By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Vern Peterson and Leticia Escobar were married July 14, 2012, in Minneapolis. Everyone said they were meant for each other and that they were lucky to have met since Vern lives in rural Cushing and Leticia lived in Brooklyn Park. The story about their encounter, and the months up to the wedding, is a story in itself.
“We were both ready to give up ever finding someone to spend the rest of our lives with,” said Vern, 71. He had been keeping his eyes open in the Morrison County area, through church and work. But nothing was clicking. He had also signed up on several Internet dating sites.
“I had been alone for about 20 years,” said Leticia, 60. She said all she wanted was a good person.
Leticia had signed up with the same Internet dating site as Vern: seniorpeople
The site asks its subscribers to describe themselves, talk about their interests and whatever else they want to say.
“There is no contact with anyone unless both people agree,” said Vern. “I even used a fictitious name.”
The two met online in August 2011. Leticia and Vern then got to know each other through e-mails. It was awhile before they exchanged phone numbers. It was even longer before they met.
There was just one small issue with their relationship. Leticia spoke very little English (she is from Mexico) and Vern spoke very little Spanish.
Not sure if she was ready, Leticia finally got the go-ahead from her adult daughters to take the plunge and meet Vern. They also agreed he seemed to be a good person, good enough for their mother.
“I really wanted to meet Leticia because I like the way she spoke and she has a wonderfully unique laugh,” said Vern.
In October 2011, they met on the corner of Seventh Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis to have lunch. Vern was looking for a Mexican-looking woman, but wasn’t having any luck.
“I saw Leticia, but disregarded her, she didn’t look Mexican to me,” said Vern.
But Leticia, who has a lot of European characteristics, knew it was Vern when she spotted him. She waved and he saw her, but he didn’t know what this woman wanted. Leticia finally called him from her cell phone and when he answered his phone, she held up her phone and waved to get his attention.
“I had a lot of respect for Leticia right away,” said Vern. “She wouldn’t even let me hold her hand during that first date.”
He said the Mexican people are extremely family-oriented and he has accepted many of their customs.
“I was made a member of her family immediately. Because Leticia accepted me, everyone did,” he said. “And, everyone hugs each other, all the time, men and women alike.”
But Vern did learn that, unlike Americans who sit across from their dates in a booth or at a table, the Latin culture has a couple sitting next to each other. He likes that.
“I have also learned to let Leticia order the food when we are eating Mexican. She knows the best foods,” he said.
Every weekend, Vern drove to Minneapolis to be with Leticia. She worked during the week as a nanny, but the weekends were free.
As he was driving to Minneapolis to see Leticia on Christmas Eve in 2011, Vern stopped in St. Cloud to pick up a present for her, a pair of boots. At the spur of the moment, he also purchased an engagement ring.
“I was told by her friends and family it was too soon to be doing this, but I stuffed the ring box in the toe of the boot anyway,” Vern said. “Leticia is pretty special; I didn’t want her to get away.”
Everyone at the Christmas Eve gathering knew what was going on, except Leticia. When she opened up her present, she took all the paper out of the boots and threw it away, including the small box containing the ring.
When she finally realized what was happening, Leticia said she was very nervous.
“It was happening too fast,” she said. “I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. But at the same time, I was excited. We set the date for May 5, Cinco de Mayo.”
Vern, who has had problems with his back for years, decided to have surgery April 2, before the wedding. While in the recovery room, he had a heart attack. A week later he had a triple bypass.
“For two and a half weeks, Leticia never left my side,” said Vern. “She slept in a chair in my room, she wouldn’t even go to the home supplied by the hospital. Leticia took great care of me, she still does.”
When Vern was released, Leticia took him home with her to Brooklyn Park. They lived there until the wedding, which had to be postponed to July 14, 2012. The healthy, happy couple now live on Big Lake in rural Cushing.
Vern and Leticia are working on understanding each other’s languages.
“We laugh a lot at each other,” said Vern. “We are able to communicate well, but we make mistakes by saying the opposite of what we mean. It can be funny. Our marriage is full of laughter.”
Vern and Leticia both said they have never had a fight and always have a good time.
“Leticia is so lovable,” Vern said.
At first, Leticia said she was not comfortable living in the woods, away from so much. She felt it was too remote and her biggest worry was if another medical incident should occur, the hospital was too far away.
“Once she saw the lake, the woods, the beauty of it all, she changed her mind,” said Vern.
“I love living here because Vern loves it so much,” Leticia said. “I feel happy here, I feel close to my God. There is a reason I am here and that’s to take care of Vern and he to take care of me.”
Besides, Leticia now loves to fish.
Vern said to those who are considering Internet dating:
• Go with a gut feeling. If there is no interest, sever the communication immediately;
• Always include a picture. First impressions are important;
• Make sure the Internet site is safe; and
• Just because the dating site is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better than any other. An average price is $100 for six months.
One issue with Internet dating sites is that once one’s name is listed, it’s hard to delete it. Vern said he still gets messages from some of the sites he signed up with.