Going for laughs, and a life together



It was one of the last hurrahs of the summer of 1993 when Beth Dennenberg and John Oertel Jr. struck up a conversation at a friend's party. The two -- who had never met before that night despite their longtime mutual friendship with the party's host -- joked and laughed that weekend after Labor Day about another summer gone by.

Under the teasing, however, was a serious tone. They were both in their 20s, with their high school and college days behind them. In their hearts, Beth and John knew the partying couldn't last forever.

And so when Beth started telling her new acquaintance how fed up she was with the dating scene, and even more specifically, what kind of man she wanted to share her life with, John didn't run from the room. Instead, he jumped at the challenge Beth appeared to be laying out for him.

"I remember telling him, 'I want someone who's educated' and he said, 'Well, I'm getting my master's,' " Beth recalls. "And I said, 'Well, I want someone who has a steady job,' and he said, 'I do. I run my own company.' And I said, 'Well, I want someone who can treat me special and do fun things like go skiing,' and John said, 'I love to ski.' "

Though she was impressed with his quick responses, Beth wasn't going to make it easy for John to woo her. They talked for the rest of the evening and as she was leaving she told him if he really did want to see her again, she was sure he could find out her phone number without her telling him.

John called Beth soon after. But when she had to cancel their first date because she had sprained both of her ankles, John was sure it was an excuse. "I figured this was a new story I could chalk up in my book," John says with a chuckle.

When they finally went on their first date -- dinner at the Manor Tavern in Monkton -- the evening went so well that "after that, I don't think we were ever apart for a very long time," Beth says quietly.

Independent thinkers who have a penchant for snappy repartee and share a love of harmless practical jokes -- especially when played on one another -- Beth and John appear made for each other.

Even so, when they moved into an apartment together in early 1995, Beth was a little apprehensive because the couple was not engaged. But John knew then that the move -- which he pointed out allowed them to see each other more -- was a prelude to marriage.

John typically works well beyond a 40-hour week as vice president of Oertel-Engles Inc., an Ellicott City-based general contracting company his father helped found. The elder Oertel bought out his partner with the plan that John will eventually take over the family business.

In August 1995, John purchased a townhouse in Timonium -- after first getting Beth's approval because the house would be the home they would share.

It was a hectic time for the couple. John was busy at work and taking master of business administration classes at Loyola College. Beth was teaching elementary school and finishing her master's degree in educational technology at Johns Hopkins University. She knew she no longer wanted to teach school, however, and as soon as she earned her degree and the school year ended in 1996, Beth resigned to seek a position as a corporate trainer.

Beth has since become the regional training specialist for a Prince George's County company. Shortly after John proposed -- on his birthday, June 16, 1997 -- Beth's career changed again. Instead of having her work primarily in Washington, as it had in the past, her company now regularly sends Beth to handle on-site training across the country and around the world. She is usually gone one to two weeks out of every month.

And though it's meant another adjustment for the couple -- "I've learned to do the dishes," John quips -- it's one they've managed to make together.

On Feb. 6, John, 30, and Beth, 29, were married at the Cloisters in Baltimore. John's parents, Beverly and John Oertel Sr. of Towson, walked with him down the aisle. Beth was also escorted by her parents, Harvey Dennenberg of Lutherville and Barbara Dennenberg of Towson.

Beth's sister, Leslie deRosset, served as matron of honor and John's sister, Elizabeth Oertel, was also an attendant. John's brother, Joseph Oertel, was best man and Beth's brother, David Dennenberg, was the only usher. Beth and John were married by a Unitarian minister in a ceremony they wrote themselves (she is Jewish and he is Catholic).

The couple saved their practical jokes for their wedding reception. The 100 guests laughed loudly when they saw the wedding favor: commemorative whoopee cushions bearing the sentiment: "Whoopee for Beth and John!"

Pub Date: 02/14/99

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