We Love Our Grand Rapids Sweethearts!

Our Grand Rapids Nation Alumni & Friends team has put together a fun, sweet little project in the spirit of Valentine’s Day to share love stories of “Grand Rapids Sweethearts.”

Check out the stories below of people who were brought together at or through Grand Rapid schools and shared their stories with our community of alumni. If you’re interested in submitting your love story, click the link below!

Thanks so much in advance for your contributions!

Randall Breckon & Michelle (Graves) Breckon - City High - Class of '06

Randy and I met in 6th grade when we both started attending Zoo School. Neither of us intended to go to City, but somehow we both ended up there. We weren't directly friends, but our friend groups ate lunch near each other (in the CafeGymBandAtorium). In our junior year, on the class trip to Shipshewana, Randy told me that he had a crush on me. Despite teasing from my friends, we went on our first date. Afterwards, with more teasing from my friends, I promptly ignored his existence for a month. Then we both started working on the fall play together (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), and I confessed that I'd had a dream he had started to date someone else and I had woken up crying. He gave me another chance, and we started dating!

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Dan Morse & Whitley (Eager) Morse

While my wife did not graduate from GRPS, we met each other in our first years of teaching together at Creston High School in 2011-2012. Since then, we started dating, got married, and had our daughter, Geneva, who we are planning on starting at North Park next school year. Whitley is currently teaching Social Studies at Ottawa Hills High School, teaching at our local high school five minutes from where we live. I have been lucky enough to serve as the Principal at North Park for the last two years, after spending nearly a decade teaching at Creston, Ford, and Innovation Central.

Bryan Mendez & Imaree (Scott) Mendez - Creston High School - Class of 2008

We met in 8th grade at Riverside Middle. Went on to Creston High School and attended the GRAPCEP program for all 4 years. Fell in love. Won class couple in the mock elections for our senior year. Had our first daughter at 19 and Bryan joined the Army. We had our son at 22 and moved back to Michigan. At 27 had our 2nd daughter and began our careers as a CNC programmer and realtor. Purchased our first house in 2020 and Now expecting our 4th (another girl). Working on our family and homestead.

Daryl Smith & Kathy (Haynes) Smith - Ottawa Hills High School - Class of 1986

Living in the GRPS school district, it wasn’t a question of what school you would attend. I was in Creston High Zach district and transferred to Ottawa Hills in 1985. We met in the library waiting for our class schedules and a friend introduced me to Daryl, voted as high school sweetheart and the rest is history. We both have success careers at Amway Corporation and the State of Michigan. We’ve been married for 33 years, have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. We are empty nesters, enjoying each other as we’re going into the next phase in life. We love to travel with our family and friends.

Gerald Perry & Nannette (Thomas) Perry – Ottawa & Creston High – Class of 1991 and 1988

The first time I saw Thomas, it was the year 2007 and I was in 8th grade at City High-Middle and Thomas was in 7th. He had very long hair and was kind of short and chubby, and I remember walking past him in the hallways thinking “that poor girl looks so sad.” It was until years later that Thomas and I first became friends in Mr. Tu’s physics class in 2010-ish. I was a grade above him, but I wasn’t placed into a physics class my junior year and I was hoping Ms. Ralston wouldn’t notice and I could somehow skip taking it. She did, in fact, notice and I was placed into physics as a senior. The classroom seats were in alphabetical order, so I was seated next to my friend Lashia Starks. Thomas was also in this class, and he was now tall and regarded as being one of the cuter boys in our school (or, at least in my group of friends!). 

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Thomas DeBoer & Hannah (Tripp) DeBoer – City High – Class of 2013 and 2012

The first time I saw Thomas, it was the year 2007 and I was in 8th grade at City High-Middle and Thomas was in 7th. He had very long hair and was kind of short and chubby, and I remember walking past him in the hallways thinking “that poor girl looks so sad.” It was until years later that Thomas and I first became friends in Mr. Tu’s physics class in 2010-ish. I was a grade above him, but I wasn’t placed into a physics class my junior year and I was hoping Ms. Ralston wouldn’t notice and I could somehow skip taking it. She did, in fact, notice and I was placed into physics as a senior. 

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Ignacio Peralta & Sandra Serrano – Central High School – Class of 2007 and 2008

Ignacio and I met my freshman year of high school, at Central High school. He was always a 4.0 student so when I was struggling in school he helped me a lot and I was able to graduate with good grades. We always pictured our future together, and now we have a beautiful family. I became a hairstylist and my husband is successful realtor in West Michigan.

Alejandro & Solmeris Hernandez (Garcia-Montoya) – Union High School – Class of 2002

I married my high school sweetheart! I met my now husband, Alejandro while attending Union High School. We met during Geometry class taught by Mr. Gulker. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids and I had just moved to the US from Venezuela and just needed to finish 12th grade to then go to college. He won me over with his love and kindness. We both graduated in 2002 and have been together since then. We have been married since 2005 and have a 14 year old daughter named Isabell and a 9 year old son named Caleb. I am proud to be both a GRPS and a GRCC alumni.

Ward & Mary Jo Winer (Wielinga) – South High School – Class of 1954

We met in a 10th grade civics class at South High School in 1951 and started dating shortly after. Ward was senior class president for the class of 1954. I went to Western Michigan. University for one semester and then worked as secretary for the advertising manager at the Grand Rapids Press for about three years before we were married in 1957. Ward went to Grand Rapids Junior College for two years and then to the University of Michigan to study mechanical engineering (BSE ‘58, MSE ‘59, PhD ‘62). I worked as a secretary in the psychology department at UM until our first child was born in 1959. 

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Tim & Jordan Roberts (Allen) – Ottawa Hills High School – Class of 2000 & 2002

It all started with a note passed in the stairwell of Ottawa Hills high school. I was a freshman and Tim was a junior. We started exchanging notes to each other every day and it continued throughout the years. I still have every single one still saved in a box. We slowly got to know each other and before long were dating. 

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Michael & Andrea Kulhawik (Stulpe) – Union High School – Class of 1993 & 1995

Michael and I met in 1991 while in French class at UHS. We married in May of 1999 and have 3 children – Emily 18, Grace 16 and Joe 12. Michael graduated with a degree in aviation management and has been employed at UPS for 30 years. Andrea has started her 20th year in education as administrative support and was employed at GRPS from 2005-2014. Both have fond memories of favorite teachers from UHS and still remain in contact with many friends from high school.

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Jeffrey Thomas & Elianna Bootzin – City High Middle School – Class of 2005

We met in 8th grade Geometry class, and after a brief disastrous attempt at a relationship and some 9th grade awkwardness, Elianna and I were good friends through the remainder of our time at City, doing theater and even giving our valedictorian speeches together. We were regularly asked if we were a couple – even by the Grand Rapids Press photographer for the Superstar Seniors photo shoot – to our firm and embarrassed denials. We reunited romantically the summer after senior year, and finally for a third time about four years later. That time it stuck, and we’ve been married for twelve years. We’re really excited for our kiddo to begin attending Grand Rapids Montessori next fall!

Marcus & Elizabeth (Danielski) Hoeksema – City High Middle School – Class of 1998

Marcus and I met in 1992. I remember seeing him for the first time sitting on a radiator getting ready to go into our Spanish class. We became quick friends. Our friendship continued on and we spent lots of time together in and outside of school. We remained very good friends through 9th grade, even attending our 9th grade prom together. After 9th grade we both went our separate ways with friends and significant others. We remained friendly throughout high school. 

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Xavier & Audrey (Johnson) Greenfield – City High School – Class of 2008

Xavier and I met in seventh grade at City Middle. We were seated at a table in Mr. Mirandette’s science class and I had a crush ever since. Xavier remembers forming a crush around eighth grade. Then Señora Castillo partnered us in our tenth grade spanish class, so for a semester we sat next to one another and were assigned regular phone calls to practice speaking spanish together, which was when we began talking one-on-one. I was thrilled! Before we ever dated, I remember confiding in a mutual friend that I could imagine marrying Xavier.

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Brian & Julie (Pyorala) Marks – Union and Hancock High School – Class of 1961 and 1969

We met in an Art Appreciation class at Grand Rapids Jr. College in the fall of 1969.  I was a bit late for class and couldn’t find a seat.  I heard a voice say, “Here is a seat. Sit here.”  That was Brian, and I went over and sat next to him.  The rest is history. 

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Douglas & Charyl (Moss) Martinez – Central High School – Class of 1961 and 1962

Doug and I first saw each other outside the truant office In Central HS. Doug was standing in the hall. I assisted Mrs. Keegstra in her office.  Doug gave me “the look” but did not say anything.  I was in the 9th grade and he was in the 10th.  The next time I saw Doug and actually spoke to him was while I was walking home from school.  He was in a car with some other boys I knew and they stopped.  

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Kurt & Joie (Howland) Hauschild – Ottawa Hills High School – Class of 1995 and 1996

Kurt and Joie met in 1992 thru their friend, Karin DeHaan (Kohn). Joie was a Freshman and Kurt was a Sophomore at Ottawa Hills High School. They quickly became best friends and fell in love. And alas, with young love, it did fizzle out after a few months and they tragically broke up. BUT- they got back together after a six month hiatus and have been together ever since. Kurt and Joie both were involved in the School Musicals- starting with Grease. Kurt was on the stage while Joie had to put the spotlight on him. 

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Derek & Natalie (Selmon) James – Ottawa Hills High School – Class of 1998

Natalie and Derek met in 9th grade in Ms. Noah’s freshman honors English class at Ottawa Hills High School. Derek was signing Boys to Men in the back of the classroom as the entire class worked on their spelling narratives. Annoyed with this, Natalie called out “Who is singing boys to men in that ‘ol deep baritone voice? Stop it!”. That voice was Derek’s. “But she noticed me!!” he thought. 

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Russ & Elizabeth (Sienko) Whitaker – Creston High School – Class of 1984 and 1982

We both attended GRPS from elementary (Palmer and Riverside) then both went to Riverside Middle, then both of us went to Creston High School. We knew each other since 1977 through mutual friends. We had our first date on March 18th 1983.  We went to John Ball Zoo with my best girlfriend and her date. Ever since then Russ and I always did everything together! We attended each other’s sporting events, one Valentine’s dance, and hung out with all our friends and stayed inseparable.  

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Jack & Anne (Edsenga) Gietzen – Union High School – Class of 1973 and 1972

Jack and I met in Chemistry class. I was a cheerleader and he was a football player. Our teacher, Mr. Vander Woude, had us sitting alphabetically and Jack sat directly in front of me. Mr VanderWoude ran a very strict class but he let Jack turn around and talk to me. He was also a coach of Jack’s. After several weeks he asked Jack if he was going to ask me out and he would ask me if I would go out with Jack, if he asked me. It took about a month for him to ask me out. We dated for 7 short years before we both graduated from MSU and got married. That was almost 45 years ago.

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