As the schmaltziest holiday approaches, these couples give love a good name

Each February we media consumers get whomped over the heads with sappy romance stuff — longing love songs, movies starring Kate Hudson and/or Matthew McConaughey and those tear-jerking diamond commercials, to name a few.

Though these things entertain and sometimes stir up pleasant sensations in our guts, they are contrived, fantastical and primarily aimed at selling us something.

This month, we give you the Advocate antidote for the cynicism that no doubt digs deeper into our psyche with each passing year: a collection of true love stories from our real-life neighbors, complete with all the awkwardness and authenticity unseen in cheesy movies.

Boyd Lyles and Melanie Wright Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Boyd Lyles and Melanie Wright Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

 SMU sweethearts

Boyd Lyles and Melanie Wright

Boyd Lyles and Melanie Wright

A week before the start of classes at Southern Methodist University, Melanie Wright clunk-clunked in her peach-and-turquoise shoes and matching dress to the Baptist Student Union for Bible study and lunch.

It was August 1968, and Boyd Lyles was a sophomore “trolling for freshman girls, free lunch and Bible study when he saw me,” Melanie says. Boyd jotted down Melanie’s name and dorm room number, and soon the two were cruising in Boyd’s white 1964 Ford Falcon to Jamie’s Hamburgers and the Baskin Robbins on Mockingbird.

Boyd says he knew the relationship would end because Melanie spoke of her high school sweetheart often, and after the two graduated, they went their separate ways. Melanie married her high school sweetheart and had a daughter, and Boyd married and had two children of his own.

They kept in touch through SMU reunions, and in 2009, when Melanie was looking for a doctor, she recalled that Boyd had a well-established internal medicine practice and opted to see him. She received a follow-up letter in the fall, addressed to all of Boyd’s patients, stating that he was moving his practice to Colorado. The letter recommended another doctor, and a rash in April 2010 sent Melanie to that office, where she saw one of Boyd’s former nurses. Melanie told the nurse to tell Boyd “hey” if she heard from him, and the nurse jotted down Boyd’s email, noting he’d probably like to hear from her.

“I went home, sat down and typed out an email, and got a paragraph back about the wonders of Colorado,” she says. “I went into the kitchen and came back and got another email that said to disregard the former. He sent me a long email about how terrible it was.”

Boyd struggled with Colorado’s frigid weather and also missed his mother back in Dallas. He told Melanie he was planning to return. They struck up an email correspondence that lasted until Boyd moved back that July.

Now divorced and in their late 50s, the two instantly resumed the friendship they began at SMU years ago.

“There was an instant comfort level because we had so much in common,” Boyd says. “The things we had in common 44 years ago are the same, like Led Zeppelin and CCR.”

Boyd acquired season tickets to the SMU Mustangs football games, and the two grew cozy again.

“We just started hanging out a lot together and eating dinner at night,” she says. “It turned into us spending all our time together.”

On Nov. 26 after a nice dinner Downtown, the two were driving north on Hillcrest when Melanie remarked they should visit SMU sometime. What she didn’t know was that Boyd had an engagement ring in his pocket.

“She played right into my plan without knowing it,” he says.

After looking into the windows of the student center where they had their first date, they walked over to Dallas Hall, the campus icon, and Boyd proposed. That March, the two married at SMU’s Perkins Chapel, where 20 members of the Mustang band played the alumni fight song.

“A lot of people that came to the wedding were people we’d known at SMU,” Boyd says.

The two combined their homes, and are parents to three cats and a dog, and grandparents to four. “I was perfectly happy with my job and my grandchildren,” Melanie says to Boyd. “But then it was you. It was you.”


Forever together

Kim and Donald Michaelis Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Kim and Donald Michaelis Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

In 1957 Donald Michaelis worked as a civilian at the Tachikawa, Japan, air base military store. He purchased art and showcase supplies from a young Japanese man, and struck up a friendship with the man’s sister, Kim. Almost immediately, he knew he wanted to marry her.

“It’s just a feeling you get,” Donald says. “We seemed compatible right from the start.”

After 30 years of bachelorhood, Donald says he was impressed with Kim’s “smarts” and firm grasp of English, though he knew no Japanese. The two dated for six months before Donald asked Kim’s brother, the head of the family, if he could have her hand in marriage. After her first failed marriage, and most of her family’s objection to her marrying a Westerner, Kim was confused.

“No, I didn’t want to marry him at first, but he was a gentleman and very strong,” Kim says. “Love is crazy.”

The two soon married and lived in Japan until 1963, when they transferred to Busan, Korea, for Donald to take over the military store there. Eventually, after Kim was granted American citizenship, the two moved to California as Donald was promoted in his job.

“I missed Japan,” Kim says. “There were not a lot of Japanese people here in the U.S., but now there are many.”

Kim says soon she became accustomed to her environment and the life Donald’s job afforded them.

“I am very lucky,” she laughs while slapping the side of his leg. “I never think about anything but that. He’s been very good.”

The two later moved to Dallas to be closer to Kim’s daughter, a stylist for Neiman Marcus, whom Donald adopted. They both beam as Donald scrolls through his iPhone and shows pictures of their fashionable 62-year-old daughter and her husband.

The couple recently had to leave behind their beloved Villa Del Norte apartment off Hillcrest due to Kim’s diabetes and Donald’s loss of focus while driving. They now live at The Legacy at Preston Hollow retirement home together, where expensive Japanese artwork and hand carved wood furniture fill their living room.

They look forward to their 56th anniversary in June.

“We just have great compatibility,” Donald says. “We very seldom have cross words with each other, and even if we get a bit mad, it goes away.”

From priest to husband

John Stack and Rosemary McGinn Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

John Stack and Rosemary McGinn Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

In 1990, 48-year-old John Stack was a priest at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. This holy Father happened to be a fan of Western dancing, so he frequented a local dancehall where he met 43-year-old Rosemary McGinn, and secretly started dating her.

It was two years after he returned from working with the Jesuits in Kenya and Tanzania, and he was lonely. For 10 years John saw that African priests “basically had common law wives” and thought they might have the right idea.

“For 40 years I lived with the assumption that I wasn’t going to get married, but I had a different experience in East Africa and knew I didn’t want to live alone the rest of my life,” John says.

Five years after the couple met he proposed, with one condition — she’d have to wait until he was 65.

“I asked her to wait because I knew when I left [the priesthood] and got kicked out I wouldn’t get any money or coverage,” he says. “I didn’t want to put that burden on her.”

So Rosemary agreed to wait so that John could qualify for Medicare. He served as a Jesuit high school priest from 1987-2004 until someone sent an anonymous letter to the bishop regarding his relationship, and he was excommunicated.

“I always told him I was never going to take him out [of the church], so if he left, it was his decision,” Rosemary says.

John says two things were going through his mind before he was kicked out: He was certain of his love, but also disappointed that he had to wait.

John says he feels they’ve been married longer than their actual wedding date of March 5, 2005, which was chosen because 05/05/05 was a “neat date,” he says. More than 500 guests were in attendance at John and Rosemary’s open invitation wedding at the Samuell-Grand Park amphitheatre. It began precisely at sunset. “We used the twilight for lighting, which was gorgeous,” he says.

Now more than 100 people gather at Vines High School in Plano at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday where he performs mass. John used to perform two masses on Sundays, one at Jesuit and the other at St. Mark Catholic Church in Plano, but after excommunication he had nowhere to go.

That’s when fellow St. Mark’s church members approached him and requested he perform special masses for them. The community rents the high school cafeteria, and Rosemary helps with the masses, which is “reason No. 999 priests should be married,” he jokes.

“I feel tremendous consolation with life and tremendous peace,” John says.

Rosemary agrees that this is the most peaceful time of her life, too.

“I had a really good life, and I have a marvelous life now,” Rosemary says, clutching John’s hand.

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