Attractive Words

Meet three of the lucky couples who connected through the 'Weekly'

In its 25 years, the Tucson Weekly has been many things to many people--an award-winning newspaper, a hippie rag, a comfort to the afflicted and a mirror in the face of wrongdoers.

But let's face it: Not everyone immediately reads the articles. Many readers like to peruse the stuff toward the back of the paper first ... including the personals.

A decade ago, personals were everywhere; they ran in magazines and newspapers across the country. (Psychology Today even had a personals section.) Before the Internet, print personal ads were a great source of revenue to newspapers and magazines, including the Weekly.

Many readers have enjoyed a chuckle at the personals; others enjoyed a steamy rendezvous using them and their "uncensored" counterpart. And many folks took a shot at love though the personals. Some people's lives were changed by placing or responding to an ad; in a sense, the Tucson Weekly was their cupid.

Meet three of these lucky couples.

Hallaj Bowman and Carmelene Melanie Siani

Hallaj Bowman, now 62, and Carmelene Melanie Siani, now 67, were married in September 1996. Their wedding invitation had the usual information--date, time, church location, heartwarming sentiment, etc. However, the first thing friends and loved ones saw when opening up the invite was a Tucson Weekly personals ad Bowman had placed.

Goodhearted, unconventional WM ... seeks intimacy with woman of deep beauty ...

"We never would have met without the intervention of the Weekly," says Siani. "Our paths wouldn't have crossed. ... The fact that we answered an ad in the Weekly is part of our love story."

Adds Bowman: "We're so proud of it."

They say that most folks thought the inclusion of the personals ad in the wedding invitation was romantic and darling. Bowman and Siani say they even sent an invite to the staff at the paper.

"That was an expression of how we felt about the Weekly," says Bowman.

Siani was touched by Bowman's opening line in the personals ad (quoted above), and by his closing line on his voicemail message: "I'm looking for my last girlfriend, not my next girlfriend."

Siani says she had never answered a personals ad before, and sent Bowman a letter. He remembers receiving a red envelope with a stamp honoring Bill Haley and the Comets. That got his attention.

The two eventually connected on the telephone.

"We talked on the phone nearly every night for hours at a time. We had verbal

contact for three weeks before we met," she says.

The couple met at Café Terra Cotta for lunch, where Bowman enjoyed Siani's "liveliness and intelligence."

"She said to me, 'How's it going with the ads?'" remembers Bowman. "I said, 'I have 13 more people to (contact).' She said, 'You'll be back. I'm worth it.' I said, 'I know it.'"

The couple married three years later.

Bowman and Siani remain grateful to the Weekly for bringing them together. Siani writes in an e-mail, "We both still read the ads fondly, in the hope that the people placing them will find the wonderful thing that we found--true love."

Ken Willingham and Barbara Stahura

Local freelance writer Barbara Stahura, now 57, had pretty much accepted the idea that she'd be happy living the single life.

Then in November 2000, she says, she woke up one morning, and a "voice" told her to pick up the Tucson Weekly, and to read the personals. She found an ad that intrigued her: a half-page interview, photo included, with a software engineer named Ken Willingham, now 62.

"I really liked what he had to say," Stahura says. "There was a twinkle in his eye."

Willingham had been coaxed into running the ad by Weekly personals-column writer Tish Haymer (see the accompanying article), a longtime friend of his. But Stahura wasn't the only woman who found Willingham attractive.

"She was number 33, maybe 34," Willingham says with a light-hearted tone that might make someone think he is kidding. (He's not.) "I met them all, but she was the one."

They met for a glass of wine and attended an art-gallery opening. Both admit it wasn't love at first sight, although there was a strong attraction. It proved to be a comfortable fit, and neither had illusions when it came to marriage. Stahura had been divorced since 1970, and Willingham had been through what he calls "two practice marriages."

Nonetheless, the wedding came: Willingham proposed in March 2002, and they married on March 29, 2003.

The idea of "in sickness and in health" has been put to the test during their time together. In May 2002, during their engagement, Willingham hit a deer while riding his motorcycle. He broke numerous bones, but recovered. Then nine months to the day of their wedding, Willingham was out riding again when a car turned in front of him. This time, the injuries were more severe, and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Happily--in part, he notes, because he's had Stahura at his side--he has made a remarkable recovery.

They will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary in March.

Robert Jedicke and Shannon Brigman

Shannon Brigman, now 36, grew up in Tucson. As a teenager, she says, she looked over the Weekly's personals for amusement.

"I always read the personals and thought they were funny," she recalls.

In 2001, Brigman responded to her first ad--placed by her current partner, Robert Jedicke, now 46.

Jedicke was newly divorced after a 14-year marriage; it was his first personals ad. She was touched by the phrase "someone entirely different" and the questions, "Are you more into events than things? Are you more into people than TV?"

Jedicke recalls: "I wasn't expecting much, just hoping for the best. ... I wanted to present who I was. I wanted to make sure I was honest."

Brigman left a message for Jedicke, and he returned her call. It did not lead to a smooth beginning.

"After I left my number, I regretted it," Brigman remembers. "I decided not to go through with it. He ended up calling me three times. I screened the calls. I decided not to go out with him and had this whole story worked out."

Eventually, the couple wound up having a deep conversation for more than one hour, and they set up their first date at Kingfisher.

"I was shocked at how compatible we were--socially, politically, philosophically. At the end of the second date, we knew it would be pretty special," says Brigman. Within a couple of months, the couple moved in together.

Jedicke, an astronomer, and Brigman, a pediatrician, now live in Honolulu. They read the Honolulu Weekly and have fond memories about meeting through the Tucson Weekly. They think it was a romantic and beautiful coincidence.

"A lot of serendipitous circumstances had to take place," says Brigman.

"We wouldn't have met otherwise," adds Jedicke. "We tell the story to anyone who will listen."

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