Locals share their love stories
Love is in the air (and newspaper) this week because Valentine’s Day is on Friday! To celebrate the season of love, I decided to ask a few folks from the Triad to share some of their love stories! (Warning: All of these stories are adorable, and some have even made yours truly tear up! Didn’t get to share your love story? Tag us in your love story posts on social media this Friday, and we will share them on our pages!)
Sterling Grizzard is from Winston-Salem, and her favorite love story is the one where she met her husband, Alan Grizzard.
“Alan and I met playing Winston-Salem Sports and Social Club adult league kickball. We went for beers before the game at Southside Beer Garden with our team, and I bought him a beer since he had recently been a bit down in his luck. He gave me a quick peck on the cheek. During the game that night, I hurt my leg. I was sitting on the ground, rubbing it, and he came over and offered to help. After all, he reminded me, he is a nurse. We left the game, and I texted him, ‘I thought you were coming over to take care of my leg?’ He was a little surprised but finally responded that he wasn’t there because he didn’t know where I lived. I sent him the address, and he came over to massage and ice my leg while we talked for hours. That will have been two years ago in April. We got engaged on a sailboat last spring and married at the beach this past October.”
Chris and Tiffany Lopez are both from Winston-Salem, and their love story goes all the way back to middle school.
“We met in 1991 on the first day of sixth grade at Atkins Middle School,” Tiffany wrote in an email. “I remember we actually sat across from each other the first half of the school year! We were on the same team throughout middle school, and as the years went by, we became….enemies! In eighth grade, he and his friends found joy in calling me names every chance they got. (He would later admit it was because he liked me!) My friends and I would always retaliate with jabs of our own! Fast forward to junior year of high school, we put our differences aside and became good friends. We talked on the phone all the time, and even went to prom together! To me, he was like a brother/best friend…typically, how one would describe as ‘friend-zoned.’ I’m sure he would have liked to been something more! I specifically remember the summer before college, in our last conversation, he said: ‘Let’s promise to always keep in touch and be friends!’ Then….we never spoke again! One Tuesday afternoon in 2004, my sister and niece were visiting from out of town. She insisted we go shopping at the mall. I reluctantly agreed, and we loaded up and headed to Hanes Mall. As we casually strolled in and out of stores in (what locals call) the ‘old mall,’ I heard from a distance— ‘Hey, Tiffany! Tiffany!’ I looked over and saw Chris with his brother (who was yelling my name). I immediately recognized them and went over to say hi. I had not seen Chris in six years, so I was super excited to see him! He had just recently moved back to town from being active duty in the military. We exchanged numbers and scheduled a day to hang out at the bookstore. Back then, Winston-Salem had at least three big chain bookstores. The day of the bookstore meet up, there was some miscommunication because we both went to different stores! I knew he was leaving for a month-long deployment the next day, so I was so disappointed and thought I had been stood up. The month passed, and he finally called me, and we picked up where we left off! After less than a year of dating, he surprised me with a proposal at C. G. Hill Memorial Park by the huge polar tree. This April, we will celebrate 14 years of marriage! We have four beautiful children and still live here in Winston-Salem! After all these years, it still blows my mind that I married my childhood frenemy! But, I have loved and adored every single moment of our journey together!”
Kernersville’s Christina and Alexander Mizanoski have a love story that she describes as “so silly but so us.” It might be the only story I have heard that ends with a marriage in the High Point jail.
“Basically, we met in Fort Worth, Texas,” Christina said. “I was going through a divorce, and he moved in next door—we literally shared a wall. For weeks, I would tell my mom and friends about this hottie neighbor guy. And then he started coming around, checking his mail on Sundays, talking to my dog, etc. For weeks, I’d tell them how he was way more interested in my dog than in me—I was definitely a little slow to figure out what was going on. Then one night, after unloading my life story on him, he knocked on my door and invited me out for a milkshake. (We’ve still never got the milkshake). But, that conversation led to many nights sitting out on our balcony, drinking tea and just talking. We canceled his lease, and he moved in with me four months later. So, fast forward three years and a job relocation move us to the Triad. My parents come to visit, and he proposes at Grandfather Mountain. We talked about a bigger wedding, but it wasn’t really our style, so we decided to go to the magistrate at the courthouse in High Point. We get there to talk to the magistrate and find out we need two witnesses. We walk back to the front of the courthouse, trying to decide what to do since we’ve only just moved here and literally know no one. Two cops overheard our conversation and agreed to be our witnesses. Back to the magistrate’s office, we go to find that he has left the building for the day. The cops tell us, well, there’s a magistrate in the jail if you guys want to do that. So we did. We got married in the High Point jail, by the jail magistrate, behind plexiglass with cops as our witnesses.”
Ashley and Sergio Gonzalez met each other while working at a restaurant together, and thanks to a prank by a mischevious cousin, they started dating. Ashley said she is from Winston-Salem, and Sergio is from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. “We were both working at Carrabba’s Italian Grill on Stratford. His English was limited, as was my Spanish. I was a single mom at the time, and not looking for a long-term relationship— or really any relationship. However, we kind of liked each other and would exchange smiles and hellos. His cousin was also a manager there at the time and noticed the mild flirting. He then decided to mess with both of us a little bit. His cousin approached me one day, claiming that he was not trying to cause any problems, but he could tell that I liked his cousin. He then proceeded to tell me that Sergio had some quite unpleasant things to say about me and my parenting style. All logic was lost at that point. I stormed into the back where Sergio was prepping food— arms flailing (I am an emotional talker, to begin with)— just yelling and cursing him to the fullest extent. I could see the look of pure terror on his face when I hear his cousin around the corner cackling. I stopped and looked back and forth at both of them—my husband still terrified. His cousin says, ‘I was just messing with you. He actually wants to ask you out.’ Still fuming, I stare daggers at my poor husband and say, ‘Waffle House. After work.’ Then I proceed to curse at his cousin, telling him exactly how I felt about his prank. We were married a year later, on July 27, 2009, and have had three more kids. We will celebrate 11 years of marriage this year!”
Heather Philon said her love story with her husband started when they were both barely 18.
“We met the first week of college; were together by the second [week], persevered through his mother really disliking me, and got married the week after we graduated. I knew after one month together that I was going to marry him. We’ll hit seven years together this coming August. We were barely 18 when we met, so we’ve very much grown up together.”
When Colleen Gambrell-Hyman met her husband, William, sparks flew, and fire crackled through the sky. Or maybe that was just the fireworks display…
“My husband and I met on the 4th of July,” Colleen wrote in an email. “I was not looking for anyone, and neither was he. At the time, I had two daughters, and he had one. He had just received a job offer in Hopewell, Virginia. We began chatting and decided to become a couple. His parents’ health began to become an issue, so he moved back to North Carolina. Two weeks prior to his mother transitioning from earth to heaven, she advised me that I was her son’s soulmate. We married shortly after that. We dated two years, and Nov. 1, 2020, will mark our seventh marriage anniversary. We have been together for nine years with our beautiful, blended family. We have a 30-year-old chef who graduated Culinary Arts, a 25-year-old Navy sailor and a 9-year-old honor roll student. We are blessed, happy and loved! I had given up on love, but God blessed me in a mighty way! I told him I had nine kids, and he would have to be a strong man to handle all of us! He did not believe me but agreed to the terms. I would have run away had I been told that! I love him!”
Miehisa and Alexander Zahorski’s love story is quintessential “love at first sight,” as the couple got engaged within two weeks of meeting each other and then married nine months later! Miehisa attributes finding true love to her faith in a higher power. “I was stationed with Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training,” Miehisa wrote in an email. “I had been single in the Army for 17 years; I was a ‘seasoned’ soldier, and very used to being on my own and independent. I actually started praying that God would give me peace about being single; I was tired of the dating game. I then heard a sermon [that spoke to me and said,] ‘God’s promise is for you to be with someone.’ I changed my prayer and started asking God to send my husband…We met through an online dating site, and we met in person on Dec. 17. He invited me to his apartment the next night for dinner. After dinner that night, I returned home to pack a bag and essentially moved in with him. On Christmas Eve, we headed to Savannah, Georgia, from Fort Bragg, so he could meet some of my family. On Christmas day, I was meeting some of his family in South Carolina. A few days after Christmas, he took me to the mall and told me that he knew he was going to marry me but didn’t know what type of ring to get. He told me to pick out five or six different rings, and when he was ready to ask me, he’d come back and get one of the rings I picked. My mom does a New Year’s dinner every year for the family, so we went down to Camden, South Carolina, and helped her prepare a few dishes the day before. It was also her first time meeting him! We then took off to Myrtle Beach to actually bring in the new year. We had an amazing night, and as we were preparing to check out of our hotel along the beach when he asked me to step out onto the balcony. We were 14 floors up, and the view was amazing. I soon heard a loud buzzing and turned to see an airplane with a banner that said: ‘Miehisa, I Love You Will You Marry Me?’ My guy was on one knee with the ring that I absolutely adored! He had asked and received my mom’s blessing the day before. So, 14 days after we met, we were happily engaged. We were married nine months later and will celebrate eight beautiful years together this year! I know that I was trusting in God’s promise and had built a foundation with the faith that I would be a wife. My husband is absolutely amazing. We have an amazing marriage, and I am humbled by that and thank God every single day.”
Kayla Lisenby-Denson said their love story is unique because not only did they find and fall in love with their wife, April—they also found and fell in love with themself.
“I’ve been married to my incredible wife for just over three months now, and it’s been over two years since she proposed – yet I still sometimes find myself a little surprised that I have this incredible story to tell,” Kayla wrote in a Facebook message. “I was, for as long as I have known and until pretty much the night I was proposed to, the last person I imagined to have this story to tell. And if you told me 20 or 15 or 10 or five years ago that this would be my story, I wouldn’t have believed you. Especially if you were talking to me eight-plus years ago…See, what most people, and especially most people who have been part of my Winston-Salem life chapter don’t know is, I haven’t always been the fantastically and proudly queer individual who has built a career supporting, educating, and trying to create space for LGBTQ+ folks in higher education. Before my 20s, I had zero clues I was queer. In my pre-college context, there really was no narrative of queer experience for me to try on, so I just felt different and out of place. In college, I built a relationship with an incredible mentor and now friend, who I joke basically drug me out of a closet I didn’t even realize existed. But now things are quite different—my queerness carries a salience that surpasses a sense of shared community. For me, queerness holds answers to questions I never knew to ask. Queerness is connection and community. Queerness is power. Queerness is work (quite literally when you work in an LGBTQ+ Center), and it’s play. Queerness is family. And my love story today is not only the story of the love I share with my wife but my love story with queerness. And the amazing love story I share with my wife is, to me, queerness embodied. Yes, it’s the fact that we are two people with the same legal sex who are legally tied to one another through the bonds of marriage, but it’s embodied in so many bolder, broader ways. It’s how I moved to Winston-Salem specifically to work at the Wake Forest University LGBTQ+ Center and ended up swiping right on my now-wife within the first week or so of living here. It’s how our relationship flourished despite the ‘Yeah, I’m definitely not looking for a relationship right now’ and ‘Nah, I’m not big on sleeping over anyway.’ Queerness is embodied in the circumstances of our first ‘I love you.’ It shows up when we argue over who has to deal with the spider or the bug or the mouse in the house (we actually have developed quite a detailed taxonomy for addressing gross or scary situations). The beauty of queerness was personified when, in the middle of the night at Creating Change (a national LGBTQ+ organizing conference), after a day full of intensity, chaos and laughter, I looked over to see my love on one knee holding out the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. It’s also queerness embodied when we argue and struggle to work through our challenges—challenges that are continuously informed by and impacted by our individual attempts to navigate structures not built for us. It shows up when the most consistent advice we get around growing our family through raising kids is ‘you’re never ready, you just get ready when it happens’ (not exactly a lot of options for surprise for us). It was embodied the day I was asked not to send my grandmother a wedding invitation, and as I watched my wife dance with her mom at our wedding, both with tears streaming in memory of their husband and father who passed shortly after our engagement. Queerness was embodied on Nov. 2, 2019, just off 4th Street in Downtown Winston-Salem when we stood in front of family and friends and joined our lives together. It was in the words of Justice Kennedy read aloud by our 15-year-old nephew during the ceremony: ‘No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.’ And in our vows, when I thanked our ancestors who lived their truth and fought for change so that we could stand there, and especially when I offered to always take care of the spiders even if I laugh at her reaction. Queerness was visible when we kissed one another as a married couple, with our crowd raising rainbow flags with their cheers of celebration. And queerness is embodied every single day as we craft our lives together.”
Love wins! Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at YES! Weekly.
Katie Murawski is the editor-in-chief of YES! Weekly. Her alter egos include The Grimberlyn Reaper, skater/public relations board chair for Greensboro Roller Derby, and Roy Fahrenheit, drag entertainer and self-proclaimed King of Glamp.