From reunions comes a union


They were two wallflowers who barely noticed one another in their self-conscious adolescence at a Hamilton parochial school. "I remember Chris as a shy, wilting flower, and I was very shy myself and not interested in girls," says John Hergenroeder teasingly to his wife-to-be just before their May 1 wedding.

In truth, they both had crushes - from afar - on other classmates who never knew they were the subject of such longing, says Chris Barry with a laugh. Even after Chris, 57, and John, 58, became reacquainted at the reunions he helped organize for St. Dominic's eighth-grade class of 1954, sparks didn't fly for many years.

In 1974, John called Chris - along with the other 93 class members - to invite her to the 20-year reunion. In 1979 and 1984, he made the same round of calls for the 25-year and 30-year reunions. When he called in 1989 for the 35-year reunion, Chris and John spoke extensively on the phone, but never found time to talk at the reunion.

By the year of the 40-year reunion - 1994 - they both had moved from the old neighborhood in Hamilton. Chris was the successful owner of the Plaza Modeling & Talent Agency and director of the Baltimore Academy of Acting & Modeling - a single woman who dated often, but was too busy to worry about marriage, she says.

John, divorced, was working as an industrial engineer at a local firm and trying to keep up with the activities of his children, Marisa Watterud, now 28 and who served as a lector at the wedding, and Gregory, now 32, who was a groomsman.

In June 1994, Chris called John and asked him to drive her to the reunion, a crab feast on the Severn River. They lived just five minutes from each other in Towson by then and driving together seemed the practical thing to do, she says.

Not planning on attending the gathering, John said no, but later changed his mind. They had a pleasant dinner in Annapolis on the way home that evening, but didn't see each other again until October, when Chris asked John to accompany her to the Paint and Powder Club's annual fall outing. (She is one of the charter female members of the century-old social club and theater group.)

John escorted Chris to a few more Paint and Powder functions, but it wasn't until they went to see an opera in New York the following March - "Elixir of Love," ironically enough - that the sparks finally ignited. Still, there was a breakup in September 1997 "because the relationship wasn't going anywhere, to put it bluntly," Chris says.

With prodding from Marisa (she talked to Chris and reported her findings back to her dad), Chris and John got back together in October and a few weeks later, he proposed.

After their Friday-night wedding at the Immaculate Conception Church in Towson, the couple celebrated with 135 guests at the Baltimore Country Club in Roland Park.

Their first dance, a Viennese waltz, was a symbol of their traditional courtship, they say, and just a taste of the delayed honeymoon they've planned. As the new year comes in, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Hergenroeder expect to be waltzing blissfully in each other's arms in a crystal-chandeliered and gilt-trimmed ballroom in Vienna - a romantic fantasy they said they each held dear long before love ever bloomed between them.

Pub Date: 5/10/98

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