Written By Donna Engle

When Harry Met Sally, the premise became a movie. When six carroll couples met, their pairings became six real-life love stories.

John and Marion Sernulka
In 1974, 25-year-old John Sernulka was an internal auditor for General Electric. His Cleveland-based auditing team traveled to GE distribution centers, spending weeks at a time on the road. One audit took him to Arbutus, where he met a billing office employee named Marion Horlamus.

“She had long blonde hair down to the middle of her back, and strikingly beautiful eyes,” he said. They worked well together, kidded around, and he brought her Andes mints from a nearby restaurant. She hoped he would ask her out. He couldn’t work up the nerve.

When the audit concluded, Horlamus was heartbroken. “I thought, ÔWhy did I meet someone from Ohio? Well, that’s that.’”

She began dating someone else. But in May, 1975, the auditors were sent back to Baltimore because of some problems with the initial audit This time, Sernulka found the nerve to ask her out.

“I took it as fate, that we were destined to be together,” he said. “I thought, I’m back here for a reason and I’m not going to miss the opportunity.”

He didn’t. Their first date was May 19, and he proposed one month and two days later, on her 23rd birthday. They were married November 15, 1975, and moved to Cleveland, but returned to Maryland when he was hired as assistant controller at North Arundel Hospital. He came to Carroll Hospital Center 18 years ago.

The Sernulkas have a daughter and a son.

Jack and Beth Tevis
Beth Heckert needed to see a dentist. One tooth felt as if it had a canyon-size crater. It ached, but she had put off going to the dentist for months. When her roommate broke a tooth, someone told them about a young dentist, Stanley “Jack” Tevis, who had evening and weekend hours. Heckert scheduled an appointment.

“So I got there and he’s examining my mouth and he said, ÔI’m sure your doctor saw something, but your tooth is fine.’ I was out of pain from that moment on,” Heckert said.

Heckert’s appointment was September 20, 1979, the penultimate day of Dr. Tevis’ practice. He had been managing the Westminster-based family business, Tevis Oil Inc. Modern Comfort Systems, and trying to practice dentistry part-time since the death of his father several years earlier. No matter how hard he worked, he found he couldn’t do justice to two demanding jobs at once.

Cavity-free, Heckert thought no more about the dentist. Then on October 31, her birthday, she got a call. “Hi, this is Jack Tevis.” Silence while she searched her memory. Who? “The dentist you went to,” he filled in. “Would you like to go for a cup of coffee?”

Right now? Yes. They had coffee, but she didn’t hear from him again for at least a month. He called on a Sunday morning: Would she or her roommate like to go to a Colts game that afternoon? Her roommate was out, and 27 years later she still wonders, “What would he have done if we’d both been there and wanted to go?”

The following week, he called again and invited her to dinner that evening. She was learning that Tevis wasn’t strong on advance planning. But as the eldest of five children, she had learned to be flexible, and she had fun when she was with Tevis. She wondered if she’d made a mistake when he asked her out to dinner-a sales dinner sponsored by tire, battery and accessories manufacturers. But later there was a really nice theater date in Baltimore, and dinner at the Belvedere Hotel’s Owl Bar.

For his part, Tevis was working so hard that he had to get maximum use out of every minute. “And also, I don’t plan ahead well and I’m not very organized,” he acknowledged.

By the time he proposed on Christmas, 1980, Heckert had learned to deal with last-minute invitations to formal dinners when her good dress was at the cleaners. She made sure her lesson plans were done early, just in case Tevis called.

They were married October 10, 1981. The couple has two children, a daughter and a son.

Tanya and Ralph Shewell

Tanya and Ralph Shewell met because “T” follows “S” in the alphabet.

In January, 1963, the second semester of college for Tanya Thornton of Troy, Ohio, and Ralph Shewell of Reisterstown, both took American History, which was offered in a large lecture class with assigned seating. Thornton and Shewell discovered a shared interest in history. Later that semester, when Thornton had to change her public speaking class, a friend urged her to transfer to the friend’s section. “We’ve got all the good looking guys in our class, especially Ralph Shewell,” Thornton’s friend said. Thornton followed the advice.

But Shewell didn’t ask her out. So she invited him to a Sadie Hawkins party, an event to which women invited men. His reply: “Well, I guess I’ve got nothing better to do.” The answer was defensive, he said, an ego salve in case she found him uninteresting. She didn’t, and he later borrowed 50 cents from a friend to take her to the campus snack shop.

A matchmaker friend ratcheted up the romance. Tanya Shewell remembers the friend telling her Ralph Shewell was crazy about her. He remembers the friend saying, “Boy, Ralph, she’s really gone on you.”

She liked his sense of humor. And it didn’t hurt that with thick black hair, he was movie star handsome. “He was a Renaissance man. He liked art, history; anything you talked about, he was interested,” she said.

“She was always so effervescent,” he said. An observation that illustrates the pace at which Tanya Shewell goes through life. At college, students were required to dress for dinner, which meant high heeled shoes for ladies. Men would wait for the women outside the dining hall. “I didn’t even have to look up,” Ralph Shewell recalled. “You would hear click, click, click, but when I heard clickclickclickclick, that was Tanya.”

They were married in April 1964. They had only a weekend for a honeymoon, but Ralph had heard about a fort in Indiana that sounded interesting, so the history buffs chose it for their honeymoon. “When we got there, all it was was three logs stuck in the ground,” he said. And it rained hard the whole time they were there. But it didn’t really matter.

The Shewells have two children, a daughter and a son, and four grandchildren. Ralph Shewell’s hair has disappeared over the years, but he remains the man of Tanya’s dreams.

“I can’t believe I still get a thrill when I hear his voice on the phone,” she said.

Robert and Fairy Flickinger

Robert W. Flickinger and Fairy Frock met in the second grade at Taneytown Elementary School. They went through school together, but neither was particularly interested in the other. No dancing together at the prom, no post-graduation ceremony dates.

“I never paid any attention to her at all in school,” he said.

“Oh, yes, you did. [It was] Hey, Frock, do you have the homework done?” she countered.

After graduation, she prepared to enter college. He was helping his father on the farm. Enter Francis Selby, mutual friend and matchmaker. He told Frock that Flickinger really wanted to take her out, and told Flickinger that Frock wanted to go out with him. The effort was a success.

Frock discovered she and her former classmate got along very well. They continued to date while she was in college and he enlisted in the Army for a three-year tour of duty in 1955. When they could get together, they would go to the movies, to the dairy bar in Frizzellburg, to Hershey Park or to the Gettysburg battlefield.

The couple were married in June, 1957. The weather on their wedding day was beautiful, and although there was a thunderstorm during the ceremony, the sun came out afterward.

“That’s been our life,” Robert Flickinger said. They have two children, a daughter and a son, and three grandsons.

Tom and Sandy Ferguson

Springtime, 1961: Tom Ferguson, 19, was home on leave from the Air Force. Sandra “Sandy” Bankert was 15, a sophomore at Westminster High School. One of her friends was dating Ferguson’s twin brother, Jerry. Tom Ferguson and Bankert were in a group that went to the movies and then to Baugher’s Restaurant for a snack.

At the restaurant, someone mentioned that Bankert had a special birthday coming up. Ferguson thought she would be 18. When he found out she would be just 16, he backed off, although they saw each other as part of a group that hung out together.

He returned to duty, and they wrote to each other, but the relationship remained casual. He went to the Azores for an 18-month tour of duty. She went through high school, dating other guys. In the summer of 1963, they were both attendants at Jerry Ferguson’s wedding, and although their relationship had been casual, long distance, “We thought, maybe it’s more than just dating,” Sandy Ferguson said.

Tom Ferguson came back to Westminster and civilian life in February 1964. The long-distance relationship had grown warmer during his final months in the service. He had bought an engagement ring, but didn’t give it to Sandy right away.

“I wasn’t sure until we got reacquainted,” he said. The separation during his military duty had been good for both. He had matured and seen some of the world; she had finished high school, trained at Strayer University and begun working.

They were married in October, 1964. They have two sons and six grandchildren.

Martin and Kelly Hill

In 1994, Martin K.P. Hill of Lineboro was 50, a successful developer and builder. The father of a son and a daughter, he had been divorced for three years. Kelly Williar was 31, a mortgage banker, the daughter of Hill’s private banker. He knew her through her mother, but he didn’t make the first move.

One day, Williar called Hill and said, “I’m single and you’re single. Let’s get together and go out.”

He didn’t say yes. It was more, “I’ll get back to you.” But it was no kiss-off. He invited her over to his house after Christmas then made himself scarce while she took down the tree, she recalled. Hill’s next invitation was more conventional, a double date with his son and the son’s girlfriend.

Hill and Williar dated for two years. He found her to be “hard-working, conscientious, a person I enjoyed being with,” he said.

“It was just that things clicked,” she said.

He proposed early in December, 1996, over dinner at his house. “I said, ÔI want to talk to you,’” he recalled.
She thought, “oh, what’s wrong?” They laugh today about her response. “No way!” she said. It took them a moment to sort out that “no way!” was her expression of surprise and delight, not a negative answer.

The couple married on July 5, 1997. Martin Hill is president of Woodhaven Building and Development, Inc. Both are actively involved in community service, he with McDaniel College and she as a fundraiser for a number of nonprofit organizations.

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