From Pazzo’s to Where’s Waldo, finding love in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

From Pazzo’s to Where’s Waldo, finding love in Eagle County

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Franny Gustafson and Paul Previtali.
Special to the Daily |

Love lives! We had nearly two dozen submissions for our Tell Us Your Love Story contest this year. While we’ll reveal the winners on Valentine’s Day, here are some of our other favorite submissions to get you in the mood.

FINDING PAUL

Do you remember “Where’s Waldo” from your childhood? I owned almost every book and would spend hours poring over the pages with my brothers, trying to spot the guy with the stripy shirt and glasses. Little did I know that 20 years later, Waldo would be the reason I fell in love.

I’ve worked at The Bookworm of Edwards for almost four years, managing the children’s department. During my first summer at The Bookworm, “Where’s Waldo” was about to turn 25. We decided to join a national campaign that encouraged indie bookstores across the country to hold a community scavenger hunt in their town. The whole idea is that a 5-inch Waldo cutout would hide at local businesses and families could visit each shop to find him. This sounded like a lot of fun to me, and I was in charge of explaining the concept to Riverwalk businesses and getting them onboard. I remember walking into the local bike shop to explain the Waldo scavenger hunt and I immediately noticed Paul (who I began to refer to as the “cute, long-haired bike shop boy”). He was so enthusiastic about the Waldo hunt and super happy to be involved. We talked, we flirted a bit and we said goodbye. Over the next month and a half, I found as many excuses as I could to visit the bike shop. My co-workers would just roll their eyes as I said, “I think the bike shop may need more Waldo materials. … I’m going to go check.” Every time Paul and I saw each other, we had longer conversations. But he still didn’t ask me out! I was starting to lose hope but in a last ditch effort, I made one more visit to the bike shop. I made up a story about needing a bike light and Paul helped me pick one out. And then … success! He sheepishly asked for my number so we could plan a hike or bike ride together. From that day forward, Paul and I began spending time together and quickly fell in love.

We have been together for nearly three years. Paul has continued to follow his passion by opening High Gear Cyclery in Avon and I’m still loving my job at The Bookworm. The original Waldo cutout lives on our shelf to this day. Every summer, The Bookworm hosts the same Waldo scavenger hunt and Paul and I celebrate the fact that we may never have met without that guy in the stripy shirt and glasses. While searching for Waldo, we both found something so much better: love!

— Franny Gustafson and Paul Previtali, Edwards

LSU GAME LEADS TO LOVE

Louisiana circa 1981. I met Melissa in the fourth grade. We were friends throughout high school, but it wasn’t until I saw her almost 20 years after graduation that we fell in love. LSU was playing Ohio State in the 2008 BCS Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. I ran into her during halftime and spent all of the third and most of the fourth quarter talking to her. LSU won. We exchanged numbers and emails and the next day I boarded a plane to head back to Denver.

A few weeks later, an email chain began to circulate among a dozen or so classmates chiefly to discuss plans for an upcoming class reunion. Eventually the chain took a turn and someone posted a recent news article in the local paper about exercise classes that featured stripper poles. Melissa made a funny comment. I made an even funnier comment (at least that’s how I remember it). And our conversation picked up where we left off at the Dome.

We spent the next 18 months in a long-distance relationship. She is the mother of two wonderful boys, so she was not able to uproot them to move to Colorado. I was single with no children so I began looking for a job in our hometown of Houma. I found a position with the National Wildlife Federation as a community organizer advocating for coastal restoration, packed up a truck and left the mountains of Colorado for the bayous of Louisiana. We were married on June 27, 2009, and spent our honeymoon in Napa Valley and San Francisco (where we witnessed Jonathan Sanchez pitch an almost perfect game). On May 27, 2011, we welcomed our baby boy Manning to the family.

I am now senior planner for my community and Melissa is a high school counselor. We get back to Eagle Valley several times a year and see about 10-15 days at either Beaver Creek or Vail Mountain. We have enjoyed watching Edwards grow over the last 10 years that our family has had a house in the area and our boys make regular pilgrimages to the Edwards skate park and recreation center when we come out. I am pleased to announce that Manning will be making his first turns at the tender age of 3 when we come out for Mardi Gras this year. All hail BC cookies.

— Chris and Melissa Pulaski, Houma, Louisiana

THE ‘OLD MARRIED COUPLE’

It all began in the lobby of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. On my first day working there, he saw me in my vision of polyester hotel uniform and elbowed the bellman standing next to him. “I’m going to marry that girl” he smugly commented, not having met me yet. He let me get over my recent heartbreak, then quickly wooed the girl he couldn’t let get away.

From our first date at Piney Lake with fishing poles and a picnic lunch to a snowy first kiss on a pirate ship playground, we knew fate had brought us together. Now almost 10 years later, we have survived home remodeling, a German exchange student for a school year and career changes to finally find our dream jobs (he as a Vail Police Officer, me with Roundup River Ranch and a side gig with the Girl Scouts). Fairy tales are never as easy as they seem, but somehow we have found a way to be the “old married couple” all of our friends aspire to replicate. They say everything happens for a reason and we firmly believe that love will find a way into your heart when you are willing to let it in.

— Sarah and Randy Braucht, Eagle

A COLORADO SOUVENIR

When people ask me what brought me to Vail, I always take a moment to find the right words. Do I tell them a baby brought me out here? That always calls for more explaining, so let me explain. Jeff and I had known each other since we were in high school. He was the sweet boy with the kind smile, and I was the sassy girl with the loud mouth. Our relationship wasn’t that serious, but I never forgot him and wondered many times how he was doing since I last saw him.

Enter social media, 16 years later. We would keep up with each other, like old acquaintances do, and I always smiled at his thoughts or pictures. Jeff had the warmest spirit and never had a negative thing to say about anything or anyone. We finally reconnected privately and would discuss things like, “What have you been doing for almost 20 years?” We never ran out of things to talk about, and we would spend hours on the phone each night. I was teaching first grade, and he had just moved back to Vail. This place, he said, was where he felt connected. The mountains, the air, the snow, they made him feel closer to God. I was curious, but I was also wrapped up in my own little world writing lesson plans every night.

Once real feelings started to develop, I told him this was too hard, that he was too far away. He came home that month and we spent a week together. It was perfect. I knew I was going to give him my heart, and I knew he was going to keep it safe for me. We talked about children. He was extremely open, as was I. We were both in our 30s and anxious to start a family. Months went by without him, and I was lonely. I started to reconsider our long-distance relationship. Spring break was coming, and he offered to fly me to Vail. “Absolutely,” I said!

While I was there, we made a decision to try and get pregnant. We scoffed at it happening so soon, but we still tried. Guess what? I brought home a pretty amazing souvenir and her name is Cecelia Graves. She’s 14 months old, and she is our world. I’ve been in Vail for almost two years, and this Mississippi girl is still adjusting! We didn’t do things the traditional route, instead, we jumped in head first. But when you have found a home for your heart, you don’t need to just stick your toes in.

Now we’re engaged to be married in April.

— Marilyn Noble and Jeff Graves, Avon

A CAPPUCCINO PROPOSAL

Although we don’t live in Eagle County, Vail has been a big part of our love story and continues to hold a special place in our hearts. We’re originally from Illinois, the suburbs north of Chicago, where we both attended the same high school and graduated in 1984. Although we should have bumped into each other repeatedly over the years, we didn’t meet until 2008, when we were in our 40s, both of us still single and unlucky in love. Matt had been living in Denver for about 10 years and was home for Thanksgiving. I was living in downtown Chicago and had come up to the suburbs to a friend’s bar to see a band. That friend knew both of us from high school, and, as married friends often like to do, introduced the only two single people in the place.

My first question to Matt was, “So where do you live?” When he told me Denver, I was disappointed that he wasn’t local, so all I could think of to say was, “Well do you ski?” To which he replied that he skis 50 days a year. I thought that was pretty hot! The conversation continued, he said his favorite place to ski is Vail, and I had just had a trip there for my 40th birthday. We talked all night, mostly about skiing!

Matt came back to Chicago for Christmas, and we had our first official date. I think we both knew that this had real potential. I quickly developed a plan for a ski trip to Vail for February, and that began a two-year, long-distance relationship. We wanted to be together all the time, so I decided to leave Chicago and move West, arriving in Denver in November, 2010. My birthday is in early February, and Matt booked us a room at the Cascade (Resort) in Vail. That Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, it was dumping snow, Vail got like 2 feet and it was a complete white out. Matt had planned to propose at the overlook of Holy Cross from Game Creek Bowl but you could not see anything. So he faked a binding issue in the trees off of Cappuccino, and dropped down on his knee and proposed. This picture is from right then and there, where he mounted the camera on a tree to capture our happy moment.

— Matt and Reine Erzinger, Denver

‘SOMETHING IN THE CRUST’

I can remember the first time I saw Scott. I had moved to Vail the month before and gotten a job at Pazzo’s in the Village. It was late October and Scott had just returned from his off season travels and was back behind the pizza bar for his first shift of the winter. I had already fallen for this beautiful place and met lots of nice people, but Scott had me in that tongue-tied, stupefied, embarrassing befuddlement that you can only attribute to love.

He had been in Vail long enough to be a little careful around over-excited, first season folks. But between working together and exploring the mountain with him and his friends, I somehow won him over.

We worked at Pazzo’s for another year and while we have gone on to other jobs, had the rehearsal dinner for our wedding there and now like to bring our 1-year-old baby by for a slice. We come from a long line of love stories that started at the Pazzo’s pizza bar — must be something in the crust.

— Kari and Scott Mohr, East Vail

HAPPY ENGAGEMENT!

Christopher and I were introduced in college by mutual friends. I remember the minute we met; I knew we would be together forever. We spent every moment together, friends wondered if we would ever run out of things to talk about. We both had plans to be overseas the semester after we met and we decided to stay together long distance. After college we moved out here to work at Beaver Creek and ended up staying for a while.

After a few years out here, Chris decided he wanted to pursue his career back east. I knew I wanted to stay in Colorado, and more importantly that Chris really did too. They say if you love something you should let it go, so I supported Chris as he chased his dreams back in Baltimore. We decided to take a break while we each worked on ourselves. Thankfully Christopher came to his senses after two years and moved back out to Colorado. We decided to take the opportunity to date again and focus on valuing each other. Of course we decided to get back together. We had one more period of long distance while I was finishing grad school in Fort Collins, which was made easier by lots of visits. We are finally in the same place for the foreseeable future and have moved in together with our cute puppy dog, Kelly; the pack is together in one place. In November, Christopher took me for a hike along the Colorado River on a beautiful sunny day. We were enjoying one of my favorite places, Windy Point near State Bridge, when Chris disappeared for a minute. I walked up the bank to find him and found “Will You Marry Me?” written in the snow. Chris was there on one knee with a champagne toast. Of course I said yes! And eight years later, we both know we will be together forever.

— Jessica Foulis and Christopher Whitney, Avon

SUE, NOT KENNY

Fifteen years ago, I was a full-time instructor at Breckenridge taking the Colorado Super Chair to ski to the locker room at the end of a very snowy day. A lady in a bright orange jacket with the hood covering her head was on the chair next to me. Between the blizzard and the woman’s hood and goggles all I could think of was, ‘Looks like Kenny from South Park.’

In the time it took to ride the lift (probably half as long as the Centennial Lift) I found out that this lady was an innkeeper at a chalet run by a British tour company. Without the slightest clue as to what she looked like, I invited her to a ski school “Safety Meeting” (aka beer drinking/gossip fest!) We clicked, went out to dinner and have been happily married for the past 10 years. I got Sue a job teaching kids at Breck. We both now teach full-time at Beaver Creek; it’s my 21st year with Vail Resorts and Sue’s 16th.

— Randy Pelton and Sue Rogers, Edwards



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