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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Love is in the Air

By Jeri Hansen

Loie & Dave Whitmer

Sometimes, asking the right question can change your life. It certainly did for Loie and Dave Whitmer who have been together for 47 years; over 40 of those years married.

The crucial question came before the Senior Prom of 1973 at Napa High School. Someone had already asked Loie if she “was going” to the Prom. Her truthful answer was “no” as she had not planned to go due to a family wedding. However, Dave astutely asked more specifically if Loie would be his date to the Prom and she couldn’t refuse. The two have been together ever since.

In those early years they sustained and grew their relationship despite attending different colleges many hours and miles apart. Loie affectionately points out that she had to wait for Dave while he was on the five-year college plan. And after graduating Dave accepted a position with the California Department of Food & Agriculture that took him to Mt. Shasta. While Dave was living and working in the far reaches of Northern California, Loie sent him a sweet greeting card that also contained a list of every weekend in the coming year that she was available – to get married. Dave being a very wise man got the message and moved back to Napa. They were married in March of 1979.

Both grew up in Napa and have strong family connections, raising two children – Lindsey and Dale – in their home community. In fact, the Whitmers live in the house in which Dave was raised. They love to travel and both share a dedication to the San Francisco Giants that, Loie points out, is a real marriage bonus during baseball season. And they lovingly revel in being part of an extended family in Germany as a result of Dave’s parents hosting an exchange student in 1971.

Making a marriage work starts with true love but beyond that, says Dave, is mutual respect and trust. Both cite that being able to tell each other anything and share feelings and major decisions are key. And that taking care of each other is always a priority.

When asked what still draws them together Dave says that he can’t look at Loie without smiling and she is simply his best friend. And Loie gushes that Dave is just “so cute” and he always makes her laugh. Both say there has always been that spark between them and it remains.

No question about that.

Rob Doughty and Eric Oesterle

Imagine a first date lasting 12 hours. It may go horribly wrong or it may go wildly right. In Rob Doughty’s and Eric Oesterle’s case, it went wildly right.

Rob and Eric met in 1997 at the Lone Star Saloon in San Francisco. Eric had seen Rob and hoped for an introduction. Rob later watched Eric play pool. A missed pool shot by Eric gave them the chance to meet and connect.

Their first date was July 4 and started at Steps of Rome in North Beach, continued at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, and concluded at Coit Tower watching the fireworks disappear into San Francisco’s famous fog. Their first Napa date was eating and drinking their way through a day at the 1997 Napa Town & Country Fair.

Despite the butterflies each knew that the other was “the one” and on their third anniversary, Rob gave Eric a silver “going steady” ring and a few days later Eric reciprocated.

The best relationships are founded on shared interests and for Rob and Eric, a sense of adventure. Each have a love of 90’s electronic music, films, food, and sightseeing. Rob likes to surprise Eric by taking him to see shows and not telling him who the act is. Eric tries to guess by simply looking at the audience; a game that has resulted in Eric being recently confounded at performances of 70’s TV icon Charo and Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson. They also enjoy what they call “high-low” dining – enjoying meals in the finest establishments and the next day noshing on Spam and eggs at a diner. They have a love of the arts, travel well together, and have learned to stop and appreciate the beauty of life. And they laugh together – a lot.

Rob and Eric are committed to one another and they are committed to supporting causes that are important to them like local LGBTQ and women’s organizations. And while they do not have any children of their own, they delight in being the fun gay uncles (or “guncles”) to a host of nieces and nephews.

Rob and Eric admit that early in their partnership, they didn’t hold hands while walking around downtown Napa. But now, according to the couple, the significant social changes related to marriage equality and LGBTQ acceptance, make them feel safe enough to hold hands in their own town. And that’s wildly right.

Suzanne and Anthony Truchard

When a weekend of wine tasting leads to the love of your life, that’s the beginning of a good story.

In August of 2009, Suzanne traveled from Miami to Napa for some relaxation with girlfriends. She’d decided to relocate to San Francisco so wanted to get to know the area and sought wineries off-the-beaten path. A wine industry friend recommended Truchard Winery. Upon arrival at the winery Anthony greeted the group.

Anthony and Suzanne, both attorneys, began talking immediately about law, wine, and travel. There was an immediate connection but no romance – just yet. Coincidentally, Anthony was traveling to Florida the following week and Suzanne offered to treat him to lunch. The next week in Miami, over a Cuban food lunch and several mojitos, Suzanne thought to herself, “I think this guy is flirting with me!”

Their official first date was three weeks later in North Carolina while Anthony was on a wine business trip. They met in Atlanta and drove together for three hours with no radio and nonstop conversation from deep thoughts to small chatter. During the course of the drive, they both discovered their favorite movie was the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” which they still watch each Christmas and, according to Suzanne, cry their eyes out.

A sweet but also bittersweet marriage proposal came a year later. Suzanne’s beloved stepfather passed away in December of 2010 and they raced to Miami to be with the family, leaving the Christmas tree up and presents unopened under the tree in Napa. When they returned home to exchange gifts, Anthony hinted that there were still items in her stocking. After putting her entire arm into the stocking, she finally found what Anthony had placed there; an engagement ring without a box. When she turned around he was on one knee.

Fast forward to nine years of marriage with two children Anthony, 6 and Zuzu, 3 (named after the child character in “It’s a Wonderful Life”). Suzanne is an extroverted, passionate, big personality who is not a morning person. Anthony is a witty but introverted man of few words who is an early bird. This dichotomy makes the partnership strong and seamless. Suzanne says, “We push each other in ways I never thought possible with complementary

personalities.” Anthony says, “Everyday is an adventure. I will never get bored with Suzy. Our love for family and spending time together makes it work.” Both share a thoughtfulness and generosity to each other, their family and their community.

That is a wonderful life.



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