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A Patch Editor's Love Letter to His Wife, on Valentine's Day

Happy 20th anniversary, Paula. I love you.

About 24 years ago, when I was working as the managing editor of Press-Republican Newspapers, I was surprised to find a valentine in the mailbox at Fifth and Peyton.

In it was a note from the little sister of a longtime high school friend—skillfully written, with just the right doses of flirtation and humor, and I was intrigued. So I screwed up my courage, called her, and we agreed to a date.

We went to Ristorante Chianti for dinner and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure afterward, but it was in between the two that Paula Mary Williams got the first hint of the destiny her valentine had set in motion.

Since we had some time to kill before the movie, I asked if she would mind going with me to a shindig announcing the election campaign of future Geneva Mayor Bill Ottilie. I had promised to make a cameo appearance and take a picture, and to my delight, the poor girl said yes.

I can't remember the venue, but there was a frenzy of activity, and we began to get separated as we moved through the crowd—a metaphor if ever there was one. Without looking or thinking, I reached back and found her hand, and it fit in mine most excellently, as Ted might say.

That Valentine's Day was the first time the pleasure of her company became mixed with my business, but it would not be the last.

Some of our early dates were restaurant reviews or play reviews or the political and social functions an editor was expected to attend in those days. On one memorable occasion, we saw a young and then-unknown Kathy Bates and her then-and-enduringly-unknown husband Tony Campisi in a two-person play, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, but through the years, Rick and Paula's excellent adventure has featured more stale speeches, plastic chicken dinners and spaghetti suppers than future Oscar winners.

Being the wife of a journalist has a lot less to do with Cupid's bow than the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. And the trial is only magnified when your husband plies his trade in the town you live.

Your lamaze class becomes zany column fodder, your toddlers props for photo illustrations, your daughter's middle school promotion ceremony a writing assignment. You watch a high school football game in the stands, and your spouse is in the press box. You turn to your date for a little pleasant conversation at Dancing With the Geneva Stars, and he's sitting next to you but far away, taking notes or shooting video. 

It's hard to find romance with a guy who associates "Deep Throat" with Hal Holbrook, not Linda Lovelace.

A guy so clueless he types the phrase "deep throat" in an Internet love letter, then leaves it in because he thinks it's so dang clever.

A guy who doesn't put his valentine in the mail but publishes it on his Patch, where true love can be excoriated by trolls and measured in page views. 

But I am what I am, for better or worse, and what good is being the Patch editor if you can't use it to shout to the World Wide Web how much you love your wife? Twenty-four years ago, the most beautiful girl in the known universe sent me a valentine, and four years later to the day, we stood on a beach in Maui before two strangers and a Hawaiian minister with food stains on his sash and took our vows in a ceremony spoken in two tongues. As I recall, you laughed and cried.

I love you, Paula Mary Williams Nagel.

Aloha kekahi i kekahi.

Kurt Wehrmeister February 14, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Of all your references to and stories about Paula, this is the best, my friend. What a gift to her, and to your daughters, and to all of us.
Karen Chadra (Editor) February 14, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Boy, do I ever "get" this. You are a lucky man, Rick Nagel :) (And Paula's pretty lucky, too)
Terry Flanagan February 14, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Rick, I hope you realize you've raised the bar quite a bit here. All over Geneva, guys are reading this column and despairingly tossing the flowers and candy in the trash after realizing that all of the usual expressions of love given on this day just don't measure up to one love letter posted by a hopelessly romantic editor to his lovely wife. Happy Valentines Day to you and Paula and all of the other couples who keep the spark alive.
Rick Nagel (Editor) February 14, 2013 at 10:43 PM
And to you and Dorothy, my friend!
Samantha Liss February 15, 2013 at 01:47 AM
This is great! Rick, you are simply the best. Hope all is well!
Sandra Ellis February 15, 2013 at 01:51 AM
What a sincere and wonderful stream of thought about the woman you love so much and I would bet she feels the same about you! I was so lucky to also have 23 years with someone whom I loved and respected so much and knew he felt the same about me. I would bet you agree that your deep love for one another is the best gift that can be shared amongst couples! Declaring your love publicly is a good thing!! Lucky Paula and lucky you!
Beth Bales February 15, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Happy anniversary Rick and Paula! I love this! I still remember reading a long, long-ago column in which you talked about being the the Bill Ottilie fund-raiser and discovering the two of you walking out, hand in hand. Sadly, I think it was in the wake of Ottilie's death ... But I still remember it all these years later. Happy anniversary, and many more.
Mike Simon February 15, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Having the ability to eloquently explain how much you love your wife is a wonderful gift that very few of us possess. Having a bully pulpit on which to do it is a unique bonus!
Beth Jaeger February 15, 2013 at 03:37 AM
Happy anniversary Paula and Rick from all the Jaeger's...and on Valentine's Day so simple, so sweet!
Colin C. February 15, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Thank you Rick, that is beautiful.
DAWN MALONE February 15, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Happy Anniversary you guys!!!!!!!! Paula got back at him last Sunday by dragging him to a fund raiser for Megan's World Irish Dance Championships.
Cari Barcas February 16, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Beautiful column to celebrate an equally wonderful milestone. Happy anniversary!
Art Stern February 16, 2013 at 03:47 AM
Congratulations Rick and Paula! I'm of the opinion that you're among the hardest working guys around and that wouldn't be possible without the support of a terrific wife.

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