Setting sail: Reba Cherneski and Scott Sanborn


January 30, 2000|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Reba Cherneski met Scott Sanborn, she wasn't sure she wanted to go out with him.

It was August 1995 and Reba and Scott were first-year cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. While training on the tall ship Eagle, Reba went on liberty with Scott one evening. Later that fall, with the academic school year under way, Reba even went to dinner with Scott a few times.

Academy rules allowed them to date, but it wasn't what Reba had in mind. She told Scott the words no guy wants to hear: "I think we should just be friends." Reba says her decision not to become involved was more a reflection on her than on him. "It wasn't Scott," she explains. "I just didn't want to date anyone. ... I didn't want to be someone's girlfriend."

The following June, Reba and Scott were again among the cadets assigned to summer duty on the Eagle. They spent many evenings in port together, and their friendship grew stronger. But Reba's feelings about having a serious relationship hadn't changed.

Scott didn't approach the subject, though he says now that he knew by the end of their freshman year that he was in love with Reba. In December, Scott's feelings got the better of him. While they spent the holiday break with their respective families, he wrote Reba a long, emotional letter. He gave it to her when they returned to school. Reba says she knew by then that she was in love with Scott. After receiving his letter, she still wrestled with the idea of their dating. Raised with a strong Christian faith, Reba has definite ideas about courtship. "I did not want to start a relationship unless it was going to lead to marriage," she says.

Scott, also raised in a Christian home, was pleased when Reba explained what she thought their ultimate goal should be. "I knew when I met Reba that she was someone I could marry," he says.

But it was not all smooth sailing. Reba left the academy in 1997 to pursue her goal of becoming a teacher. She came back to her family's home in Uniontown and worked for a year to pay her tuition at Towson University, where she enrolled as a biology major.

Scott stayed on at the academy, and they tried their hand at a long-distance relationship. It wasn't easy. Scott's courses were more difficult than ever, and Reba had her own classes to worry about. The couple persevered with the help of e-mail, the telephone and occasional visits.

In December 1998, Scott asked Reba's father for her hand in marriage, then he proposed to Reba.

On Jan. 8, Reba, 23, and Scott, 22, were married at Wakefield Valley Bible Church in New Windsor. Scott's sister Sarah was among the bridesmaids and Reba's five brothers -- Heath, John, Joseph, Doug and Stephen -- were all in the wedding party. Reba's parents, William and Cindy Cherneski of Uniontown, and Scott's parents, C. Bruce and Linda Sanborn of Marblehead, Mass., were among the 150 guests. The day after the wedding, Reba graduated from Towson. The couple settled into an apartment in Portsmouth, Va., where Scott, now a Coast Guard ensign, is stationed.

An engineer on the cutter Dependable, Scott is to be reassigned to Cape May, N.J., in August. Reba hopes to find a job teaching biology in middle school or high school at the various ports they move to during Scott's Coast Guard career.

Looking back now, Scott and Reba say they are thankful for the course their relationship took. Even their separation turned out to be for the best -- helping to prepare them for the time they'll spend apart when Scott is at sea.

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