It's this simple: Barack Obama brought Jimmie Oliver and Kim Wilson together.
No, they've never met the president. They've only seen him on TV. But without Obama the couple would not be planning to marry June 23 — at a destination resort wedding in the Dominican Republic.
Kim almost didn't go to the party to watch the election returns on Nov. 4, 2008. A third-grade teacher at Curtis Elementary School on Chicago's Far South Side, Kim, 33, had been planning to spend election night at home.
But co-worker Keisha Smith begged Kim — "Please, please, please" — to go with her to an Obama election celebration at the Congress Plaza Hotel. A friend who was supposed to go with Keisha had backed out at the last minute.
"I was going through some personal things, and she (Keisha) thought it would be good for me to get out," Kim says. "And wow, did I have a good time."
Here's why. At the party, Keisha ran into her friend Jimmie, 47, a service tech for Peoples Gas, and introduced Kim. Jimmie bought drinks and, Kim says: "We started talking, communicating, asking questions. 'Are you single?'" Yes, they were. What do you do for a living? "I save lives," Jimmie told her. "Like the fireman — before the fire."
As they stood around chatting and watching the presidential election returns on a nearby screen, "They announced that Barack Obama was elected," Jimmie says.
And in a burst of exuberance, "I tried to get a kiss and a hug out of the moment."
"He was trying to be slick," Kim laughs. "We had just been introduced." He got the hug. No kiss.
Kim recalls great music, lots of laughing and dancing to celebrate Obama's victory, even as the president-elect himself was appearing onstage with his wife and daughters, across Michigan Avenue in Grant Park.
As the party wound down, Kim and Jimmie exchanged phone numbers.
"Then he sent me a text the next day saying, 'I'll never forget the moment I met you.' I liked the text," she says, looking into Jimmie's eyes.
Soon they set up a real first date to hear the Roots at the Vic Theatre with another couple. "My girlfriend said, 'He looked at you that night like you were the only woman in the room.'"
After just that one evening, Kim told another teacher at her school, "I met my husband last night."
"I'm glad she didn't let me know that!" Jimmie joked.
They've been together ever since.
On Jan. 14, 2011, a week before Kim's 32nd birthday, Jimmie reserved a window table at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center.
With the city skyline sparkling beneath them, dessert was served: a diamond engagement ring on a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries with "Congratulations" written in chocolate script on the rim of the plate. Then the server brought the Champagne.
"I started giggling and laughing — full of joy," Kim says.
While she was still taking this all in, Jimmie was on his knee, reading the poem he had written for Kim titled "A New Beginning." In it he spoke of "a new life where two souls become one/ Who knew you'd be my heart, my love, my fun?"
"I just wanted to make a good proposal," Jimmie says. "It worked!"
"He's so romantic," Kim says. As she retells the engagement story, Kim fans herself with her hand, as if to catch her breath all over again.
"We met two years ago at an auspicious event/ A great day in history electing our first black president," Jimmie said in his poem.
"We voted for Obama/ And he voted for us!/ Go figure."
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