Sometimes a new hairstyle can make a big difference. It did for Tony Schuh.
He met his future wife, Lerria, at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.
She noticed his hair, but not in a good way.
“It was weird – like a bowl cut,” she said. “Then he got a new haircut and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, cute guy!’”
In his hair’s defense, Tony explained, “It was like Judd Nelson’s in ‘The Breakfast Club.’”
They both took Father Dan Hillen’s stained glass class and that proved pivotal to their first date.
“I invited her to have a glass of wine with me in the stained glass lab,” Tony said. “We made Christmas ornaments.”
It was December 7, 1989. After the wine and ornaments, they ended up at Kmart sipping Icees because Tony had to pick up decorations for a Christmas party he was hosting.
“I was intrigued,” Lerria said. “He was so different from anybody else I’d met. My mother calls what he does ‘Tony’s Roses’ because he always stops to smell the roses whether it’s a scenic overlook or a detour on the road less traveled.”
For his part, Tony found Lerria beautiful, but more importantly, “She was willing to explore Helena with me. She was adventurous and followed me.”
Indeed she did. When Tony graduated with a degree in psychology in 1991, he moved to Spokane to work. Lerria followed a short time later to finish her studies at Gonzaga. She graduated in 1993 with a degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis.
“Our goals were similar. Work hard, be ambitious, but not overly intense,” said Tony.
Lerria smiled. “It was just so easy to be together.”
In October 1993, he invited her to go to Priest Lake. She thought it odd to camp in October, but true to the adventurous spirit he loved, she went along. Tony built a campfire and then disappeared into the tent.
She heard him rustling around but couldn’t imagine what he was up to. Turns out Tony planned to propose, but had misplaced the ring.
He shrugged. “The ring was small and it was dark.’
A last the ring was found and Lerria accepted his proposal.
On July 8, 1994, they were married by Father Hillen in the chapel at Providence Sacred Heart Doctor’s Building.
Busy years ensued. Lerria began working at what was then Cavanaugh’s Hospitality and is now WestCoast Entertainment. Currently she’s vice president of marketing and sales for the company.
Tony helped establish the BEST program at Providence Sacred Heart, a hospital-based day treatment program for kids 5 to 12.
And then their own children arrived. Daughter, Kegley, in 1996, son, Logan, in 1999 and daughter, Cia, in 2001. Father Hillen baptized each of them.
In addition, a child from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program ended up moving in with them for a time, and for four years they hosted exchange students from Mexico.
“I call them my extra children,” Lerria said. “When I turn 50 all I want is for all 8 of my kids to be here.”
In 2013, they faced a new challenge. A portion of porch railing gave way at their northwest Spokane home, and Lerria fell, striking her head.
What at first seemed like a simple concussion turned out to be a traumatic brain injury with far-reaching ramifications.
Her short-term memory was shot, she frequently lost her voice, bright lights and loud noise were intolerable. Suddenly, Tony was in charge of the household schedule.
“I was used to her ability to direct and organize,” he said.
Lerria said, “He had to take care of everything. He was my total rock – especially that first year. When you go through something like this you find out how strong your relationship is.”
Thankfully, theirs was like granite.
Though she’s improved greatly, she still struggles with some lingering issues from the injury.
“But her 80 and 90 percent is like everyone else’s 110 percent,” Tony said.
With their oldest attending WSU and their younger two in high school, the empty nest years are fast approaching, and they’re looking forward to this new stage of life.
When asked if they had any marital advice, Tony smiled.
“It’s simple really. Just grow love in your house.”
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