A 'mad crush' grows into more

JUST MARRIED

Kimberly E. Rice And Eric D. Degross

May 27, 2001|By Joanne E. Morvay | By Joanne E. Morvay,Special to the Sun

Kimberly E. Rice had a crush on Eric D. DeGross from the moment she saw him. But it took six years for Eric to regard Kim as anything other than a good friend.

The two met in Pikesville in 1994 when Kim joined a local Amway network. The direct-sales company offers household products and other items through its members, who sell the products in return for a percentage of the sales. Eric, 43, had joined the company in 1988. At the time, he also owned his own auto-repair business. When Kim joined Amway, she was employed full time as a lawyer with a Baltimore firm. Like Eric, she was drawn to the organization because she wanted to earn extra income.

Kim, 35, still remembers how handsome Eric looked the February night they first met. He was wearing a gray suit, and stylish wire-rimmed glasses framed his brown eyes. Kim and Eric were introduced and spoke briefly. They continued to see one another at the weekly Amway meetings and soon became friends.

The eight-year difference in their ages did not get in the way of their friendship, but Eric says, "I looked at Kim like a little sister." He often turned to her for dating advice.

Though she had a "mad crush" on Eric from the start, Kim never told him. Instead, she decided to be satisfied with friendship.

By 1998, their involvement with Amway had begun to wane, and their friendship suffered as a result. They talked on the phone when they had time, but months would go by when they were not in touch.

On Valentine's Day 2000, Eric left a message on Kim's answering machine. Kim -- holding a secret hope for romance -- was so excited she called her mom and told her Eric had called.

When Kim and Eric spoke, she was disappointed that he hadn't realized the significance of the day. Neither of them was seriously involved with anyone at the time, so Kim asked Eric to accompany her to a retirement party.

"I didn't want to go alone," the Mount Washington resident says, "and Eric and I always had a great time together."

At the party a few weeks later, as Eric watched Kim -- smiling and vivacious as she graciously chatted with the other guests -- he realized that she was more than just a friend. As they left the party, he took her hand.

"My heart was racing," she says, even though she wasn't sure the hand-holding meant anything.

It did. The couple continued their evening in downtown Baltimore, where they talked at length about this new turn in their relationship.

Last June, Eric accompanied Kim to the Maryland Bar Association Convention in Ocean City. While she attended seminars, he shopped for diamonds. On the second night of the conference, Eric proposed.

Kim, who grew up in Washington and nearby Silver Spring, handles corporate training for a Washington-based law firm. Eric, who grew up in Baltimore, is a program coordinator for Big Brothers / Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, headquartered in Lanham.

On May 11, the couple married on the top deck of the Bay Lady, at the Inner Harbor. After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their guests took a three-hour cruise. Nearly 100 of the 250 guests were Eric's family members -- he's the youngest of 17 children.

When the ship returned, the wedding guests disembarked first, lighting hundreds of sparklers and holding them aloft. Kim and Eric ran laughing through the cascade of light, boarded a horse-drawn carriage and disappeared into the night.

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