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Six Vermont Couples Share Their 'How We Met' Stories

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Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo - COURTESY OF VERMONT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Courtesy Of Vermont Symphony Orchestra
  • Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo

Before people can fall in love, they have to find each other. This can happen in myriad ways, as interviews with half a dozen Vermont couples reveal. The spark can occur with one look across a crowded barroom or during an almost-blind date arranged through the personals.

Sometimes, an off-putting first impression — or larger impediment — has to be overcome for a relationship to proceed. But this happens regularly, as Carole Ziter, half of one of our featured partnerships (and in her 52nd year of marriage), observed in an email to Seven Days.

"As so often happens, all obstacles and objections disappeared as we got to know each other," Carole wrote about meeting Tom, the man she married in the summer of 1964.

Seven Days talked to Vermonters from the Northeast Kingdom to the Massachusetts border about how they met their partners. Here are their stories.

Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo

Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo - COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN STEINER
  • Courtesy Of Christian Steiner
  • Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo

They danced at a Holiday Inn in Great Falls, Mont., and held hands in San Francisco. But New Orleans on Valentine's Day 1974, where they performed the last concert of a chamber music tour with Musicians From Marlboro, is especially memorable for cellist Sharon Robinson.

"That night is when I was kind of realizing, This guy Jaime Laredo is something very, very special," she said.

Being selected to tour as part of a string quintet with Laredo, a famous violinist since age 18, was itself a thrill, Robinson said. Laredo made his orchestral debut at age 11 in San Francisco, the very city where he and his future wife first held hands.

"He knew everything, and I was pretty new at all of that," Robinson said. "It was a great adventure."

The two-and-a-half-week tour, which also brought the musicians to El Paso, Texas, and Santa Cruz, Calif., came to an end after a "jolly time" in New Orleans.

Robinson returned to North Carolina and her job at Duke University, where she taught and played in a string quartet. Laredo, whose career would come to include 20 years (and counting) as music director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, went home to New York City.

Within a couple of months, the two musicians decided they wanted to be together. That spring, Robinson left her job at Duke and moved to New York. She was 24; Laredo was 33.

"For a budding cellist, it was a scary time," said Robinson, now 71. "Then again, it was a magical, wonderful time. We made New York our home for many years, but Vermont called for us every summer." The couple first came to Vermont for the Marlboro Music Festival.

Laredo and Robinson were married in November 1976 and have made Guilford their home for 35 years. They also live part time in Cleveland, where both are on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music.

The two cherish Vermont, Robinson said, from the state's politics to its rich culture. "We just love our summers in Vermont so much," she said.

Arlene and Ted Ingraham

Ted and Arlene Ingraham - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Ted and Arlene Ingraham

On a hot June afternoon in 1987, the Gary Burton Quartet was playing in City Hall Park as part of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Ted Ingraham, a carpenter who lived in Danville, was in the audience. He was on a date, his first since a divorce two years earlier. But it was a woman sitting behind him at the concert who caught his attention.

"I guess I was immediately enthralled," said Ingraham, now 74.

He used the old "Can I borrow your program?" trick to engage the woman. But other than that, they didn't speak.

After the concert, Ingraham said goodbye to his date and drove home to Danville. On the way, he had the "crazy idea" to place a personal ad in the alt-weekly Vanguard Press seeking "contact with mystery woman," as he wrote in the notice.

The text read in part: "You — bright blue blouse, white shorts, dark hair, perfect tan, gold rings, alone. Me — beard, glasses, light hair, jeans. Borrowed your program, stared a lot."

Arlene and Ted Ingraham getting married in March 1988 - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Arlene and Ted Ingraham getting married in March 1988

Ingraham received a reply from a woman who signed her note M.W., though she wasn't certain that she was, indeed, the "mystery woman." She suggested that they meet at Leunig's Bistro & Café on July 9.

But Ingraham, who was building a house on Martha's Vineyard, didn't see her reply until three days after the possible Leunig's date.

"I'd already stood her up, and I hadn't even met her," Ingraham said.

Through another Vanguard correspondence, he explained his absence and suggested an alternate date.

Finally seeing each other at the restaurant, they determined that she was the mystery woman and he was the program borrower. They laughed a lot.

"I guess we both figured this was probably going to work out," Ingraham said.

Not long afterward, Ted Ingraham and Arlene Crispo were married in Weathersfield under a church steeple that he had restored. Now living in North Ferrisburgh, the Ingrahams will celebrate 33 years of marriage next month.

Mike Bosia and Steven Obranovich

Steven Obranovich (left) and Mike Bosia - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Steven Obranovich (left) and Mike Bosia

If comedian Sandra Bernhard hadn't left an LGBT fundraiser in San Francisco early to fly to Los Angeles to hang out with Madonna, Mike Bosia and Steven Obranovich might never have met.

But Bernhard, MC of the fundraiser that night in March 1989, cut out mid-event in favor of her pop-star pal. Bosia, then 27 and working in public relations, was in the audience. He split when Bernhard did — but not before going backstage to score her autograph and a kiss.

With time on his hands, a spring in his step and a Friday night yet to unfold, Bosia went to the Midnight Sun, a bar in the Castro neighborhood. It was packed with people and aglow in the light of video screens.

One of the patrons was Steven Obranovich, a 20-year-old theater student from Palo Alto who had gained entry with a fake ID. He was overwhelmed by the crowd and bored by the scene. He left to check out two other bars.

But around midnight, something drew Obranovich back to the Midnight Sun. He made his way to the bar and waited for a drink. Turning around with drink in hand, Obranovich caught sight of Bosia across the room. He was wearing a faded denim jacket bedecked with buttons, Obranovich recalled.

"It was as if the sea of people parted," he said. "Our eyes connected, and he had this enormous, adorable grin. I was completely taken aback, and I walked right up and said, 'Nice buttons.'"

Twenty minutes later, the two were in Bosia's car, dropping off his friends and driving to his studio. They've been together ever since.

The couple moved to Vermont in 2004 when Obranovich got a job as a chef in Greensboro. Later, he became founding chef of Claire's Restaurant in Hardwick. Now 52, Obranovich is the prepared foods manager at City Market, Onion River Co-op in Burlington. Bosia, 59, is an associate professor of political science at Saint Michael's College. They were married in 2010 and live in Winooski.

Renee and Chet Baker

Chet and Renee Baker - COURTESY OF AMANDA LETOURNEAU
  • Courtesy Of Amanda Letourneau
  • Chet and Renee Baker

For several years, Renee Nadeau and Chet Baker were employed on the Conant Farm in Richmond, but they rarely saw each other on the job.

Nadeau (now Baker), who grew up on a dairy farm in Holland, worked with the calves and cows: feeding, inseminating, managing reproduction. Chet, from Underhill, performed a variety of duties, including harvesting, planting, spreading manure, fixing machinery.

In the fall of 2010, after a meeting in the shop, the farmers got to talking. Chet mentioned that he and two friends were going to the University of Vermont hockey game that night. Renee joined them.

The group made plans to go out for drinks after the game at On Tap Bar & Grill in Essex Junction. "The friends ditched us," Renee recalled. "And then it was just Chet and I."

That evening, the two talked for hours. Soon, they started to spend time together. But it was "kind of awkward," Renee said. 

She's eight year older than Chet. She knew his father from his ag-related job. She didn't want things to get uncomfortable if the relationship faltered.

Renee confided her concerns to a friend, who replied: "There are tons of 20-year-old guys who get their heart broken every day. And if it doesn't work out, he'll be fine."

Chet was actually 22, Renee 30, and things worked out.

The couple became "official" in early 2011. When asked what "official" meant, Chet replied, "I don't know."

They got married in 2013 and the next year rented a farm in Morgan. Their dairy herd started with 24 calves that Renee received as a bonus from the Conant farm.

In December 2019, the Bakers purchased a farm in Albany called Hillside Homestead, where they milk 50 cows. Renee works with the animals; Chet handles field work, welding and maintenance.

"In today's world as a small farmer, if you can't fix everything by yourself, you wouldn't survive," Renee said.

The Bakers ship fluid milk from the farm and sell raw milk directly to consumers. They hope to soon create value-added products, such as a creemee starter.

"People say that we make a good team," Renee said. "His strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa."

Shreepali Rajbanshi and Jeetan Khadka

Jeetan Khadka and Shreepali Rajbanshi when they were students in Nepal - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Jeetan Khadka and Shreepali Rajbanshi when they were students in Nepal

Jeetan Khadka crossed a cultural divide to marry Shreepali Rajbanshi. She traversed the globe to marry Khadka. The 30-year-olds live in Essex Junction with their toddler and baby and are former co-owners of two Nepali restaurants. Khadka now is a case manager at AALV, a nonprofit that assists New Americans in Vermont.

The two met in seventh grade at a boarding school in Bhadrapur, Nepal. She was a day student. He was born in Bhutan and grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal; he lived on campus.

In eighth grade, a teenage crush burst forth. "We couldn't really talk; you don't get to hold hands," Khadka said. "For us, you give an eye at school; you gaze at her and give a smile."

At 15, Khadka was invited to Rajbanshi's aunt's wedding. Waiting in line to go to the temple, "I went close to her and kissed her," he recalled. "At the time, I had a feeling that she wouldn't mind. She just ran away."

But soon the two were talking more and more and communicating online. Yet they couldn't be public with their affections because of differences in culture and background.

When Khadka was in 11th grade, he and his family emigrated from Nepal and settled in Burlington, where he graduated from Burlington High School. He and Rajbanshi went to great lengths to keep their relationship alive for more than five years from different continents.

They arranged secret times to talk on the telephone. "I'll go up to the rooftop," she would tell him. "Call me at this time." It might have been 3 a.m. in Vermont.

During this time apart, Rajbanshi had suitors in Nepal, according to Khadka. "So many offers came to her family, asking for her hand," he said.

Jeetan Khadka and Shreepali Rajbanshi - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Jeetan Khadka and Shreepali Rajbanshi

In 2015, Khadka returned to Nepal to talk with Rajbanshi's father — a last chance to win approval. He borrowed a friend's motorcycle and rode to her gated house.

"She told me not to wear jeans," Khadka said. "Dress up like you're going to the office," she advised.

Seeing his future father-in-law, Khadka bowed to his elder and asked for his blessing.

"In her culture, the son-in-law has to do that. It's something my culture does not accept," Khadka said of the ritual. "I had to forget about it. I'm not marrying my culture. I want to marry her."

Khadka believes it was this act, along with his being a "healthy, big-body guy" and displaying maturity in conversation, that swayed his girlfriend's father.

"He can take care of my daughter," Khadka said, summarizing the older man's view.

In February 2016, Rajbanshi flew to the United States, accompanied by Khadka. They were married in Burlington the next month.

"We have two kids. We want to give them a good life," Khadka said. "They're born here, but they're Nepali inside."

Carole and Tom Ziter

Carole and Tom Ziter - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Carole and Tom Ziter

Carole Rines and Tom Ziter met in the summer of 1964 at an inn in the White Mountains. Both had summer jobs working as servers at the Town & Country Inn in Shelburne, N.H.

Carole lived at home in nearby Berlin and worked nights. Tom stayed with relatives, also in Berlin, and worked three meals a day. They were bound by their jobs and by the feeling each one had that they "owned" the place, Carole said.

Her parents had, in fact, owned the inn for a time; she had worked there since she was 13. But in the mid-1960s, relatives of Tom's owned the Town & Country. He had just graduated from Spaulding High School in Barre; she was a recent grad of the University of Indiana Bloomington.

Carole and Tom at his junior prom at Saint Michael's College - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Carole and Tom at his junior prom at Saint Michael's College

"We were at odds for most of the summer," Carole said. But they also had fun together, playing jokes on each other and having long chats.

At one point in the summer, the two made a bet. The terms of the wager have faded in memory, but the payoff is vivid for Carole: dinner at a restaurant in North Conway.

"He got all dressed up in a suit and borrowed his uncle's car," said Carole, now 78 and living with him in Essex Center. "It was so cute. It was a really nice date."

At the end of the summer, Tom started his first year at Saint Michael's College and Carole sailed to Italy to travel in Europe.

The following year, they returned to Town & Country for summer jobs.

"The minute we saw each other, we knew: This is it," Carole recalled.

In June 1968, after Tom's graduation, they were married in the chapel at St. Mike's. The Ziters, now retired from careers in education, business and marketing, raised two sons and a daughter.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Just One Look | Six Vermont couples share their "how we met" stories"