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Romance Blossoms from Everyday Meetings

'How I Met My Valentine'

When couples who’ve been married for a long time begin to tell the story of how they met, the same thing happens.

They begin to smile. They begin to tease each other a little, mock-arguing about who was the aggressor.

Even now, decades after they met, with children grown and mortgages under control, they still flirt with each other.

They remember the first time they met, often in minute detail.

Whether or not it is “a Hallmark holiday,” as cynics suggest, it is that set of reactions that we celebrate on Valentine’s Day.

Jane and Bill Strauss, McLean

The month was November. The year was 1971. The city was Boston.

Jane Kamps, now the mother of four and Dranesville District’s representative to the Fairfax County School Board, had just finished graduate school at Harvard University.

The man who would be her husband was still in law school, also at Harvard, but he had taken a job at the Boston Center for the Arts, “totally outside the orbit of anything I ‘d ever done before.”

Bill Strauss was hired to help design a children’s youth program for inner-city kids.

But the job was also “part of my master plan for meeting young women,“ he said.

Finding himself in a little over his head, he contacted the Boston Children’s Museum, at Jamaica Plain, and arranged a meeting to ask advice on setting up programs for inner-city children.

His wife remembers that meeting. She was there.

“I immediately thought he was very interesting but assumed he must be married and had three kids,” Jane Strauss said.

Bill, still a student, didn’t have money for a car, so he asked for a ride back to Cambridge. Before Jane could offer — she had graduated and had a green Saab — her boss did.

The table was too big for her to kick her boss underneath it — and Jane Strauss is a short person — so she lost that opportunity.

But almost immediately, Bill Strauss discovered that he needed to know more about the programs at Boston’s Children’s Center for the Arts.

“I called her. There were some unanswered questions [from the meeting], as you can imagine.”

“By the third or fourth date, I’d decided I wanted to marry him,” Jane remembers. “I knew that life with Bill would never be dull. He had a tremendous well of creativity, and ideas for how to make life interesting.”

In December 1972, Bill proposed “on an ice floe on the shores of Lake Superior at 6 a.m. We were wearing snowshoes,” Jane remembers.

“It was very cold, snowy and gray. It was dawn,” Bill remembers. They were near Porcupine Mountain. “There were waves in Lake Superior, and ice caps floating in the water.”

After he proposed “on bended snowshoe” and Jane accepted, Strauss visited her parents to ask for her hand.

“Bill wrote a limerick, and they didn’t understand it,” Jane recalls.

But they married anyway, at the Harvard Chapel on May 19, 1973. The reception was held at the Children’s Museum.

All the exhibits were open for the wedding guests to play in.

In lieu of Bill’s taking the bar exam, the couple went to Africa for 45 days, they said.

“I was a public interest lawyer,” Strauss says now. “It was in the public interest that I not practice [law.]”

[Actually, that is a joke. He did take, and pass, the bar exam later.]

After they had four children between the ages of 1 and 8 and a house with a mortgage, Bill’s employer on Capitol Hill, Sen. Charles Percy, was defeated. He remembers suggesting to Janie: “What say I ditch my job and go into entertainment?”

That is when he organized the Capitol Steps, previously a group of friends who worked on Capitol Hill and entertained for free, into a professional theater troupe.

Now it has a staff of 50 and four touring casts that performed 1,000 shows last year.

Their scripts are built around Bill Strauss’s limericks. People get them now.

Kari and Harry Miller, Great Falls

It was 1968, and a doctor and nurse were both working on an odd holiday shift, around Christmas, at the University of Rochester Hospital in New York.

Kari Miller, then 21, had just come to the hospital from Niagara Falls. She’d been working there for about three months when she noticed a young doctor who sat on the floor with a patient who was teaching him how to play the guitar.

The patient, a professional musician, was being treated for cancer.

The doctor was his urologist.

Kari noticed how kind he was but thought he was a lab technician.

She had decided not to date any doctors, because they were either married or skirt-chasers, she remembers.

But Harry was neither. He was divorced and raising four children by himself, going home during the day to take them to their music lessons.

He remembers noticing a young blond nurse in a miniskirt.

Both remember their first date — they went to see the movie “Camelot,” and the second, when they went to a hockey game.

His four children were visiting their mother, but by the time they returned a week later, Kari was already in love.

She was happy with her life, and busy all the time, she said, but the night before she went out with Harry, she lay awake, nervously thinking about their date. She already had the feeling they would be married.

It took several dates for her to find out he wasn’t a lab technician but a urologist, she said. “We never talked about work. We talked about dogs.”

As they talked, “We’d come out with the same comment, and it would be exactly what the other one was thinking,” she said.

Once when they sat outside her house talking in his car with the radio on, they talked so long that the battery ran down.

He proposed on St. Patrick’s Day, and they married on June 14

All his children were in the wedding.

Later they had two daughters, for a total of six. They moved to Oklahoma and then to Washington, where Harry Miller became a professor of urology and chairman of the Department of Urology at George Washington University.

“He still is a great date,” Kari says. “He still brings me flowers.”