The North Bend Eagle


The Spark can strike many different ways

Locals share stories of how they met their Valentine

by Stephani Iwan Flamme
Published 2/10/16

Before becoming Valentines, the couple, of course, needs to meet. Living in a cyber world, it’s quite easy to go online now and find a soul mate. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Proposal napkinThis napkin played a key role in beginning the dating relationship between Jason and Jenna Saalfeld, and ending it (in marriage).

Sixty years ago Gene Emanuel and Veronica Meister met at a dance in Howells. Being from North Bend, he was introduced to Howells native Veronica by a mutual friend. However, it wasn’t love at first sight.

“Gene dated my friend and took her out first,” Veronica said.

Big bands played every Sunday night and that’s what everyone did. Everyone would dance with each other and eventually Gene and Veronica began dating.

“We didn’t date very long when I knew she was the one,” Gene said.

After breaking his neck playing baseball, Gene was in the hospital for three weeks.

“Veronica was the only girl who came to see me,” he said.

But Veronica was quick to point out that she had gone to visit the mending ball player with her brother.

On Veronica’s birthday, before Gene left for Korea, he asked her if she would wait for him to come back from the war.

When he returned, the Emanuels were married on Jan. 27, 1953.
Their 63 years of marriage have made them experts on being life-long Valentines.

“It takes a lot of prayer and tolerance along the way,” Gene said.

Veronica added that their faith was a good part of their longevity.

Faith was also an important element for Broc and Ashley (Baumert) Blanchard. Even though they grew up together in North Bend, they didn’t make their connection until high school.

“I am always surprised to see how many times we were pictured together in grade school and high school,” Ashley said.

The two enjoyed the same group of friends and became best friends.

“I wanted to wear his football jersey for homecoming but didn’t want to ask him, so I had Jamie Emanuel do it for me,” Ashley said.

Eventually in the school cafeteria, Ashley asked Broc out.

After Brock left for college in Lincoln, they actually broke up for a while. It was obvious that Ashley was a take-charge kind of girlfriend. When asked by Broc’s fraternity brother if they were dating, she replied that they were and thus ended up back together.

On a later visit by Ashley after going out for dinner, Broc suggested that they visit a priest about him converting to Catholicism.

“We went to the church not knowing if it was open,” Broc said. “I said let’s go find Father and we entered the church, walked down the aisle, and when we got to the altar, I got down on one knee and proposed.”

Being high school sweethearts can let couples grow together with a mutual history but it also can present challenges.

For Jason and Kara Hellbusch, their high school romance was rather one-sided.
The Hellbusches met at Teen Night in Fullerton. Kara Egger would come with her best friends from neighboring Silver Creek to cruise the main.

“Basically we went driving around looking for boys,” Kara said. “My best friend was dating Jason’s best friend and when I saw him, I immediately had a crush on him.”

Kara explained that Jason was so good looking especially the way he wore his cap sideways and the way he dressed.

“However, he didn’t want to have anything to do with me,” Kara said.

Thus began her campaign to accidently meet up with Jason by going everywhere she thought he would be.

“I could pick him out in a crowd no matter how many hundreds of people would be there,” she said.

Finally, they were able to make a connection when he came to Silver Creek with his friend. Kara had a date that night with someone else, but when the opportunity presented itself to go out with Jason, she stood the guy up and took her chance.

They have been married for nearly 12 years.

“When you start dating at 16, you go through a lot of levels of life, so you don’t ever give up what you start,” Kara said.

“It’s a learning process,” Jason said. “If everyone gave up when times got tough, no one would stay married.”

Taking advantage of opportunities is exactly what Jason and Jenna Saalfeld did when they first met.

Following a Black Friday shopping trip with her mother, Jenna Faltin found herself at the Bottom Road Bar in Morse Bluff watching Nebraska play Colorado for the last time.

Her mom asked her what kind of guy she was looking for.

“I’m looking for the perfect guy,” Jenna replied. “Someone who can go watch a game in jeans and T-shirt and have a good time. Kind of like that guy.”

Jason was the man in the red T-shirt that Jenna was pointing out. After the game, they decided to stick around for a while. When Jenna left the table to go to the rest room, her mom took advantage of her absence, took a napkin and wrote Jenna’s name, cell phone number, and a message to call.

Unfortunately at first, the napkin did not end up in Jason’s hands. With a lot of gesturing the napkin was finally passed to Jason.

On a whim Jason decided to make the call. Of course, Jenna didn’t recognize the number and didn’t want to answer as she was staring down at her phone. Her insistent table mates had to urge her to answer the phone.

“When she answered, I had to tell her to look up and I thought she looked older than she was like in her mid 30s,” Jason said.

When Jenna saw him for the first time, she thought he was cute. After the phone call she went over and sat with him.

“I really liked his smile,” she said.

Jason felt after that first night they had really clicked. After a year and a half, he decided to make her his permanent Valentine. He made her breakfast of biscuits and gravy and set the table for Jenna with a very special napkin.

“I saved the napkin and on the other side I wrote ‘Will you marry me?’” he said.
So, Jason and Jenna were married in 2013.

“Jason is so caring, he makes me a better person,” she said.

And isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is really all about? Meetings, dates, proposals, and life long romances.

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