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What love looks like

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Travers Wise & Darnell Place-Wise
Alisha & John Komives
Lee & Tonnie Bules

A little history lesson on the sweetest of days, Valentine's Day: According to the History Channel, one legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death, forever enshrining the saint of love.

These real-life love stories of Delta County couples would make Valentine proud . . .

Travers Wise &
Darnell Place-Wise

You'd think in a small town like Delta, being only one year apart in school, Darnell and Travers would have met before high school. Both grew up in Delta and attended the same school. Travers's dad, Earl Wise, was even Darnell's principal.

It wasn't until Travers was a senior at Delta High School and Darnell was a junior that they met. Darnell was sitting in the cafeteria with some friends when she saw Travers walking across the room. "I literally never saw him until that day," she said. "And I knew I had to meet him."

She began going out of her way to see him in the school hallways between classes, and when she learned he had an early weight-lifting class, she began going to the gym. "She didn't lift weights. She just messed around," Travers said grinning. Nevertheless, she caught his eye too.

One Friday evening, Darnell got brave and called his house from a pay phone at the 7-Eleven. His mom, Judy, told Darnell that Travers was downtown cruising. Darnell and her friends left the 7-Eleven and went to find Travers, who was driving around looking for her.

Travers asked if she wanted to go for a ride. Darnell agreed and climbed up into his dingy, dirty 1970 Dodge truck. They both laugh when they remember Darnell in her pink miniskirt sitting on the edge of the seat, so as to not get dirty.

The two ended up dating the rest of that school year. They attended Travers's senior prom together, although they only danced once. Come May when he graduated, however, they began to drift apart. He enlisted in the military and Darnell went to college the following summer. On holiday breaks they would try to visit, but they didn't often connect.

Several years later, after Darnell had graduated and Travers had detached from the military and was living in Durango, Darnell was waiting for a plane at Salt Lake City airport when she heard on the news something about Desert Storm. It prompted her to call Travers, and the two ended up talking on the phone for three hours. They talked every night for several weeks.

In 1998, they were able to meet up for Thanksgiving, and then again at Christmastime. In 1999, Darnell was laid off, and so she decided to move to Durango. They dated for a few years before Darnell finally said, "Why buy the milk? We're going to get married."

And Travers said, "Fine."

They were married May 26, 2001. Now, nearly 16 years later, Darnell says to Travers, "You're welcome, Babe! All the decisions I've made have turned out really well!"

"You're pretty smart," Travers agreed.

The two moved back home to Delta in 2002 when Darnell's dad, Derryl Place, passed away. Their daughter Emma was born in 2004.

They contribute their success to growing up together, a healthy dose of fun, and never even considering giving up. "We were kids together, and we grew up and matured together," Darnell said. "We saw each other through every awkward stage of our teens and 20s."

"We're comfortable with each other. We can be silly together," Travers said.

"We actually genuinely like each other as human beings. We're friends," Darnell said. "When something happens, I want to tell him first. Travers is my person."

And though they've been through alot together, "we've never once thought 'we're done,'" Darnell said. "We just don't think that way."

Darnell's mother-in-law also told her a valuable piece of information: you don't have to do every single thing together to be a "good" couple; too much togetherness is not a good thing. So he has his interests and she has hers, and no one gets too wound up. Both are lighthearted and easy-going, and make marriage -- and all the ups and downs of a longterm relationship -- look easy. "We manage to have a really good time together," Darnell said.

Alisha & John Komives

On the surface, the story of how Alisha and John met and married is cutesy.

John was living in California and recently divorced. The two knew each other, kind of, in that John was formerly married to Alisha's cousin's best friend, and they occasionally ran into one another back when Alisha was still in high school.

Alisha, was living in Tennessee, working as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant, and dating a guy named Jon.

John got Alisha's number from her cousin, and called her up. Over the next couple of months, "we racked up quite a few thousand dollar phone bills," Alisha said. She, a self-proclaimed wild child, got a crazy idea one day to fly to California and meet John. As her plane was landing, his was taking off to Texas, where he was going to visit family. The two never connected, and Alisha flew home and resumed dating the other Jon.

A few months after that, John, out of the blue, quit his job, packed his things and drove cross country toward Tennessee. He made a pit stop in Missouri, where he left his things with his father. He showed up in Franklin, Tenn., called Alisha and said, "Hey, I'm in town."

Alisha's response was, "Let's get married."

They bought rings and got a marriage license from the courthouse. The next day, Alisha had to work, so they were stumped on when exactly to get married. The problem was solved when Alisha's sister-in-law noted that the lead singer in the band who played regularly at the restaurant was also a preacher.

So the next day, on her lunch break, in front of customers and a few family members, John and Alisha tied the knot. It was April 1st, and they both remember thinking that at any moment, someone surely would yell "April Fool's," and the wedding would be stopped. But it wasn't, and they became Mr. and Mrs. Komives.

Afterwards, the couple and their few family members sat down to have celebratory combination dinners (which Alisha served, as she was still on the clock) when they saw Jon -- the boyfriend -- through the restaurant window.

Alisha said, "I got this," and went outside to talk to Jon. (Earlier in the week, Jon had elected to take his brother to a professional hockey game, instead of his girlfriend; and Alisha, quite the Pittsburgh Penguins fan, was a little miffed. Imagine his surprise, then, upon his return to town, when she said, "I got married while you were at the game.")

Cute, right?

But under the "cute" has been 20 years of real life, hard, messy married couple stuff. Twenty-seven days after the wedding, John filed for divorce, and headed back to California. They didn't speak for six months. Though it was a difficult period, it was a move that saved their marriage, Alisha said.

"The best thing John ever did was leave me," she said. "It forced me to grow up. I had to learn that marriage isn't something you just do for fun. It's not something you do and then quit. You have to commit, really commit, and I had to commit to someone besides myself."

In the six months that he was gone, Alisha learned she was pregnant, and she wound up in the hospital, very sick. She didn't know where John even was at that point. As she lay in a hospital bed, she prayed for two solid weeks. She asked for guidance on how to be a good mom and a good wife. Something divine intervened, she said, and out of the blue, a phone number popped into her head. She didn't recognize the number, not even the area code, but from her hospital bed she dialed the number. It rang into the Oceanside Marina Inn in California. She asked if they had a guest staying there by the name of John Komives. The clerk replied they didn't, but their maintenance guy was named John. Alisha left a message, and left the ball in his court.

John did call her back, eventually, and they had a long, serious discussion. He told her that if he came back to get her, there would be no more messing around -- she had to commit, and make it count and work on their marriage.

Alisha was ready. The couple moved to California, where baby Kodie was born happy and healthy. He joined big sister Kaselynn, and pretty soon, Kalinn, Henry, Sam and Rosie joined the family.

"We've had lot of ups and downs," Alisha said. "But we've made it through with communication and forgiveness."

John says in marriage you have to be careful not to say anything stupid when you're mad. "And sometimes you have to say, 'I love you anyway,' when they make you mad," he said.

"No marriage is perfect," Alisha said. "Too many people forget that marriage is work."

In 2010, they moved to Delta, where they are active in their kids high schools sports and Girl Scouts. They will celebrate 20 years of marriage -- the good, the bad, the happy and the scary -- on April 1, 2017 -- and that's no April Fool's.

Lee & Tonnie Bules

Lee and Tonnie met while they were working at the Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, where he was a resident and she was a nurse. Lee's mom, also a nurse, had told her son as he began his career, "Be nice to the nurses -- they can make or break you." So Lee always went out of his way to introduce himself to the nurses. The day they met, they exchanged nothing more than pleasantries, as both were extremely busy.

Several weeks later, Tonnie had a difficult patient and paged Lee for some help. When he called back, he talked her down. "He completely disarmed me over the phone, and he has ever since," Tonnie said.

"I think she was just looking for a fight," Lee said, laughing.

After that patient, the two began meeting for "lunch" when they could, which was most often at 2 a.m. in the hospital cafeteria. Tonnie only found out years later that Lee would set his alarm so he could meet her at lunch, instead of snatching a few hours of much-needed sleep.

The two became friends and got to know each other before they ever considered dating, though there was always a spark, Tonnie said.

When they finally went on a real date -- outside the doors of the hospital -- Lee took her to an Italian restaurant. "I fell in love that night," Tonnie recalls. "I knew then that I was going to marry him."

"And I knew I was going to marry her," Lee said.

Soon after that, however, Lee was diagnosed with cancer. Tonnie stayed by his side through all of his treatments, even adjusting her work schedule so she could be with him more. "That's when I knew this girl wasn't just in this for fun," Lee said. "I wanted to get better so I could ask her to marry me."

One weekend, he meticulously and elaborately planned a camping trip at Creedmore Lakes. At sunset, they walked to the lake, where Lee got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Tonnie cried.

They stayed up all night, drinking wine, looking at the stars, and talking about everything their life together would be: jobs, kids and life in general. "And for the most part, all of that has turned out," Lee said. They will be married 19 years this May.

Like any marriage, they've had their ups and downs. Early on, Tonnie said, they had to learn to make decisions based on what was best for their marriage and not do things to please others. A lot of that had to do with them leaving the comfort of close friends and family in northern Colorado and relocating to Idaho, where Lee took a job in rural medicine. It was hard for both of them, leaving behind everything they knew to move to a new place where they were considered outsiders. The two were forced to make a place for themselves in a new, tightknit community. They were forced out of their comfort zones and had to learn to make friends. "It really taught us to stand together and how to focus on what was important," Tonnie said.

"Moving away can be challenging, but those trials and tribulations made us stronger," Lee said. "We figured it out, and we stuck it out."

In 2003, they moved to Delta, along with their kids Joseph and Sarah, where Lee took a position at Delta Family Physicians.

"Our friendship has kept us together," Tonnie said. "And we take very, very seriously our marriage. We do the hard work when we need to, so that things don't become un-fixable down the road."

"Being crazy in love with someone is not enough to make a successful marriage," Lee said. "It takes faith, trust, compromise, loyalty and work."

"We work on our marriage and ourselves every day. It is a choice we make every single day," Tonnie said.

Some of the most precious times in their lives together have been the most ordinary times, Tonnie said, like when Lee would wake up at 2 a.m. to take her on a walk around their neighborhood when she couldn't sleep.

"That's one of the key things for our marriage," Lee says. "You can't script things. Most often the unscripted, ordinary things are..."

"Filled with blessings," Tonnie finishes.

"I am absolutely head over heels crazy in love with him still. I love folding laundry with him and going to the grocery store with him and talking about books with him and going on walks with him," Tonnie said.

"We enjoy each other in the small moments," Lee said. "The little things are the things that matter."

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