Kelly and Joe Reinhardt relax in their Kenai home earlier this week. Kelly and Joe were married last year after knowing each other for eight years and living together four years.
Photo by John Hult
Joe Reinhardt and his girlfriend Kelly Simpson were visiting Seattle and enjoying an uncommon 11 days of rain-free weather. One evening, they decided to ride to the top of the city’s Space Needle. Joe was ready to propose to Kelly, but hadn’t planned on proposing that night. As they looked out over the city lights, the thought crossed his mind and stuck. High atop a lovely city during a lovely vacation would be a great time to propose, he thought.
“I was just about to say something and then, over the loudspeaker, there was the beep and it was like ‘OK, then, get out.’ I thought, ‘OK, I don’t think this is it,’” Joe said.
Time was up. It was back down the elevator and back out into the world.
Kelly and Joe Reinhardt practice a song in their Kenai home earlier this week. The couple performs all over the area, and plan to perform during the Arctic Winter Games.
Photo by John Hult
Joe and Kelly are married now, but the memory of the romantic near-miss is a fun story for the couple now.
“It was dark and we could see all the lights it would have been really romantic,” Kelly said.
Love, like life, is unpredictable. Things don’t always happen as we might expect. The important thing, Joe and Kelly say, is to respect and support one another through every unpredictable moment and share as much time together as possible.
Anita and Mark Necessary laugh together in their Kenai home earlier this week. The couple will celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary later this month.
Photo by John Hult
They aren’t alone in thinking so. This sentiment from the young couple, who were wed last year, is one shared by another Kenai pair, Mark and Anita Necessary. The strategy has certainly worked for them. Mark and Anita will celebrate their 44th anniversary on Feb. 23.
Anita Necessary knew she would marry Mark the night they met. It was a Christmas party in the town of Dumas on the Texas Panhandle in 1968, and it was late. Mark was invited, but he wasn’t particularly excited. The 27-year-old had spent much of his evening playing basketball and didn’t show up for the party until about 11 p.m.
Anita was still there, but it took some prodding from Mark’s friends to make the introduction happen.
“They almost stood you up to get you to dance with me,” she recalled.
After the dance, the two dropped off Anita’s car, and the 23-year-old took a moment to wake her mother with the news.
“I shook my Mom and I said, ‘Mom, I met the man I’m going to marry,’” Anita said. “My mother came in the next morning and said, ‘What’s this about you getting married?’ and I said, ‘I met the man I’m going to marry.’ She said, ‘Well, does he know it?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t told him yet.’”
After that night, a night of coffee and conversation that lasted until about 3 a.m., the couple saw each other every day. Two months later, on Feb. 23, 1962, Mark and Anita were married.
They moved to Alaska in 1969 after Mark got a job offer from Tesoro, where he became the first Outside employee to work at the new refinery.
Anita, who was used to Texas weather and apple, grapefruit and lemon trees in the backyard, was skeptical of the idea at first, but decided to give it a go.
“I thought, if he could do it, I could,” she said.
Tesoro flew the couple to Kenai, and they were convinced. They sold their house, hopped in the car and began a 10 day drive from Corpus Christi, Texas.
“It was 1,500 miles of gravel road,” Mark said of the couple’s spring trip on the Alaska Highway.
They moved into the Townhouse Apartments in Kenai, which were new at the time, and started an Alaska life.
That life would come to include two children Lance and Monte snowmaching, fishing, hiking and a long list of community service projects.
Kelly and Joe Reinhardt’s courtship was quite the opposite. They met about eight years ago, while Kelly was still in high school. They were friends for more than a year before starting to date, but they both knew there was something special.
“It wasn’t just a simple case of two people just hanging around each other and then hooking up,” Joe said.
“We pretty much had an instant attraction,” Kelly added.
There was a reason for the prolonged friendship. Kelly was 16 at the time, and Joe is 9 years older than Kelly. Kelly’s mother was none too excited about the prospect of her daughter with an older man.
“At the young age that I was, I can understand why she was so adamantly against it. That’s why we were friends on and off for the first few years,” Kelly said.
Some heart-to-heart talks between Joe and Kelly’s mother, Donna, helped some.
“I said, ‘This is what I stand for, but I know why you’re nervous,’” he said.
Joe acting as a role model for Kelly’s younger siblings helped, too. Kelly’s father died when she was 11.
“Not having a father figure in the house was very hard for my brother, and very hard for my sister,” Kelly said. “I think that when Joe became a constant in my life, he also became a constant in their life. He’s an excellent role model, and I think that was something my mom noticed.”
Before marriage, the couple did a lot of things married couples do: they bought property together, lived together, went through car accidents and hospital stays and took long vacations. Joe had joked about proposing on Feb. 29
“That way the engagement anniversary would only be every four years,” Kelly recalls him saying.
That may be why Kelly didn’t quite know how to take his proposal. It was Feb. 29.
“I was on the floor picking up newspapers or something, and he got down on both knees and asked if I would get engaged to him, she said. “I thought he was kidding.”
She accepted, and the couple was married at Soldotna Creek Park on July 9, 2005.
So what happens after the courtship and the wedding bells? As with any relationship, a marriage has ups and downs. The difference, of course, is the lifelong commitment. Anita Necessary has a simple philosophy about what to expect:
“You’re gonna have your outs. You’re not always gonna agree. If you agreed on everything, one of you doesn’t have a brain,” she said.
Disagreements can be overcome, Mark said, with a simple though not always easy longevity strategy.
“Love is obviously the key, but you’ve got to respect each other,” he said.
“I think of Mark before I think of me and I think that’s vice-versa,” she said.
Another key to survival, she said, has a lot to do with finding shared interests and learning to share the interests of another. Anita enjoys fishing with the family, but knows many women don’t.
“Just go with him,” she said. Compromises like that make future compromises easier. “Mark doesn’t like to go to beauty contests, but I do. I like to go and see the dresses and everything, but Mark will go with me because I go fishing with him”
That kind of compromise can open doors, too. Mark and Anita once judged the Miss Alaska Pageant.
Outdoors activities, civic activities and, yes, the occasional beauty contest figure prominently into the couple’s activity routine, but with their children grown and Mark retired, travel takes up more of their schedule.
Last year it was Mexico. Earlier it was England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Stockholm, Sweden. A trip to Russia took a bit of preparation, with the couple taking two semesters of Russian at Kenai Peninsula College before taking off for 11 days in the former communist country.
For Kelly and Joe, music is the tie that binds. They’ve played music together since they met eight years ago. Joe plays guitar and sings. Kelly sings and is learning piano. The harmonizing couple performs all around the community at open mic nights and special events and plan to entertain crowds during the Arctic Winter Games. When all else fails, they say, practicing a song or two helps relieve the tension.
Underscoring the activity, they say, is the understanding that spending time together is better than tackling problems alone.
“If you’re mad at the other person or you’re dealing with a stressful money situation, I don’t think it’s very healthy to go off and mull it over alone, because a lot of times it can turn into a snowball,” Kelly said. “Then you come back and you haven’t really accomplished anything, you’ve just made it worse.”
Joe said he and Kelly take time off occasionally, but the best course of action is to use what you know about the other person to show support.
“I can understand the idea of needing to get away from someone for awhile, but realistically, if you know someone, you know what it is that you’re good at complementing them with,” Joe said.
The couple spends so much time together, Kelly said, they are seen as one person sometimes.
“A lot of our friends and family only ever see us together. We’re Kelly and Joe, kind of like Bennifer, I guess,” Kelly said, referring to the nickname given to celebrities Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez when they were a couple. “I don’t know what you’d call us, the Koe or the Jelly. Probably the Jelly.”
Get ready for kids
Money problems can be difficult for any couple. Pet peeves can be tough to get used, too, as well. Having kids is a real test, though, and both couples knew it, though only one from experience.
Kelly and Joe aren’t ready for kids just yet, but realize the enormity of the task.
“That’s gonna be the biggest turning point for us,” Kelly said. “I know from friends that there’s a lot of years there where you don’t get sleep, and not getting sleep makes you get mean.”
Mark and Anita had some compromises to lessen parenting stress. Anita became a stay-at-home mother, for one, and Mark picked up where he could.
“We had a deal going that every Friday night [Mark] got up and took care of the baby. I took Friday nights off,” Anita said.
Kelly and Joe, who don’t see kids in their immediate future, may be following the right path. The Necessarys had been married more than 10 years before having children.
“We were older parents, and it makes a difference when you’ve got some time in,” Anita said.
Anything thoughtful works on Valentine’s Day, the couples said just don’t forget to mark the occasion and remember why you’re together in the first place. Mark forgot to get chocolates until late in the day one year, so he and a co-worker bought square brown boxes of chocolate.
“Women like heart-shaped red boxes, you know, and here he comes with this brown, ugly box,” Anita said.
“We told them it was fresh,” Mark said. Brown boxes became a tradition and a family joke.
Tradition is changing slightly this year for the Reinhardts. Joe will still get his big Hershey’s chocolate kiss, but Kelly doesn’t want any more stuffed animals. The issue is space.
“I like to get her stuffed animals because I’ll always see something that reminds me ‘Hey, she might like that,’” Joe said. “Now it’s like, ‘Look, I have so many stuffed animals. ...’”
As a married couple, Anita pointed out, anniversaries are just as important.
“He never forgot our anniversary,” she said. “My birthday he forgets, and I think that’s a dang good idea.”
That may be a good one to keep in mind, Joe.
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