Things just clicked for computer couple CAROLEE STANMAR AND J. MICHAEL "MIKE" LAIRD


August 16, 1998|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In early 1997, J. Michael "Mike" Laird of Parkville posted a message in a pen-pal chat room on the Internet. Born with cystic fibrosis, Mike was looking for someone with a similar disability who would understand the medical limitations on his life and also share in his many interests, such as computers and "Star Trek."

Carolee Stanmar of Peru, Ill., was surfing the Net, like she does every evening for an hour or so, when she came across Mike's message. Carolee was born with spina bifida and depends on a wheelchair about 90 percent of the time.

Intrigued by Mike's request for friendship - and also because she's a die-hard "Star Trek" fan - Carolee responded. In the beginning, the two would e-mail each other a few times a week. Carolee might relate some funny stories from her job as a telephone-sales representative. Mike, whose disability keeps him from engaging in strenuous activity for more than a few hours a day, would offer tales from his classes at Essex Community College, where he is majoring in computers.

Soon, the e-mail was part of their daily routine. By August, Carolee and Mike had exchanged photos and were calling one another on the telephone occasionally. But it wasn't until Labor Day that Mike e-mailed Carolee and asked if they could consider their friendship in a more serious context.

By October, Mike knew he was in love. "I just wanted to be around her more and more," he says. "Carolee is the best thing that ever happened to me."

In November, the pair finally met in person. They took a weekend trip to Chicago - "neutral territory for both of us," Carolee says. They walked along the waterfront, and took in a 3-D movie and other activities.

As they sat talking on their last morning together, Mike considered asking Carolee then and there to be his wife. But worried the request would overwhelm her so soon after their romantic weekend, he restrained himself.

After the visit, they continued to exchange e-mail and talked on the phone more frequently. In early December 1997, Mike could no longer hold back the depth of his feelings. "I e-mailed her and said the next time I saw her, I was going to ask her to marry me," he remembers.

In Illinois, Carolee wasn't sure she was reading the message right. "My mouth sort of just dropped. I could barely get the computer to print the printout. I called my sister, Erica, into my room and I asked her, 'Is this saying what I think it's saying?' "

Carolee accepted. Mike wasn't satisfied with their electronic engagement, however. In March, Carolee came to Baltimore to meet Mike's parents, James and Mary Ellen Laird of Parkville. One of the first things Mike did after Carolee arrived was get down on one knee and propose properly.

On Aug. 8, Mike, 25, and Carolee, 24, were married at Grace United Methodist Church in Peru, Ill.

"It was a beautiful wedding. There were people crying all over the place," says Carolee's mother, Jan Stanmar. Carolee is the oldest of Jan and husband Greg's three daughters, and the first to marry.

Jan says that while it is difficult to let go, she and her husband are very happy for Carolee and Mike. "They complement each other. And they're not afraid of each other's disability," she adds.

After a honeymoon in Chicago, Carolee and Mike will live on their own - for the first time in their lives - in Parkville.

Her parents plan to visit often. And his parents will only be a phone call away - though Mary stresses that Mike and Carolee will be the ones to make the calls, since she and her husband do not want to be interfering in-laws.

Mike didn't tell his parents about the proposal until after he had popped the question. They were surprised, but pleased for him.

"He had a feeling about it - that it was a little miracle," his mother says. "I just want him to grab that happiness."

Pub date: 8/16/98

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