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Surfside shares How We Met 2017 entries

Sharla Barrett and Nils Barrett. Photos Submitted
Kim Bubbs-Toledo and Aaron Toledo
Jennifer Bushen and David Bushen
Lisa Jo Cohen and Gregg Angell
Jay Comfort and Michael Comfort
Pat Shafer Falkner and Avery Falkner
Ruth Gomez and David Gomez
Lonnie Gordon (Janis) and Robert Janis (BJ)
Jeff Kletter and Josie Kletter
Louis Spirito and Eugenie Spirito
Jackie Sutton and Bob Sutton
Cindy Tilbury and Rick Betts
Submitted Content
8:00 am PST February 14, 2017

Following are the full entries the Surfside received in response to its How We Met contest. The winning entry can be found here.

Sharla Barrett on how she met her husband, Nils Barrett:

Graduating from high school, I was ready to go far from home. In Houston, most all my friends attended UT in Austin. But I was ready to be independent ~ from my family, my home, my friends and an old boyfriend. I came to Pepperdine University in Malibu. My mom drove cross country with me and my car and my stuff. We arrived at Pepperdine 3 days later, weary and exhausted, but ready to get me settled. As we moved my things into my dorm room, my new adorable and bubbly roommate showed up! We offered to help her move in, but she said she had her brother with her ~ in walks Nils. He had been at Pepperdine for a year, moving from south Florida to be closer to his father, who now lived in LA. Nils and I had an immediate infatuation ~ he was shy and low-key, I was an outspoken, overly made-up Texan. They say opposites attract. We dated through college, and after graduation dated on and off. Finally after about 3 years, and a good deal of growing up, we realized we really wanted to be together.

We will be married 24 years this year and have two teenage daughters who were born and raised in Malibu and have gone to Webster, Malibu Middle and Malibu High. Pepperdine was so exotic for me and my husband, moving to Malibu from so far away, but it is my daughters’ backyard. They think it’s hilarious that we met there, but tease us with a sense of gratitude ~ at least as much as our teen girls can muster. My husband recently told me that all these years of marriage feels like 5 minutes ... underwater! He has a healthy sense of humor.

Kim Bubbs-Toledo on how she met her husband, Aaron Toledo: 

I met my husband, Aaron, only a few days after I had moved to Santa Monica from Canada in 2010. The apartment that I first rented was offering gift certificates for new tenants from Marco Polo Imports, my husband’s furniture store. I was with my mother that day and we decided to check it out. It was Aaron’s day off that day but he had stopped by to pick something up. We literally almost ran into one another as he was leaving and I was entering the store. There was an instant connection and feeling of familiarity.

Needless to say, he stayed to help me and I purchased a very special antique cabinet which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was a Korean wedding chest. This piece of furniture must have had magical spell cast upon it because two years later we were married in Malibu. We used the cabinet as our gift table and it still has a special place in our home. We will treasure it always. We have lived in Malibu ever since and have a wonderful little girl. We are expecting our second daughter in March. Our story is proof that love can find you when you least expect it!

Jennifer Bushen on how she met her husband, David Bushen: 

My husband is from England and became an Royal Marine when he was 26 years old. In the fall of 2012 he went on a training excursion to Camp Pendleton in San Diego. After 6 weeks of rigorous training, the 200+ marines were rewarded with 2 nights in Las Vegas before traveling back to the United Kingdom. 

3,000 miles away, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I was a pharmacy resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I was preparing for a major pharmacy conference called American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical meeting where I was to join 40,000 other pharmacists and preparing to present my major residency project and interview for jobs. 

On the evening of December 5th, 2012, is when the magic happened. We both were celebrating our last night in Vegas with a night out at XS Nightclub. My friends and I were huddled by the bathroom discussing where we should go next. David caught a glimpse of me through the crowd and for whatever reason, felt an urge to come up and whisper in my ear, “Excuse me, but you are the most beautiful person in this room, and I just thought someone should tell you that,” and promptly walked away! I bent away to gain my personal space back and turned my head to look up at the stranger. The only thing I can recall are my eyes locking onto his and my breath was taken away. Before I could come to my senses and think of a response, he walked away into the busy crowd.

I instinctively chased after him without having any plan with what to do or say when I caught him. Sure enough, I found him around the corner and struck up a conversation.

We talked all night long with our eyes connected and the rest of the world spinning around us. When the end of the night came near, we exchanged emails and agreed to keep in touch. The next morning I woke up with a childish smile on my face, not sure if we would ever see that mysterious person again.

Soon later, we became 21st century pen-pals, using Facebook Messenger as our only mode of contact. We wrote long letters, sharing our passions, career goals, personal lives, and everything in between. I looked forward to his response the second I sent my letter off. Eventually, David offered to come visit over Easter. Nervous as could be, of course I agreed because I needed to know if this perfect romance was real or something I dreamed up in my head. When he came to visit, we went on a “first date” and within 24 hours were madly in love, acting like we were dating for years.

In November 2014, David asked me to spend the rest of my life with him and we were married in March 2016. We relocated to Malibu, are more in love than ever and are excitedly expecting our first baby in July!

Lisa Jo Cohen on how she met Gregg Angell:

Late Sunday afternoon and I am stuck in a stressful, depressing life chapter. The infamous light at the end of the tunnel is hiding. I am a single working mom. My coping skills are failing me daily; for weeks I’ve had tears rolling down my face. I had just had coffee with a friend I knew because she adopted a child who was once a client of mine. We had a “same time next year,” relationship; catching up on life, and how her son was doing over a Starbucks. Ours was a rare and special connection. This year we met “over the hill.” After our visit, the Sunday afternoon market run would include the “new Trader Joe’s.” As funky of a mood I was in, it is difficult to be “over the hill,” and not shop places we can’t access in Malibu. 

I went into the market to grab prepared lunches for tomorrow. The visit with my friend was pleasant, but it’s late Sunday afternoon, almost time to get back to the stress. The tears on my face are now beginning to stink. I fear I smell like dirty mop water. Aimlessly I wander the market aisles. I begin to wonder, “Do I really smell, or is this just an extension of my sour mood?” I realize I am not being productive and decide to get out of the store as soon as possible.  I find the prepared foods in the back corner. There are a few people standing in front of the small area. I waited behind someone standing at a distance from the shelves, but too close for me to insert myself between him and the refrigerated shelving. His shopping cart was jutting out from the side of his body, blocking my access to the food. He eventually looked over his shoulder at me, “I’m sorry, am I in your way?” Being in a relatively foul mood I replied, “Well, you aren’t the only one who needs lunch for tomorrow.” It wasn’t a snotty tone of voice, but it wasn’t a joking one either. He turned and faced me, smiling, “Well let me help you pick something out.” He grabbed a salad off the shelf, “What do you think about this one?” He handed it to me and scanning the ingredients I read that it had 47 grams of fat. “Are you kidding? What are you trying to do to me? This has 47 grams of fat!” I replied.

Typically I am friendly, but not being in a “good place” I was being sassy, if not borderline rude. Well, apparently he was entertained by this, and engaged me in conversation. It was one of those times when conversation came really easy. Right there, in the middle of Trader Joe’s, in front of the prepared foods, we kept talking. Before we knew it 45 minutes had passed. He said his dog was in his car, he needed to finish shopping, but had enjoyed our conversation. “Would you like to continue this?” he said. I was confused. Continue what? Then I noticed he didn’t have a ring on his hand. I responded with something lame and distancing. As the words were coming out of my mouth I thought, “What are you doing? He is really cute, why not continue this?” The lame words had been said. I recalled that during our conversation he shared about having lived in London for two years. I was headed there with my sons in six weeks. Attempting to backtrack my lame response to his question about “wanting to continue this,” I asked if he would be willing to share suggestions of things to do in London that weren’t in the tour books. Smiling, he said “yes.”  

Epilogue: I gave him my work card. He apologized that he didn’t have a card on him. Neither of us had a pen. A couple of weeks went by and he didn’t call. He dropped the ball. There is a part two to this story, but I’m already at 500 words. And this is how we first met. It’s been almost five years and we are very happy. He does the mopping.

Jay Comfort on how she met her husband, Michael Comfort: 

I said to myself proudly and decisively “I’m going to be alone, by myself, for a change”. I needed a break from being in a relationship. I was in the midst of finding myself again, refocusing and self nurturing.

I was a flight attendant, had been away on a trip for a few days, operating my last sector home to Melbourne (Australia). At the time I was exhausted and ill, dreaming about getting home, crawling into my bed to recover. The aircraft was full and I was busily tending to passengers. In the distance I hear a guy sitting in row 1 with an American accent demanding my attention. My first impression was, what an arrogant over confident guy, who does he think he is? He was a Cameraman shooting a story in Australia at the time. Throughout the flight he attempted to make friendly conversation and his consistent stare was unnerving. I was trying not to notice and doing my best to get it together and concentrate on the task at hand. He even asked me for my phone number, I replied a blunt “NO”! A short time later he asked the Fixer (who was part of the production crew), an Aussie, to ask me for my number. He thought the Aussie accent would make a difference. Again it was a blunt “NO”! I was mildly flattered and shyly smiled. We arrived in Melbourne, the passengers disembarked and I remember thinking, did I just miss a wonderful opportunity? I few days passed and this guy who was nameless kept surfacing in my thoughts. I then went away on another trip. On our layover I was having lunch with a friend who had been operating on the previous trip and my phone rang. I answered it and heard an American voice, he introduced himself as Michael. I was perplexed, I was thinking this sounds like the American guy who was on my flight the other day. My friend was sitting across the table with a very cheeky grin, the penny dropped. It turns out as Michael disembarked she had handed him an airline napkin with my name and number scribbled on it. At the time I was a little angry but I guess she was looking out for me, haha. At first I was making conversation with him just to be polite. He kept calling regularly and was very persistent. We eventually caught up in between my trips and his shooting schedule. I realized the connection we had was super comfortable and it was as if we had known one another for years, old mates so to speak. I kept dismissing anything beyond friendship, anything more was impossible and unrealistic, we lived 15,000 miles apart. Long distant relationships are a challenge! My thinking was, he was a friendly contact to have if I ever traveled to the States in the future. Michael flew home to California and kept calling and emailing every single day. Not once a day but 3 or 4 times a day. He was truly determined and passionate about “us”. I was reserved and cautious. A few months later I took some time off work. I had traveled the world but had never been to mainland States but now I had a contact in California and it was on the radar. I had planned to travel and see the sites and on the way through visit my friend Michael. First stop LAX, Michael picked me up, suffice to say that was my only stop. We were on the same page, had the same goals in life, got along famously, this was the beginning of a long distance relationship both of us commuting back and forth. Thank goodness for the airline benefits! Some months later he took me to Chateau Yering a beautiful winery on a historic homestead in the Yarra Valley on the outskirts of Melbourne Australia and very romantically asked me to marry him. At that moment I made the decision to give up my life in Australia. To leave my career, family and friends to start a new life with Michael in California. I was excited for the change, adventure and the future. We were married in an intimate ceremony on the cliff top of the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel and then returned to Chateau Yering in Australia where Michael is proposed for a second ceremony with my family. We have lived in Malibu for 14 years and have 2 beautiful girls. We have built amazing memories and endured hardships. Our love, determination, commitment, friendship and bond has never wavered. I am eternally grateful to Michael for his tenacity and persistence in pursuing me and his belief and faith in us as a team from the very first day we met. 

I love you Michael wholeheartedly.

“Young At Heart, After All”

Pat Shafer Falkner on how she met her husband, Avery Falkner:

The first rays of sun in a worn-out week proclaim a change in the weather. I can feel my spirits lift, my shoulders soften. A Divorce Recovery Workshop in Malibu is on my calendar this fine Thursday evening. I know in my heart it’s time to turn my face to the light after months of social seclusion. It is, after all, Spring, the time of year for fresh starts.

My 15-year marriage had ended, finally and forever, just eight months before and dreams of “happily ever after” had long since faded. The brushstrokes of my new normal were painted in pastel shades of relief and contentment. Long hours at a stressful job filled my days, but after the sun winked out, all I wanted was a juicy novel, a glass of something earthy and red, and the warmth of my two feline companions.

The scribbled reminder on my calendar, Divorce Recovery Workshop, 7 p.m., loomed large. I wasn’t sure I was ready to publicly admit the failure of my marriage. But presumably the others in the group would have stories that mirrored mine. I took a deep breath and headed out. Comfortable sofas and soft lighting welcomed me into a private home on the Pepperdine campus. We were an eclectic group of six scarred souls, buttoned up and tightly wound. But over time, conversations began to flow and my self-consciousness faded into dust. I found myself imagining that life might have more in store than I had thought possible.

I wasn’t there to meet a man, but what was the story on good-looking guy in the black leather jacket perched on the chair to my left? Chatting with him in the kitchen at break-time put a freshly minted smile on my face. His hazel eyes sparkled with intelligence and wit; his face spoke to me of kindness. Definitely, possibly “buddy” material, we agreed. It seemed providential that my new friend lived a short walk down the road from my Point Dume townhouse.

We kissed cheeks at my front door after a weeknight coffee date, and let love come calling. We soon found ourselves holding hands at the movies, whipping up our favorite recipes and swapping stories into the wee hours. His quirky nature and free spirit were a balm to my hurting heart. A winter trip to Florence just months into our friendship gave us a good look at the possibility of a future together. It was cold and the rain pelted down as we dashed along the cobblestone streets. But a steady pulse began to beat between our held hands that took hold and hasn’t let up.   

Seventeen years in, we make our home near the old neighborhood, still walking beaches, holding hands and swapping stories. Still living by the words my husband jotted down on our wedding day: “Young hearts, young at heart, may we always be.”  

Ruth Gomez on how she met her husband, David Gomez:

We met at Dave’s cousin’s wedding on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1976.  This wedding was at the San Fernando Mission in San Fernando, CA, and the reception was at The Alpine House in Sylmar.  We were seated at tables back to back:  I was with the bride’s Physical Therapy work group, and Dave was sitting with his mom and sisters.  Dave’s mom, whom I had met at the bride’s family shower,  introduced us and our first dance was the Polka…both of us surprised the other knew how to dance it.  Our first date was 3 weeks later and 6 weeks after that we bought our first house.  We were married the following Valentine’s Day at Leo Carrillo Beach, on the rocks.  We spend most Valentine’s Days there at some point during the day and this will be our 40th Anniversary.  We still celebrate the anniversary of our first date, March 4, 1976.  In 1996, we built our home in Malibu and still live there where we raised our daughter, Caitlin, and have a vineyard and farm.

Lonnie Gordon (Janis) on how she met her husband, Robert Janis (BJ):

At the time I was 59 years old and had lived and worked in Malibu for 20 years as a personal trainer and Life Coach. On a beautiful morning the week before Christmas, I was walking with my client, who is a well-known psychic, on Westward Beach Road. In the distance we see a runner coming towards us wearing dark shorts, a dark baseball cap, no shirt, and holding a walkie talkie in one hand. He was gorgeous and we both turned to look at each other with an OMG smile on our faces.  She then turns to me as says, “That guy has good energy for you”. 

Well, from a superficial standpoint I certainly agreed. So, I started investigating to find out more. I found out that BJ was a lifeguard at Pt. Dume, and that he knew my son and another friend. They said he was a great guy. My other friend told me he had gone to school at USM (University of Santa Monica) and that he had his Masters in Spiritual Psychology. Well, that was a coincidence, because I had attended USM also. 

About a week passed and during that time I saw him near the life guard headquarters each time I walked with my clients. I couldn’t tell if he would be interested in me or not. I knew he was 7 years younger than I. Then one morning, I distinctly remember the feeling of urgency that I needed to leave to go on my walk at the beach.

I was in such a hurry to go I forgot my hat. That morning the sun was very bright, and I cut my walk short. As I was walking back home on the beach a Life Guard truck was coming my way. The truck stopped and it was BJ. We said hello, as strangers, and he asked me if I had a good walk. I said truthfully that it was just too bright, and then asked him if he had a hat I could borrow. 

He gave me his cap, and drove me down to the Point so I could walk back up to the headlands. I told him about the CD I was listening to and he asked if he could borrow it. I of course said “yes”, and that I would return his hat on my way back. 

I stopped by the Life Guard station on my way home. BJ came outside and we talked for a few minutes. I’m not sure what came over me but I decided to be bold and fearless.  I told him that my son, and friend, knew him and that we had gone to the same school. Then I asked the important questions: “Are you single? And are you available?” I said it! Just like that. Then I invited him to come over for dinner. He invited me to a Christmas party he was going to that evening, and we have been together ever since!! I’m so glad I asked him out. 

Jeff Kletter on how he met his wife, Josie Kletter

In 1993, my doctor made matters simple for me, shape up or die young. At that time, I was in the liquor industry and I was wining, dining and clubbing daily for almost 10 years. With that came many, many, many martinis flowing for everyone around me and I just had to participate, it was my job. I joked that I was living off garnish and thought the Vitamin C from the orange & lemon slices was keeping me healthy.

My exercise routine was like training for a “Perry Como triathlon” – steam, sauna and hot tub. Then the health club I belonged to, hired some new staff/trainers (one of them was striking to me), and heeding the words of my doctor, I found a reason to get healthier and into gym, so I hired the personal trainer to coach me back to health. 

After a few days of workouts, I complained about pain and how sore and stiff I was. I told her I couldn’t do my workout, but asked if she’d go for dinner with me? So chuckled, said NO! then she said “come in and we’ll try some pain relief products”. We tried three different analgesics that you had to rub on; one stained my shirt, two strung my eyes and after washing my hands thoroughly, I went to the restroom, and I will never forget that experience. The products simply didn’t work for me, so the trainer joked, they should make a product especially for me. I didn’t think it as that funny, so I looked into the industry and found an opportunity to fill a need.

Josie (the trainer) had her degree in exercise science and her minor in chemistry. I hired a chemist with 30 years experience to formulate a topical analgesic in a stick (like an underarm deodorant stick), so it didn’t get on your hands. Josie had the chemist add enough actives to make it highly effective but not high enough to be a prescription drug. That was the start of our new business (first product) and life together. 

I ran my first 10K within a month of working out with her and it got very personal (as I wore her down) and I stopped paying for training. 

It has been a wild, crazy, rock and roll journey after 22 years of marriage and business together. We have three wonderful, interesting, strong and kind children that have added to our love.

I found my soulmate and will say it again and again, thank you for being you! Happy Valentine’s Day to my love! I continue to look forward to our life together.

Louis Spirito on how he met his wife, Eugenie Spirito:

It was lunchtime at the gym. I was super-setting pull-downs when my friend, Debbie, showed up with a pretty redhead I’d never seen before. The new girl had on a Bowie T-shirt and running shorts. She was tall and friendly, with a luminous smile. We chatted for a minute then I went back to my weights.

After that, nearly every time I went to the gym, I found Eugenie and Debbie working out together. They always made a point of saying “hi,” taking a break to exchange gym gossip with me. Soon they started inviting me to join them for movies, plays, and other events. Apparently one of my attractive friends was casing me, but I didn’t want to risk messing up two friendships, and so I decided to hold off until my admirer tipped her hand. Before that could happen, my father died, and I went back to New Jersey to be with my family.

I was sorting through my father’s clothes when Eugenie phoned to ask if I was okay. I explained the situation and thanked her for her concern. I had my answer. When I returned home, I took her to a movie: The Big Chill, sans Debbie.

After the show, we stopped by my place to take my Irish setter rescue for a walk. Excited at the prospect of a stroll, Rebel wrapped the leash around us, pressing us close together. It was a “meet cute” moment worthy of a romantic comedy. It ended with a fiery kiss, and another, and...

* * *

We spent the night before our wedding in Venice, gliding down the Grand Canal as strains of Italian love songs echoed off Renaissance palaces.

The following morning, we awoke to a deluge so fierce that the lagoon was all but invisible. We donned our wedding finery and hauled our suitcases to the water taxi that would carry us to the train station.

When we reached Verona, we dragged our waterlogged bags through the pouring rain to City Hall where the clerk peppered me in machine-gun Italian. I had no idea what she was saying, but her frantic gestures were unmistakable: I’d screwed up the paperwork that I’d mailed a month earlier.

“Sit outside,” she told us in broken English. “I need to check with the director.”

As word of our predicament spread, curious civil servants cruised by to inspect I pazzi Americani—the crazy Americans.

“Che bella!” the women cooed, as Eugenie adjusted her veil.

“Madonna mia!” croaked the men, casting lusty glances at my future bride.

Eventually, the clerk and her boss marched us down to Juliet’s Tomb, where the mayor, wearing his red, white, and green sash, pronounced us man and wife.

Glancing at the driving rain and our rumpled raiment, he smiled and prophesied that our union would be a blessed one.

“Spoza bagnata, spoza fortunata,” he said. “A wet bride is a lucky bride.”

Almost 30 years later, his prediction has proven true … especially for this very lucky husband.

Jackie Sutton on how she met her husband, Bob Sutton:

I was an airline stewardess for TWA based in Chicago - my home town when I transferred to Los Angeles in 1952.

Two of my friends were living in an apartment near LAX. I asked them why they weren’t living in a house near the beach! I had read in a magazine about a place named Malibu that sounded so beautiful near the beach. They said that Malibu was too far from the airport and too expensive. I convinced them to take a drive to Malibu to see it. It took us 20 minutes to drive there in 1952 and we found a house to rent for $ 135 a month on the beach at Big Rock.

Our neighbors were two young guys first out of college. Bob Sutton worked in the oil fields for Fluor Corporation up in Taft, CA. Ray worked for SAS, a Swedish airline in Los Angeles. They had parties every weekend.

Ray who worked for SAS, always invited beautiful airline girls from Sweden. Anita Eckberg, a Swedish movie star was invited one week so we went over to the party - there was a note on our door inviting us to the party and there I met Bob Sutton, Ray’s roommate.

As I learned later on, Bob Sutton and Ray Taylor flipped coins for asking Greta and me on a date. Bob said he lost the toss and got me. Lucky him.

TWA was flying international at the time and Bob thought he better ask me to marry him so I would not get too far away. So I accepted but it meant I had to resign because I couldn’t be married at that time and fly for TWA.

We left for Chicago to get married. Bob’s family came in from Minnesota and on June 15, 1957 we were married, honeymoon in Europe thanks to TWA.

We returned to Malibu and lived in my former house. My roommates left except for Greta.  She married Bob’s roommate and left us for Bel Air.

At a party in Malibu we met George Page. He was visiting his niece. He was founder of Mission Pack and an industrial track which he developed - the La Brea Tar Pits are named after George Page.

George Page built his first house in Malibu for his niece. We bought this first house from him on a handshake.

So 60 years later we are still in Malibu, same husband, six children, and 15 grandchildren. Malibu continues to be our gathering place. 

So you should always respond to a note on your door!

Cindy Tilbury on how she met Rick Betts:

It may have been possible for Rick and I to grow up in more diverse worlds, but not likely. With my humble roots in rural Minnesota and Rick’s in Culver City, chances are that we would never have met. As an adult, I was working at IBM, then on big companies’ email servers all over the US and Rick was raising a family in Malibu while running a successful business. As I moved around, my main recreation was playing racquetball, including national tournaments, and all of my friends were tied to the best sport in the world. In 2004, I worked for Dole in Westlake Village and decided I liked living here a lot. I also liked the Spectrum Racquet Club in Canoga Park, and all the players there. Rick also enjoyed racquetball, but hadn’t yet found the thrill of major tournaments, since he was still busy running his business. I may have briefly met Rick back then, but he doesn’t remember it.  

A few years later, Rick visited his daughter at college in Portland and discovered that I was running a national 45+ racquetball tournament that week. He entered the 50+ age group, and had a great time. A few years later, Rick was single and I saw him every month at the biggest events, including pro stops where he was the main sponsor.  He was now close friends with all of my racquetball player buddies at the Spectrum Club.  We started playing Mixed 50s, and then dating long-distance while I lived in Denver. In 2010, he asked me to move in with him.  It felt like coming home.  I am the luckiest woman in the world, as I never thought I would find someone who would even understand my passion for competition—let alone love the same sport! I think he feels lucky too.