They walked down the same halls at West Valley High School – had some of the same teachers, knew the same people, and graduated together in the class of 1969. Yet Daryl Williams and Ginnie Schmidt never met.
Fast forward to West Valley’s 20th reunion. They both attended. The reunion photo shows him in the back row and she a couple of rows in front of him. They didn’t meet then either.
It took social media to accomplish what attending the same school couldn’t. In August 2011, Daryl posted on Facebook that he’d like to get in touch with his classmates. Ginnie saw that post, thanks to a mutual friend. She sent him a private message and asked if he’d like meet for coffee or a drink.
Three weeks later they met at the Library Lounge. “I’m not really one to talk about myself,” Daryl said. “But that night I went on and on! I was amazed.”
He wasn’t the only one with a lot to talk about. Ginnie, 60, said, “We’ve both had multiple marriages and relationships, more deaths and other challenges in our lives than most people have had by the time they’re our age.” She paused and looked at Daryl, 61. “I wouldn’t call it love at first sight, but there was a definite connection.”
For Daryl, that Facebook message came at a pivotal time. He’d recently returned to Spokane after living in Great Falls for several years. Unfortunately, tragedy had brought him back. In 2007, his 11-year-old grandson was killed by a drunken driver. The boy’s mother, Daryl’s only child, was devastated by the loss.
“Six months later my daughter passed away,” he said. “Six months after that, my wife left me.” He shook his head. “I thought I had a black cloud over me.”
In 2009, he returned to Spokane to be near his remaining grandson.
Daryl’s been involved with music all his life, either as part of a band or as a karaoke jockey. After that first meeting he invited Ginnie to come to the Greenacres bar where he KJ’d.
“I went on a Saturday night to see what he did,” she recalled. “I’d never seen karaoke before.”
Although on most Saturday nights the bar was packed, this one proved to be different. “It was a strange night,” she said. “Nobody showed up. We ended up talking all night.”
Soon they were inseparable, texting constantly, spending every minute they could together. Both worried the relationship seemed too easy – too good to be true.
Ginnie said, “He told me he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I said, ‘Me too.’ ”
By January 2012, Daryl was ready to move in with her. It proved to be a true test of their relationship because he brought his big, old dog with him. “I have a cat,” Ginnie said. “I grew up with cats. I am a cat person.”
They discovered that wasn’t their only difference. “The only thing we can’t talk about is politics,” she said. “Tuesday night (election night) was tense around here.”
Daryl chuckled. “We don’t argue but there’s been a few bumps!”
Despite those bumps he knew he wanted to marry her. He wanted to arrange a romantic evening to pop the question, but one night he blurted, “Will you marry me?” Daryl shook his head at the memory. “As soon as I said it I said, ‘That’s not the way I wanted to do that!’ ”
No matter. He got the answer he wanted.
Ginnie said, “He’s really different than any guy I’ve ever known. He’s a gentleman. He’s thoughtful and always concerned about my well-being. With all the stuff he’s been through, he could have built a wall up.”
She offered an example of his thoughtfulness. Her daughter was engaged and had planned an August wedding. “Daryl insisted we not choose a date too close to her special day.”
So, they married May 25. And during the reception, Daryl serenaded his bride with “One in a Million.”
As they talked, he held Ginnie’s hand in both of his. “I’m blown away by her patience – her compassion.”
They often wonder what might have happened had they met 40 years ago, but Ginnie said, “Our losses make us appreciate each other every day. We don’t take anything for granted.”
Though they may not have noticed each other in high school, now they can’t keep their eyes off each other.
“I’m a fairly strong person, but when she came into my life I’d gotten to the point where I didn’t know how much strength I had left,” Daryl said. “I think that black cloud has passed.” He glanced at Ginnie. “Sometimes out of nowhere something wonderful shows up.”