Mark and Sandi Sannes celebrated their 25th anniversary in April, a milestone to be sure, but enduring marriages run in the family.
After all, Mark’s aunt and uncle recently marked their 65th anniversary and were featured in this series on Oct. 15.
The younger Sanneses met at Safeco Insurance in Spokane Valley in 1993. Sandi was the new girl in the claims department, while Mark had been there for quite a while. She noticed him right away.
“He went to lunch with the same group of people every day, so I approached a coworker and asked for an introduction,” recalled Sandi.
She also started taking her lunch at the same time, not that Mark seemed to notice.
“I started there in July, and he didn’t ask me out until October,” she said.
An hours-long conversation at the Deer Lake cabin he was building finally intrigued him.
“I’d invited the whole claims department out to the lake,” he recalled. “Everyone left except Sandi. We kept the fireplace going and ended up talking most of the night.”
It was no casual conversation. Both were in their thirties and knew what they wanted out of life and in a life partner.
“We talked about everything that night,” said Sandi. “Politics, kids, religion.”
And soon they were dating. Mark lived at the lake and Sandi owned a home in Coeur d’Alene.
“There was a lot of driving and a lot of phone calls,” Mark said.
Early in their relationship he told her not to expect anything serious for at least 12 months.
“I told her I wanted to get to know her in every season.”
And on a sunny July afternoon, Mark felt he knew enough about her to want to spend the rest of his life with her.
As proposals go it was both memorable and quintessentially Spokane, but Sandi never saw it coming.
“He kidnapped me!” she said. “He stole me from work.”
“We went out to lunch and we didn’t come back.”
He’d OK’d the absence with Sandi’s boss, but she didn’t know that.
“I was dressed in a skirt and high heels, and we kept driving and driving,” she said. “I only had 45 minutes for lunch. I was totally stressed out and mad.”
They ended up at Manito Park, and Mark led her to the little hill overlooking the duck pond, where he spread out a picnic lunch that he’d prepared.
Sandi wasn’t having it. She told him, “Great! But we don’t have time for lunch. Can we go back now?”
That’s when Mark fessed up and told her they had the rest of the day off. They feasted on strawberries, chocolates, wine and homemade sub sandwiches. Then Mark got down on one knee and proposed.
“I told him I’d have to think about it,” Sandi said, grinning.
She didn’t think long. Their next stop was downtown at Dodson’s Jewelers where she picked out her ring. And then it was on to Patsy Clark’s where Mark had made dinner reservations.
They married April 29, 1995, at the Clark House in Hayden Lake, Idaho.
“We planned a small wedding, but his mother invited a lot more people and didn’t tell us,” said Sandi.
“We had no idea until people kept arriving and arriving and arriving.”
Before they left for their honeymoon to Florida’s Sanibel Island, Mark found a note that Sandi had taped to their hotel room door. It was a list of rules for a happy marriage. Rule number one? “The wife makes the rules.”
“Why didn’t you show this to me before?” he asked.
“I didn’t have a wedding ring on my finger before.”
When they returned home Sandi took a job at a different insurance agency.
“We’re super practical people,” she said. “What if layoffs happened? We wanted to start a family, and it didn’t seem wise to both be employed at the same company.”
Their dream of having a child came true with the birth of their son Cameron in 1997. They hoped to have another baby and pursued two rounds of in vitro fertilization.
“It didn’t work,” Sandi said. “We had a garage sale and sold all Cameron’s baby things. Right after the garage sale I found out I was pregnant.”
Daughter Marissa completed the family in 2002.
“We were so happy to have the kids,” Mark said.
Indeed, every vacation, whether to Hawaii, Disneyworld or a simple road trip, involved all four of them.
“The best part about being old parents is that we were so chill about everything,” Sandi said.
Even so, the couple are looking forward to an empty nest. COVID-19 put a temporary halt to that idea.
Cameron graduated from Gonzaga University and is back at home while he looks for work, and Marissa is taking online classes from WSU.
The split in college loyalties mirrors that of their parents. Mark is a WSU alum, Sandi a Gonzaga grad.
“We watch Coug football and Zag basketball,” said Sandi.
Six years ago, the couple embarked on a new adventure. They opened their own company, Sannes Insurance LLC, specializing in Medicare insurance.
Sandi had worked in the field for awhile and after 30 years with Safeco, Mark was ready to get off the corporate treadmill.
“After almost 20 years, we’re working together again and it’s great,” he said.
While some couples might find working together a bit too much, Sandi said it suits them perfectly.
“I work from home and before COVID-19, Mark worked in our office,” she said.
Her husband nodded.
“It’s so nice to be able to come home and talk about my day with someone who understands it,” he said. “It boils down to listening and respecting.”
Today they are especially thankful for the work and life they’ve built together.
“She’s put up with me for 25 years,” Mark said. “She’s really special.”
Sandi feels the same way about him.
“I appreciate his love, respect and friendship,” she said. “He is a gift to me.”
— Cindy Hval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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