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Andi and Michael Lee grew up a mile down the road from one another, and will celebrate their 13-year anniversary in October.

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Brandon and Amanda Wood fell in love when they were just 13 and 14 years old. They will be celebrating their 28th year of marriage this September. 

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Mike and Donna Mayer fell in love as a junior and sophomore in high school and will celebrate 39 years of marriage this coming July. 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with love stories of high school sweethearts

Love stories in books and movies usually make relationships look pretty easy. In every good story there is typically a minor problem which almost certainly ends in a flawless resolution.

 In real life however, it has been reported that only 2 percent of U.S. marriages are between high school sweethearts, and the marriage breakup rate for first marriages is 41-50 percent.

Love in real life can absolutely be like the movies, but usually there are a few more bumps in the road.

In celebration of this Valentine’s Day, here are three real life high school sweetheart love stories from the Grant community, proving love doesn’t just exist in fairy tales. 

Lee

Growing up about a mile down the road from one another, Michael and Andi (Tatum) Lee have known each other “forever,” but it was a kiss after track practice in front of the high school that set the course for the rest of their lives.

Michael said he had always been interested in Andi, but never thought he’d have a chance. Andi said she always thought Michael was so nice, but wasn’t interested until her senior year. 

“We had been dating a little bit before our first kiss...pretty sure I made that first move!” Andi said.

Michael said he knew “definitely after that first kiss,” that Andi was the one for him.

Andi said she thought she always knew Michael was the one for her in the back of her mind, but it wasn’t until she was living in New York City and Michael stayed in Grant to farm that really solidified that feeling for her. 

She went to New York to pursue her modeling career, and Michael stayed at home, and they dated long distance for six years.

“I came back to Grant to visit a lot, and he came out to visit me,” Andi said. “It was difficult to live so far away from him for so long, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew he was it for me.”

So Andi headed home, she and Michael got engaged a few months later, and the pair have been together ever since.

“His proposal was beautiful, he put candles on the stairs with a trail of rose petals that led to his homemade dinner,” Andi said, and the two were married on Oct. 8, 2005. 

Together for a total of 18 years now, the couple has two children: Maddox is 11 and Tatum will be eight next month. “We’ve pointed out that spot [of the first kiss] at the school to the kids who of course think it’s disgusting!” 

“What I love the most about Michael is how dedicated he is to our family. He has such a kind heart, and is always willing to help anyone, any time, any where. And it doesn’t hurt that he is ridiculously handsome too. What drives me crazy? He’s ‘never’ right!,” said Andi. 

Michael said what he loves the most about Andi is her “glowing smile, and her caring heart.” But it drives him crazy that “She is ‘ALWAYS’ right.” 

They say the key to a lasting marriage is to listen to one another, and always remember that it takes two, also to recognize your partners feelings. Remember that a wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime. Andi added, “And Never. Stop. Laughing!” 

Wood

Red Cloud natives Brandon and Amanda (Mohlman)Wood met at Brandon’s best friend’s house at the mere ages of 13 and 14. 

For their first date, they took a walk, where they shared their first kiss on Third and Division Street in Red Cloud. Brandon asked Amanda to be his girlfriend on April 20, 1991 at 10:35 p.m.

He said he knew she was the one when he took her home and saw the relationship between her and his parents. 

Amanda said her mom and grandma told her she was oblivious to other boys trying to catch her attention. She only had eyes for Brandon. 

While watching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves at Amanda’s parents’ house, Brandon asked her to dance to “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams as it played at the end of the movie. 

This became and remains their song, and Brandon plays the guitar chords on her back as it plays.  

In December 1995, during Brandon’s senior year and seven months after Amanda had graduated high school, Brandon took Amanda back to Third and Division Street, where they had first kissed. 

It was there he asked her to marry him, reciting a poem he had written for her. 

On Sept. 7, 1996, Brandon and Amanda became husband and wife at 19 and 20.

Now married for over 21 years and together for almost 27, Brandon said his dad is a great person to give advice.

“He told me if things get shady and you start growing apart it’s because you’ve changed. You’re no longer doing those things you were when you were dating,” Brandon said. 

He offered examples such as opening the car door, surprising her with a flower, sending her a card just because. 

“My advice would be to always act as though you’re dating even though you’re married,” he said.  

Amanda confirmed that Brandon still does this. 

“I don’t get flowers on Valentine’s Day, or the days people expect gifts. He does it all throughout the year,” she said. 

While Amanda said there are many things she loves about Brandon, if she had to choose one it would be his compassion. 

“His exterior is very tough, but he’s one of the most kind-hearted and compassionate people I’ve ever met,” she said. 

Brandon said what he admires most is Amanda’s patience with him.

But what would a true marriage be without flaws? One of Brandon’s biggest pet peeve is Amanda’s tardiness.

“I can’t stand it. It drives me nuts,” he said. 

Amanda said Brandon can be pretty bull-headed and extremely stubborn, but admitted she can be too, which can create some trying times. 

The couple agreed the most difficult thing about marriage is letting things go and forgiving. 

Brandon and Amanda have three children: Bailey, 19; Beau, 17 and Brient, who will be 13 next month.

Brandon moved to Grant in December 2006 for his job with Great Plains Communications and Amanda and the kids followed that January. 

Amanda teaches fifth grade at Perkins County Schools. 

Mayer

Just after Grant’s high school graduation in 1976, Mikel Mayer, a 17-year-old junior, was cruisin’ around town in his 1973 Ford Galaxy 500 when he saw a group of his friends hanging out up at the park in the turn around near the band shell. 

Among that group of friends at the park that day, was a girl Mike had heard about, Donna Porter. 

Mike’s friend, Nancy, had already told him all about the Elsie girl, who was a Wheatland sophomore at the time. 

“All the time, we’d just come to Grant and ‘drag main,’ that was the cool thing to do,” Donna said. Mike laughed, “I don’t think you had even gone to graduation that day.” 

What was by all appearances, an innocent group of friends hanging out, was fate in disguise. 

Knowing this was the girl he had heard about, Mike said he was scared, but a little push from his friend Brian gave him the courage. 

“Brian said, ‘Mike are you gonna ask her out?’ and I said ‘wellllll...I don’t know’ and he said, ‘well if you’re not, I’m gonna!’ so I said, ‘No! I’m asking her!” 

There sat Donna on the hood of the car, talking and laughing with friends. Mike finally mustered up the courage to ask her out...but she didn’t hear him at first. 

“She didn’t hear me, but EVERYONE else did, so I had to ask her.... AGAIN!” 

This time, she heard him, and agreed. 

“Oh I remember our first date,” Donna said, “we went to the drive in movie, ‘Mahogany,’ and oh, I loved Diana Ross!” 

Mike lived in Grant, and Donna lived on the farm outside of Elsie, and the drive in movie they went to was in Ogallala, “so we had a lot of time to just talk,” Mike said. “We really had a great time!” Donna added.

They agreed that their first date was it. They knew. 

“After our first date I just thought ‘WOW!’ I mean, I know that old cliche ‘love at first sight,’ but it really kinda was!” Donna said. 

“We just had a great connection, and a lot in common. And yeah, we just kinda knew,” Mike added.

“She was just so fun to be around, so bubbly. And that smile,” Mike said of Donna. 

After three years together, the couple was married in a small ceremony at the United Methodist Church in Elsie on July 21, 1979. Mike was 20, Donna was 19. 

The couple had a small ceremony, and never shared an official “first dance,” but when asked about their song Donna said “I know what song we like... the one we always request at weddings.....,” to which Mike replied, “Yeah, how do you stand back and not dance to the ‘Love Shack’?!”

Three children and four grandchildren later, the happy couple celebrates 39 years of marriage this year. 

Their oldest daughter, Molly is 31; Drew is 28; and their youngest, Brad, is 27. Brad is married and he and his wife Shelby have made their home in Grant to raise Mike and Donna’s four grandchildren; Paisley, Callum, Brynn, and Wells. 

“Her upbeat, positive character. That’s what I love the most about her,” Mike said.

“What I love the most about Mike is, his honesty, and his love of Christ. His faith. I love that,” Donna said, as she struggled to really come up with anything that drives her crazy about him. “Maybe when he turns the iPad up too loud when I’m watching my shows?”

“Yeah!” Mike said, “That reminds me, I got one for you, here’s what drives me crazy..... We have AT LEAST 125 channels on this thing (pointing at the T.V.), and we only need one. EVERY! TIME! I turn the T.V. on.... Channel 47!”

“Yeah, I do love my HGTV,” Donna laughed.

Their experience guides them to believe that keeping the communication open is one of the greatest challenges of marriage, but laughed trying to decide if that got better or worse over the years. “Your trials and tribulations are what make you stronger,” 

Donna said, “just remember that love is in there.” “We made the decision to be together, but then we added Christ in our marriage and in our lives and THAT’S what got us here.” Mike said.

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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