'Cowgirl' ad leads to a hitching

JUST MARRIED

Tammy Moeller And Dave Collins

May 02, 1999|By Joanne E. Morvay | By Joanne E. Morvay,Special to the Sun

Tammy Moeller never dated much. "Tammy just wasn't that interested when she was younger," explains her mother, Thelma. "And then she had her career."

Though Thelma and her husband, George, have had a long and loving marriage, they didn't raise Tammy to believe that her life would be fulfilled only if she married.

"[Tammy] always wanted someone to spend her life with," Thelma says, but she told her daughter, " 'You don't have to have a man. You can be happy on your own. You can have a life.' "

Tammy took her mother's advice to heart.

"I figured if I was meant to find someone, I would. And if I didn't, then I wasn't," Tammy says simply.

Four years ago, Tammy, then 32 years old, bought her own townhouse in Eldersburg. She logged long hours working for the Department of Defense at Fort Meade. She spent her weekends sharing dinners and other activities with her family in Eldersburg and with friends.

So her parents were surprised when their daughter -- who had always avoided the bar scene and other environments where people might not be all they claimed to be -- came to them and told them she had met a man through the Internet.

"An Internet meeting -- that just scared us to death," Thelma remembers.

Shortly after she bought a computer in July 1997, Tammy saw a personal advertisement posted by Dave Collins of Tall Timbers in St. Mary's County. The headline: "Looking for my cowgirl."

Tammy figured living in Carroll County covered the cowgirl requirement. And she and Dave appeared to share a number of interests, including a love of animals and the outdoors.

The couple corresponded for a few weeks and then spoke on the phone. On Aug. 30, 1997, they met in a shopping center parking lot in Waldorf, Charles County.

They ate lunch at a nearby chain restaurant "because it was busy and neither of us wanted to go somewhere where it was just the two of us," Tammy explains. Then they went to the movies and from there to dinner.

Their seven hours together went by much too fast, the couple recalls.

Soon afterward, Dave left for Florida to visit his parents, but he and Tammy spent much of the weekend together before he left.

Melvin and Joy Collins divide their time between homes in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Butler, Pa. Dave's mother remembers well her eldest son's first visit to Florida after he'd met his new girlfriend.

"David just moped around and lay in the sun with a hat over his head. He didn't even go fishing with his dad," Joy remembers, laughing.

Dave was so smitten with Tammy that he cut his visit short so he could go back to Maryland. "I was miserable because I was down there and she was up here," Dave says. "I couldn't wait for the week to be over."

After the trip, the couple e-mailed and phoned one another daily. On weekends, they alternated making the 230-mile round-trip drive between Eldersburg and Tall Timbers to be together.

In December 1997, Dave gave Tammy a friendship ring. On Feb. 22, 1998 -- one day after her parents' 45th wedding anniversary -- the friendship ring was moved to Tammy's right hand and an engagement ring took its place on her left.

Dave soon landed a railroad job in Washington and he moved in with Tammy last Fourth of July weekend. (He has since become an aircraft mechanic at Martin State Airport.)

On April 24, Tammy, 36, was escorted down the aisle at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Eldersburg by her father. Dave, 39, tall and handsome in a Western-style tuxedo, took Tammy's hand and together they said their vows before 114 relatives and friends. The wedding party included Dave's father as best man and Tammy's brother, Douglas, as a groomsman.

As Thelma Moeller watched her daughter shed tears of joy during the ceremony, she, too, cried happy tears.

"For Tammy, marriage was not a matter of needing support [from a man]," Thelma says. "She always said, 'I want a friend and I want a companion.' I think she found that in Dave."

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