For soul mates, the wait is over

JUST MARRIED

Charlene L. Gross And Charles H. Johnson

April 01, 2001|By Joanne E. Morvay | By Joanne E. Morvay,Special to the Sun

Charlene L. Gross and Charles H. Johnson always felt that when the time was right, their soul mate would come along. Like many romantics, they believe that when you meet the right person, you will feel so comfortable that you will know -- without doubt -- that this is the person you have been waiting for your entire life.

What happens when Mr. or Ms. Right doesn't come along? According to Charlene and Charles, you get on with your life, and you wait.

Charles, 42, a licensed Merchant Marine ship's captain, spent much of his career at sea. He moved to Baltimore in 1994 to take a position with Ellicott Machine Corporation International. The century-old firm designs and builds dredges and dredging equipment. Now international sales manager for Ellicott, Charles is a man of varied interests. He's a singer and songwriter, and while living in Florida some years back, he also dabbled in acting.

Charlene, 45, who lives in Hampden, is an artist who creates decoupage works in the Victorian style. For many years she was active in local theater groups and she still performs for events at the Maryland Club. She has also worked as a television producer.

Charlene always dated, but none of the relationships ever seemed right, she says. By 1999, she was wondering if perhaps she'd set her standards too high. "I was contemplating giving up and settling," she says.

Charlene decided to give her soul mate -- the man she hoped was still out there somewhere -- one last chance. And she helped matters along by posting her first and only personal advertisement on the Internet.

Charles, who has two daughters from a previous relationship, was also searching for his soul mate. "I was looking for a very special person," he explains, "and until that happened, I was going to be a bachelor."

He saw Charlene's online advertisement, and after exchanging e-mail and having a few telephone conversations, the couple met in Fells Point. They talked for hours, and as they were parting, Charles asked her, "Did you know I was coming?"

At that very moment, Charlene says, she was thinking, "Is it you?"

A few days later, Charles gave Charlene a card he had made that contained the poem "Sudden Light" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

"I have been here before, but when or how I cannot tell," the poem begins.

Charles had pored over his poetry books, searching for just the right verse for the card. When she saw the card, Charlene says, she was shocked.

"Sudden Light" had been one of her favorite poems since high school, when she declared she would read it to the man she married. Charles had no way of knowing that, she says.

"But that's been our whole relationship," Charles adds. "Everything is kismet."

Charlene and Charles quickly fell in love, and Charles proposed in July 1999, five months after they had met. The couple didn't rush to marry, though. They had waited "our whole lives already," Charles says, so another year seemed fine.

But when their close friend Kitty Glann, 94, said she would like to see them wed, Charlene and Charles took her words to heart and set a date.

Charlene met Kitty 15 years ago in a dentist's waiting room. Part surrogate mother, part confidante, part doting grandmother, Kitty is one of Charlene's -- and now Charles' -- dearest friends.

Charlene introduced Charles to Kitty the first week the couple began dating. Charlene and Charles frequently visit Kitty's Baltimore apartment, and Kitty was present when Charles proposed.

On March 18, Charlene and Charles married in Kitty's apartment building. Charles surprised Charlene by wearing his captain's uniform for the ceremony. The guests included Kitty as well as Charlene's mother, Charles' daughters and also his parents, visiting from his native Georgia.

As for the years they spent wondering when and if their soul mate would arrive, they have no regrets.

"It was worth the wait," says Charlene. "I had a wonderful life before I met Charles, and now it's complete."

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