VIRGINIA — “Reading these words are not just a commitment to you but a reflection of my feelings as I’m continually growing and falling deeper and deeper in love with you, Erin Powell.”
Greg Powell read from what he had written on his phone. He and his wife had planned on renewing their vows Friday, on their 16th wedding anniversary. But life with six kids and a new business, the Sugar Shack in the Thunderbird Mall, the Valentine holiday and their wedding anniversary promised to pass quickly.
Still, Greg wanted to show his love. He stopped into the Mesabi Daily News to shout his love from the headlines. Wednesday afternoon, between sleeping after the night shift and getting the kids from school, Greg read this passage from his phone about the first time they met, while attending Mesabi Range College.
“With your gorgeous hair and most beautiful eyes, you completely filled up my dorm room. I thought and still think that there is no way I can make this woman feel the way she makes me feel. It’s unexplainable. Moments later, I made the world’s stupidest comment.”
Greg read their story, which he had written for their possible renewal of vows, from his phone.
Greg had moved to Virginia, “a place I didn’t even know where it was on map,” from Cleveland, Ohio, to play college football in the early 2000s. The team had arrived on campus a few months earlier to begin practice. As campus filled, a dance was held to welcome the students.
Greg and Erin were introduced by a mutual friend. Erin had come along to chat with some of the guys before the dance. The plan was to get ready for the dance later, or so Greg thought. Not knowing Erin had already prepared at her off campus apartment, Greg asked if she would be getting ready, too.
“Like slow motion in a movie, you pulled back your long, beautiful hair and said, with eyes wide open, ‘Why? Do you think I need to?’”
With that fumble, Greg knew she would never want to see him again. “Your comment back to me, well, it wasn’t so much your words as your beautiful body language that gave me a small glimmer of how true love would look. At the time, it was more than I could handle.”
But at the dance, Erin did spend time with Greg.
“It was like the whole world shut down. It was like no one else was there. Just her and me. It was like a trance,” said Greg, looking up from his phone. “I was only focused on her. It was awesome.”
Following the dance, the couple decided to begin casually seeing each other. After all, Greg wasn’t staying in Virginia. He was planning for a career in football. They saw each other every-other weekend, depending on the football schedule. During one date, Greg said that if Erin got a tattoo of his football number he would marry her. She got the tattoo.
However, with two small kids from earlier in her life, Erin got to the point where she insisted Greg come to her apartment as babysitting fees were getting difficult.
“I was dumbfounded by the kids,” said Greg, no longer looking at his phone. At the time Olivia was age five and Isaac was age two. “We all just fit together. She was my missing arm and I was her missing leg.”
The first time he came over, Olivia fell asleep on Greg’s lap while they watched the movie “Men of Honor.”
With a smile Greg explained, “I just literally never left.” When he would run out of clothes, Greg would stop by his dorm but always came home to Erin, Olivia and Isaac.
“It just happened,” said Greg looking back on the speed of their relationship. “It was amazing and got serious very fast.”
Three months into their relationship, Greg proposed, twice. The first time, he made the announcement that he would marry Erin at the Sports Palace while they listened to the song “Dilemma” by Nelly.
Greg then purchased an engagement ring and while out to eat at Grandma’s one night, got down on a knee. Embarrassed, Erin pulled him back into his seat. “Will you marry me?” he asked holding the ring box. She said yes.
A year later, they were married with three kids. Chace was born the fall of their engagement in 2003.
Recalling their wedding day, Feb. 14, 2004, Greg laughed at the memory of Isaac pushing Chace down the aisle in a stroller. The older brother ran full speed toward a pew in the former St. John the Baptist Church. “I was going to run to them but a grandpa helped guide them.”
Then, Erin entered. Everyone stood as the bride walked down the aisle. “They weren’t standing because it was tradition,” Greg said. “They stood because she captivated the whole room. She radiated and glowed.”
The new family moved to Mankato where Greg continued to attend college and play football. They soon expected another baby, Dane.
“Where at first it was a beautiful attraction, the longer we’ve been together the more that I see I need you and the more we have fallen in love,” Greg said again reading from his phone. “All my accomplishments seem bigger because we shared them together.”
For their 12th anniversary, Greg bought Erin 12 dozen long stem roses. “I’ve come to see more in the meaning of the phrase- it is my pleasure,” Greg read from his phone. “I do things because it is my pleasure to see you happy.”
Looking toward the future and what that may bring, Greg looked out the window and said, “Nothing can separate us. Whatever comes, let’s do it. In the end we will be deeper in love.”
Greg and Erin have six children. Olivia is 21 and an LPN working towards an RN. Isaac is 19 and in college working towards a Millwright degree. The younger children are: Chace, 16; Dane, 12; Trey, 8; and Cruz, 6.
“I would describe our parents’ marriage as successful,” said Olivia over text this week. She explained that they have always agreed to put their children first. For example, someone is always at each child’s sporting or school event. “They also always make sure to communicate how the events are going for each kid if they are split up to make different events. Texting/calling each other for updates.”
Olivia, their only daughter, has a special message for the pair this holiday.
“This Valentine’s Day I want to wish them a Happy Anniversary and remind them how much I love them and appreciate everything they have done for me and everything they have done for the boys,” Olivia concluded. “I want to remind them that sometimes we forget to tell them how much we appreciate them but we wouldn’t be the people we are today without them!”
The family was keeping these stories and comments a surprise from their mother so they chose to text the Mesabi Daily News to reduce suspicion.
Chace agrees that their parents have a good marriage. “Their marriage can be described with humor filled moments but also forgiving and understanding situations which I think makes it great,” said Chace over text. “In their future I wish for them to always be happy...but also become rich so I get some.”
Dane, over text message, described the marriage as fun and goofy. “They are always messing around and fighting. I think that makes their relationship strong because of the fun goofy moments they share.”
Greg asked young Trey a few questions and texted his responses.
When Greg asked Trey how he knew they were married, the boy said, “because of your rings.”
Looking for dating advice, Greg asked Trey what he should do for the mother. “Have dinner together and do fun stuff. Buy her more flowers and candles.”
When asked how he knows Greg loves Erin, Trey said, “You made her dining room shelves and a TV stand.”
Greg has advice to offer their children when choosing a partner. “Don’t drop your bar. Keep your expectations high. Everyone deserves a happy ever after with the right person.”
While going through rough times, they hold together and Greg said that is the real reward. “As the kids see us struggle, I hope they see that reward and use us as an example for their futures.”
Keys to a happy marriage
“After 16 years, how does it get better? It just does,” Greg said answering his own question. “The more we fall in love, the more I learn about her,” he said, obviously passionate about talking about their relationship. “It seems that I am just scratching the surface. We are growing more involved, deeper in love.”
The real secret, Greg explained, is to marry your best friend. “The best part of our relationship is us working together. It is not just about compromising but understanding each other’s point of view. It is about perspective. Communication and understanding are key.”
Referring to scripture, Greg explained that the two of them have become one. “We are united. When she moves, I accommodate that and know what I have to do. I have to be good at my strengths and look at her weakness so I can do my job and still provide what she needs.”
After being married for so long, Greg admitted they are past the puppy love phase. “We have such a strong love for each other that we lose focus of it, sometimes, in everyday life.”
For this Valentine’s Day, Greg proposes that they put the kids to bed, and sit together and watch a show they enjoy. Greg wants to continue to enjoy and savor Erin’s company. “Through these small things, we can make sure the burden of the world doesn’t fall on the foundation we have built.”
He looks forward to a strong future, together. “I love her,” Greg stated matter-of-factly. “Knowing all the rough times and trials we have experienced, and her still choosing to be with me- she makes me a better person. I absolutely choose her, everyday.”
“Erin Powell, will you be my Valentine?”