When Eric Hartlieb decided to propose to Janice Jensen, he crafted an elaborate plan that would be the romantic memory of a lifetime.
Eric, 26, took Janice, also 26, to Nags Head, N.C., in the summer of 1996. With the sun just beginning to set, the couple went out to the beach to sip champagne and mark the end of a relaxing day. Buried in the sand nearby lay a small treasure chest. After he helped her "discover" the chest, Eric pulled a ring box from beneath a pile of gaudy plastic Mardi Gras jewelry that actually belonged to Janice. Then he got down on one knee, told her how very much she meant to him and proposed.
Janice happily answered "yes" and the couple returned to their blanket to toast their engagement. As they chatted, Eric remarked how nice it would be to have a videotape of this magical moment in their lives -- and then pointed across the sand to the video camera perched on a nearby dune that had captured it all.
It was "the most well-thought-out, romantic and sweetest proposal," Janice says.
As romantic as the episode was, it wasn't a bit out of the ordinary for the couple, who became best friends soon after they met 13 years ago as freshmen at Centennial High School in Ellicott City.
In love for seven years, they still mark the monthly anniversaries of their first date -- March 9, 1991. Sometimes it's as simple as a greeting and a kiss, other times it's a candle-lighted cookout on the deck of their White Marsh home, or a night on the town.
Janice uses words like "soul mate," "gorgeous" and "caring" when describing Eric. He so routinely calls her "honey" that "I know I'm in trouble when he calls me Janice," she says with a laugh.
One of their cats is named E. J. -- after Eric and Janice. A brick at the Baltimore Zoo also bears their names -- a Christmas present from Janice to Eric one year. It reminds them every time they visit the zoo of their enduring love.
Ever since they realized they were "meant for each other," they have purchased a dated Christmas ornament with their names and their pets' names on it. On each Mother's Day, Eric gives Janice a gift from himself and their four-footed "kids" -- eagerly anticipating the day he can add the names of the children they plan to have to the card, he says.
Eric, a production inventory control analyst for the Sherwin-Williams paint company, calls Janice each morning after gets to work to wake her. And every afternoon, Janice, a junior account executive for media relations at Bonnie Heneson Communications, calls to make sure Eric has returned home safely.
Romance is the hallmark of their relationship and they don't expect that to change. "You always have to work at it and make time to do those kinds of things for each other," Janice explains as Eric agrees.
On May 9, the couple were married at St. John's United Church of Christ in Catonsville -- a daylight ceremony that was candle-lighted "for the ambience," Janice says. Their parents, Ken and Nancy Jensen of Ellicott City and Ron Hartlieb of Eldersburg and Elva Hartlieb of Overlea, were among those looking on.
Near the end of the service, Janice and Eric each surprised their new mother-in-law with a beautiful bouquet of lavender tulips to honor them at Mother's Day and to thank them for the best and most romantic gift they've ever been given: each other.
Pub Date: 5/17/98