Out of touch, a chance meeting


Stephani Realo and Will Dickson Jr. met in Baltimore and had their first date in London. The couple spent a few years as pen pals while Will's career took him around the world. Then they fell out of touch, only to reunite eight years later, when they ran into one another by chance in a Fells Point bar.

In 1988, Stephani, who had grown up in Hunt Valley, was a student at Goucher College. She also worked part time in a local music store. Will, raised in Timonium, was home on Christmas leave from the Army. He was stationed in Germany.

Will stopped at the music store to buy something by the British pop group Level 42. Stephani was also a fan, and she and Will struck up a conversation. When Will found out that Stephani would be spending January in London (as part of her studies), he invited her to a Level 42 concert there.

The new friends had a great time in London. Will soon had to return to base, however. And at the end of the month, Stephani came back to Baltimore.

She and Will corresponded for two years, as friends. Will came home at one point and he and Stephani went on a few dates. But she was soon to graduate from college, and he was shipping out for a two-year Army stint in the Mojave Desert.

The couple lost touch and went on with their lives. Will continued in the Army, but then left to become a pilot for Continental Airlines. Stephani worked, started medical school and eventually married.

In October 1998, Stephani and her husband separated. The Saturday he moved out, friends took Stephani to Fells Point to cheer her up.

Standing in a crowded bar, "I literally got shoved into Will," Stephani says. "He turned his head, I recognized him and he actually remembered me."

Will says he was excited to see Stephani after such a long time. They talked, and as he and his friends were leaving, he gave Stephani his number and urged her to call. Two days later, when he hadn't heard from her, he showed up at her door.

Stephani, 31, and Will, 38, renewed their friendship and eventually began dating. She initially worried that Will's flying schedule with the airline and the Air National Guard might prevent the couple from having a "normal" relationship. Her fears were unfounded, though. When Will served an extended tour in Guam for the Air National Guard, he made the 24-hour flight home at least once a month to see her.

By the time Will's tour ended, he and Stephani had decided to move to Phoenix, Ariz. Last June, as they flew to Phoenix to go house-hunting, Will surprised her by proposing over the airplane's public-address system.

The couple celebrated by toasting with a bottle of champagne Will bought in England when he and Stephani had been there all those years before. He had saved it, he says, because he was "waiting for a special occasion."

Just before they left Baltimore for Phoenix last September, the couple married in a brief ceremony at the Baltimore courthouse. But they didn't exchange wedding bands until last month.

On April 21, the couple wed once more in a scenic location outside the National Aquarium in Baltimore. After the ceremony, family and friends adjourned for a reception inside the aquarium, mingling among the fish tanks. The party location was inspired by Stephani and Will's trip last May to Hawaii, Australia and Micronesia.

In keeping with the international flavor that has marked their relationship, the couple spent their honeymoon in Italy.

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