Road Commission and drives a dump truck, helps install culvert pipe, clean ditches and repair bridges.
He spotted her ad in the Sunday Tennessean, noting, "The first thing that caught my eye was 'Country Life.' I kept that ad and thought, 'I think I'll take it to work and show it to a friend of mine.'"
A week later he wrote her:
Dear Blue Eyes, My name is John. I'm a soon to be 43 years old white male.
I'm also divorced and have no children. Raised on a farm and enjoy country life. Easy going and I have a good sense of humor and kind-0hearted. I enjoy hunting and fishing. I enjoy taking trips to small towns and look for antiques. Both of my parents have passed away. I have three brothers and one sister. And one dog. If you would like to know more please write me.
Finding Mr. Right
"I got 12 letters over a period of about four weeks in response to my ad," Karen recalled. "Several I threw away right away, but John's was one that I kept. It was very humbling and just warm the way he wrote it. I showed the letter I got from John to my best friend, landlords and friends at work."
While John's plea tugged at her heartstrings, she responded first to a man from another Middle Tennessee town and dated him for four months.
"He turned out to be the nightmare everyone warns you about. I washed my hands of the other guy," she said. "He wrote me a four-page letter and turned out to be a liar. John wrote me a one-page letter, short and sweet."
Karen had written a letter to John and placed it in a stamped and sealed envelope, ready to go. Then she put it aside.
"I decided the experience with the other guy was so disheartening that I was not doing that again. I threw my hands up and said, 'If I meet somebody it's gonna be God's intervention.'''
She forgot about her letter for John and lost track of it. Then providence intervened.
"In early February of 2001, I was doing spring cleaning and puttering around my desk and my letter to him dropped out from behind the desk.
"I picked it up and read it again. I thought, 'I'm not going through this again,' and I had the letter in my hand heading for the trash. I almost dropped it in the trash can and something made me stop and bring it back.
"I thought, I guess, 'You don't know if you don't ask.' I waited one more week and wrote 'Country Life' on the back of it and away it went."
Finally getting a response
Six months had passed since John wrote Karen. One afternoon after work, he checked the mailbox and pulled out an envelope. Flipping it over, he read the words, "Country Life."
John recalls the moment, saying, "I said, 'Oh.' I really had forgotten about it. I figured I didn't have a chance.'
"I took it in the house. She had a picture of herself in it. I was humbled by her letter and picture. I carried that picture to work and showed my friends Wiley Taylor and Lucinda (Bennett) Oakes and told them about the letter. They said it sounded like she was a nice person and that we had similar interests.
"We exchanged letters another time or two and then exchanged phone numbers. I called her up."
The first words Karen heard John say over the phones were "Hello, blue eyes."
Love and a loaf of Bay's bread
They talked an hour and a half and set their first date for the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show on March 3, 2001.
Anxious, John asked his friend Lucinda what to bring Karen for their initial rendezvous at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Franklin.
"She advised me to carry a bouquet of flowers, and I decided to take her a fresh loaf of Bay's bread," he said.
Karen arrived at the parking lot first and watched for his green Ford pickup.
She said, "I saw him get out of his truck and went, 'Aha, yes!' I walked quickly to him and gave him a great big hug. He was just a big ol', warm Southern farm boy. We continued from there to the lawn and garden show. We had a good time and held hands all day long."
After dining at Carrabba's Italian Restaurant, he drove her back to her car.
Before they departed, from the cab of his truck Karen called her best friend Phyllis and told her, "He doesn't look like a serial killer," and handed her cell phone to John so Phyllis could talk with him.
Proposal comes with dessert
On Valentine's Day 2004, John asked Karen to be his wife.
"He planned to take me to a romantic restaurant for the proposal, but I was sick as a dog with bronchitis," Karen said, "so we had meat loaf at the kitchen table and an engagement ring for dessert."
On Oct. 7, 2006, at Leeville United Methodist Church, the two pledged their love to one another as Rev. Larry Pedigo explained to John, "Her hands will be yours for help and comfort and yours will be help and comfort for her."
They repeated their nuptials Nov. 27, 2006, in Dansville, New York, Karen's hometown.
"John was a good sport about it. He went through it again for my side of the family," she said.
Still surprising his bride
As for his plans for this coming Valentine's Day, he said, "I'm not talking."
Karen confessed, "He's a great one for surprises. I tell John that he only married me because I was a Yankee who could drive a tractor."
The two have nicknames for one another: Yogi and Boo Boo.
Guess who's Yogi?
Selling veggies and 'country life'
The pair lives in the Rome community, a half mile inside the Smith County line, and they
enjoy driving Tennessee back roads, eating in small-town diners and working in their yard and garden.
From their summer garden they produce veggies which they sell from the Fourth of July until late October from an unmanned stand on the side of Highway 70. They go by the honor system, allowing customers to select their own produce, weigh it on scales, figure the cost (prices are displayed) and drop their money in a small, locked box.
Karen, now a nurse at University Medical Center, has published a fictional, historical romance, "Silver Cross Cottage," set in the 1890s in a hotel that still stands in her hometown. She remains in awe of the stars that aligned to bring her and John together in a contemporary love story.
She recalls one more amazing coincidence.
"The first time I came to Tennessee, I rented a Blazer. I got wrong directions from a fellow at the airport and ended up in Lebanon at the Pilot Truck Stop. Later, the first time I came to meet John in Lebanon, he told me where to meet him. I couldn't believe it. It was the same red canopy, the same truck stop."
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.