Internet courtship blossoms into romance and marriage for Chuck and Jan WolfeNASELLE - For Chuck and Jan Wolfe, meeting and starting a new life together was simply a case of love bytes. They met on the Internet.
Nine years ago they were recently separated from their spouses. Chuck, a Boeing engineer living in the Tacoma area, and Jan, a second grade teacher in Reedsport, Ore., weren't really looking for love.
Chuck recalled, "We got new computers and were just playing around with them and discovered chat rooms. We actually met in a chat room where everybody was supposed to be older than 50."
Jan laughed, and added "nobody else would want to go in there, anyway. Who wants to talk to a bunch of old people?"
Chuck smiled over the thought, then said, "We were both chatting with lots of people, and just starting to chat with each other."
In the chat room, they began sharing aspects of their jobs, families and lives, then later, their personal situations - that they were separated.
At the same time, both Chuck and Jan made another friend on line. He was a Methodist minister from the East Coast. He spent months counseling Jan, helping her work out issues she faced from the dissolution of her 30-year marriage. "Jim" would later take on an even bigger role in the lives of this couple to be.
Like many people that communicate on the Internet, Chuck recalled, "You're worried about someone not being what they say they are. Jan had mentioned that she was a teacher in Reedsport, so I called up the school and asked for her."
Once she was on the phone, he breathed a sigh of relief.
Jan said she wasn't quite as suspicious about Chuck misrepresenting himself, but confessed to calling Boeing to ask him for help when she had a computer problem.
The chat room conversations and e-mails were now accompanied by regular phone calls. Jan's co-workers were concerned that she was becoming rather wrapped up with a man she had never met. After all, not all people who use the Internet were on the up and up. One of Jan's longtime and closest friends, Joyce Brandon, was also a co-worker in the reading lab and second grade classroom at the elementary school. Her message was for Jan to be careful. Everyone, including Jan, always listened carefully to what Joyce had to say.
Jan might have been a little leery, but kept up the communication with Chuck. In one phone call, "He mentioned that he had a cousin that lived in Cottage Grove, and she was married to a guy, Larry Rose, who used to live in Reedsport," Jan recalled. She told Chuck she had never heard of Larry, but knew someone who knew everyone who has ever lived in the town - Joyce Brandon.
"So, one day in the back of the classroom, I asked Joyce if she knew Larry Rose," Jan said. She was floored when Joyce answered, "Well, yeah. He's my favorite nephew!"
From then on, Jan knew her budding relationship with Chuck was all right. Joyce said she'd actually met Chuck a few years ago, when Larry and Leah Rose were married. When Jan heard this, she thought, "Well, this is OK." And because it was now fine with Joyce, all of Jan's other co-workers and friends agreed that the new relationship was a safe one, "because everybody believes Joyce," Jan said, smiling.
Months after Chuck and Jan met in the chat room, they still hadn't seen each other face to face. But, it was about to happen. Chuck recalled the events leading up to the day neither he nor Jan will ever forget.
It was football season, and Chuck drove down from Tacoma to Cottage Grove to spend the weekend with his cousin and her husband. "Washington played at Oregon," he recalled. "We went to the game and to a couple of wineries."
In the previous months, Jan had often told Chuck about the beauty of Loon Lake, an area near Reedsport. He relayed this information to his cousin, who then suggested they take a drive to see that spot. "And if we're down that far, let's go to Reedsport," Leah said.
Chuck groaned in hesitation, like a young boy being coached from the wall at a middle school dance. "Oh, I don't know."
But his cousin convinced him of the adventure it would be. It was Sunday, and on the way, Chuck recalled how Jan had told him she attended the Presbyterian Church in Reedsport, "and that she got there at 10:30 and always parked in the first space next to the road."
Chuck's grin was huge when he recalled that day. "I just kind of showed up at church, so that's where we first officially met."
They had exchanged pictures over the months before, so when Jan looked up and saw Chuck, "I was floored!" she recalled. Chuck's expression, she said, "Was like the cat that just ate the canary."
"That broke the ice," Chuck said.
After church, Chuck and Jan went to lunch with Leah and Larry, and Joyce.
Chuck was amazed at the ease with which he and Jan talked. They had communicated so much through the chat room, e-mails and phone calls, he said, "it was like visiting a long lost friend."
Shortly after that, he started driving down from Tacoma to Reedsport on weekends. Jan, laughing, said, "That little green truck out there has 260,000 on it."
Chuck blushed, laughed, and justified the high mileage. "We were in love."
The following year, Chuck was transferred from Tacoma to Portland, and as a result, began to save two hours each way on his weekend commutes. He and Jan were beginning to plan a life together. He still had a few years left at his job, but Jan retired soon, at the end of the '97-'98 school year. Her last class of second graders advanced to third grade.
That fall, in '98, Chuck and Jan were married in the Presbyterian Church in Reedsport. The elementary school is just a couple of blocks away, so typical of a teacher, Jan said, "We had the wedding after school, so the kids could walk over to the church."
The students in Jan's final class ushered the wedding, carried out candle and guest book duties, and totally devoured a huge bowl of Gummy Bears that Chuck had brought for the reception.
"The Gummy Bears were gone before we got back there," Jan laughed.
Officiating at the wedding was the Methodist minister Chuck and Jan met through the chat room. "We flew him out here to marry us," Chuck said.
Chuck retired from Boeing in August 2002 and he and Jan built a home near Florence, Ore. But Jan longed to move closer to her son, his wife, and Jan's three grandchildren, who have a farm in Astoria.
Last year, Chuck and Jan bought several acres of bare land in the countryside of Naselle and are building a home. The garage and shop are completed, and the home site has been staked out.
This is the seventh Valentine's Day, as man and wife, for the couple that met in the chat room. They laugh together, travel together, and as a team, dote over the grandchildren, who in April will be ages 2, 5 and 8.
Today, Chuck and Jan are so in tune to one another that it's not just a case of finishing each other's sentences. They often speak those sentences at the same time, word for word. Recalling the first chat room topics, they said in unison, "We were just talking in general."