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Cupid hit on Valentine's Day; LAUREN MARTIN AND TASO PANTOULIS


Lauren Martin and Anastasios "Taso" Pantoulis met when they were 16 years old. It was Valentine's Day 1989.

Lauren and her best friend were standing on the parking lot of Notre Dame Preparatory School, where they were students. Taso, a student at Calvert Hall College, had come to Notre Dame with the boyfriend of Lauren's best friend.

It was love at first sight for Lauren and Taso. The two teen-agers began dating and soon were inseparable. They went ice-skating -- Taso was a high school ice hockey star -- and walked around the Inner Harbor. They double-dated with friends and went to high school parties. And they celebrated the big occasions in their lives, such as proms and Lauren's high school graduation. (Though they were born the same year, Taso's birth date put him a year behind Lauren in school.)

Lauren was halfway through her freshman year at St. Mary's College of Maryland when the relationship began to falter. Distance, a lack of time to see each other, and the differences between high school and college proved too big a gulf.

There was never any big, ugly breakup, the couple agree. But the phone calls became fewer and further apart and by the time Lauren returned home for the winter break, the relationship had pretty much ended.

Still, the couple who'd met by accident kept having chance encounters with one another. On an almost regular basis, Lauren and Taso would bump into each other at the annual Calvert Hall-Loyola College football classic and at the HFStival, a yearly summer concert sponsored by WHFS radio station.

"It was awkward each time," Taso remembers.

"We knew we had never gotten over each other and so it was hard for us to even look each other in the eye," agrees Lauren.

In the fall of 1993, Lauren went on a trip to Europe during her senior year at St. Mary's. On that trip she realized the depth of their connection.

"Taso was one of the first people I sent a postcard to," she says. "I learned then that he was the one person I had not gotten out of my head."

Taso was in his junior year at Hampden-Sydney College in 1993. That December, he asked Lauren to accompany him to his fraternity's Christmas formal dance. She accepted and they went, as they had gone to so many dances before.

"That was it," Lauren recalls. "There was no turning back at that point. From that first time we were back together, we knew we were meant to be together for good."

Taso proposed on Dec. 5, 1997, in the middle of the ice-skating rink at Rash Field. Afterward, the couple walked around the Inner Harbor and then went to Little Italy for dinner. Unbeknown to Lauren, their families were waiting -- jubilantly -- at the restaurant.

"I don't think anyone was surprised when we got back together," Lauren says. Her dad used to ask about Taso every once in a while, long after the couple had separated. And Taso's mom had warned a girlfriend of his, "You have to be careful. Lauren's still out there."

On Jan. 2, Lauren, the network development coordinator for the Shepherd Pratt Health Plan, and Taso, an operations/human resource manager for the Hartford Insurance Group, were married at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Baltimore.

Wanda "Pauline" Martin was both mother of the bride and matron of honor -- which made it doubly difficult for her to maintain her composure, says Lauren's father, Thomas Martin. The Martins live in Ellicott City.

The bridesmaids included Taso's sister, Maria Morris. Taso's godfather, Harry Repas, was the best man. The groomsmen included Taso's brother, Robert Pantoulis, and Lauren's brothers, Christopher, Bradley and Keith Martin.

Taso's parents, Nicholas and Nancy Pantoulis of Cub Hill, and his grandfather, Harry Pantoulis of Baltimore, also were present. Taso's simple gold wedding band had belonged to the older gentleman.

Lauren and Taso say theirs is an "old-fashioned" sort of love story, deepened by their shared history.

"It's nice that we have so many stories we share together," explains Lauren. "We've seen all sides of each other."

Pub Date: 01/17/99

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