Every good romantic movie has a meet-cute moment where the two main characters see each other for the first time. Sometimes there’s a stolen identity or crazy mix-up involved, other times it’s love — or hate — at first sight.

Real life isn’t always so picture perfect, but there are plenty of good stories to be found. We asked three sets of Hermiston residents to tell us theirs.

Jim and Michelle McAllister

When Jim and Michelle McAllister met, she wasn’t having a great day.

She had cut her finger badly at work, slicing through a small artery. Jim picked her up in an ambulance.

The pair were both in the Navy, stationed in Key West, Florida. Jim was a corpsman, Michelle was a weather observer. She turned 19 at midnight while getting her finger stitched up; he was in his early 20s.

“I picked her up and thought, ‘She’s kind of cute,’” Jim said.

He did some due diligence and suddenly found himself with a frequent craving for McDonald’s, where she worked the drive-through. Eventually he worked up the courage to ask a friend to tell her Jim wanted to go on a date, and they made a plan to go. But Jim accidentally stood her up after going sailing with friends earlier that day and losing the wind while they were out to sea.

“I called her up from a pay-phone,” Jim said.

“At 9 p.m.!” Michelle interjected.

She forgave him, and they started going steady not long after, sticking together even though Jim got transferred out to California.

When he came back to Florida for a visit a few months later, he wanted to go to the beach, where he planned to surprise her with flowers and an engagement ring. But Michelle had a softball game to play, and she refused to miss it.

She was rounding the bases when she tripped and injured something — she remembers it was her ankle, he says it was her wrist — and they ended up back in the exact same clinic where they first got to know each other. Jim thought, “Why not?” and got the flowers and ring out of the car and proposed right there.

The first year of their marriage wasn’t easy — they got married on a Saturday, and Jim flew back to California on Sunday, where he would wait for two months for Michelle to be able to join him. Then they were both on 24-hour shift work for over a year, home at the same time only two or three times a week.

Twenty-eight years, four children and several moves around the world later, however, they’re still happily married and have settled down in Hermiston.

Wanda Hunt and Richard Scarlett

Though they didn’t get married until they were 40, Wanda Hunt and Richard Scarlett’s history goes back a little further than that.

They met in first grade at West Park Elementary School in 1956. More than 30 years later, Richard proposed to Wanda, in the same classroom where they’d met as kids.

“We lived across the street from each other when we were young,” Wanda said. “Our families knew each other, and I always said to my mom I thought he would be the boy I married but he moved away to Seattle and got married.”

The couple remembered each other, and would visit each other’s families when they were in town.

But their romance didn’t take off until their 20th high school reunion, in August 1988. They started dating in earnest shortly after, and got married in 1992. The couple has enjoyed a life of adventures both at home and abroad, visiting more than 35 countries. Wanda said one of her favorite memories is a trip they took to Thailand, and Richard recalls fondly a trip to England to visit friends, where their plane had to be used to fly troops for the Gulf War before they were supposed to leave.

But Richard’s dream was always to move back to Hermiston, where he grew up.

“It reminded him of the TV show Mayberry with Andy Griffith,” Wanda said.

Every Christmas, the couple has a special tradition: dressing up as Santa and Mrs. Claus, visiting local retirement and nursing homes, and giving out treats and gifts.

“We do that in our parents’ memory,” Wanda said. “Everyone in those nursing homes — a lot of them are between the ages of 80 and 90. All those people knew our parents. We’ll keep doing that as long as we can.”

Lillian and Jack Smith

Lillian Smith’s late husband Jack knew he was going to marry her the first time he met her, when they were both introduced during a Friday night at Hale’s. He told her so right then and there.

“He said, ‘That’s wonderful, can we have a dance?’” Lillian said. “I said, ‘There’s no music,’ and he said ‘That’s OK, I can sing.’ We had a dance. He told me ‘I’m going to marry you,’ and I said ‘Like ‘H’ you are.’”

Lillian, who turned 95 this month, was divorced with two children and wasn’t looking for love again. But Jack was so kind to her and the children that over time she changed her mind.

The minister at their Lutheran church wouldn’t marry them because Lillian was divorced, so they got married by a Methodist minister instead. Jack adopted Lillian’s two oldest and they had a third child together. During their working years, Lillian worked at the Umatilla Chemical Depot and Jack at the Hinkle rail yard. They were married for 58 years before Jack died in 2006.

Their daughter Judy Jung said they loved to throw a good party and that their house for a while was the second largest stop in the county for the Olympia beer truck. Lillian still has that love — she said her 95th birthday party with friends and family lasted until midnight.

News Editor

Hermiston Herald news editor and reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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