They both knew, 'This was it'


Katherine Parris And Ethan Frey

September 30, 2001|By Sandy Alexander | By Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

Many things came between Katherine Parris and Ethan Frey during their 11-year relationship -- gulf war bombs, two breakups, years of silence -- but somehow they kept finding each other again.

On Sept. 23, Katherine, a project manager at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Ethan, a program assistant at the Maryland Center for Community Development, decided to stay together for good with a wedding ceremony at Glenburn Bed and Breakfast in Taneytown.

After the challenges their relationship has faced, Katherine says of getting married, "That was the easy part."

Both attended high school at the International American School in Israel, where Katherine's father was a diplomat and Ethan's parents had moved to raise their two sons. In 1990, their second year there, a shared French class helped them get to know one another.

Their friendship started to turn to romance just as the Persian Gulf War began in 1991. Katherine's family left Tel Aviv as the first step toward evacuation. Ethan and his brother went to the southern coastal town of Eilat for safety.

By coincidence, Katherine's family also ended up in Eilat and decided not to leave the country. The two were reunited, and a few weeks later returned to school. Despite the circumstances -- they carried gas masks everywhere and a bomb siren interrupted their first kiss -- their relationship grew.

Ethan graduated a year before Katherine and went to study in Switzerland. The long-distance relationship proved challenging, and at Katherine's graduation, she told him she needed a break.

They returned to the United States for college -- Ethan at Brandeis University and Katherine at the University of Virginia. They didn't talk for a year, but rumors that Ethan was having a difficult time and slacking off in school reached Katherine. She wrote him a letter.

"I told him to get his act together," she says. He wrote back, and soon letters turned to phone calls, which led to a visit. After they saw each other in person, "we rekindled everything immediately," says Ethan.

But by graduation, distance and uncertainty about the future proved to be too much. Among other things, Katherine wanted to go to Africa with the Peace Corps.

They broke up again, and after a few difficult conversations, decided to stop contact all together.

After the Peace Corps, Katherine moved to Baltimore to pursue her master's degree in public health at Johns Hopkins. Ethan spent a year in Israel getting his master's degree in business, and then moved to New York City.

In 1999, Ethan was waiting tables to supplement his income while building his own business, and one night he started talking with his co-workers after closing time.

"After three or four drinks, we start talking about relationships and love and the ones that escaped." He says, "I had a strong feeling that I need to find out how Katherine is."

In the morning, he sent an e-mail to the address he had looked up a few months earlier but never used.

At first, "we were both really cautious," says Katherine. But their relationship progressed and Ethan, planning to take a new job in California, decided to spend the month before his move in Baltimore. He says, "Very quickly, I realized that there was no way I wanted to risk a long-distance relationship." He turned down the job, and they decided to make their relationship work one more time.

"We pretty much knew when we decided that we were going to be together that this time this was it," says Katherine. "The love was there, the maturity that lacked before and the confidence in ourselves as people."

The couple, both 27, married outdoors next to a creek in a ceremony preformed by Katherine's uncle. The wedding included Christian and Jewish elements. A party on the lawn of the historic farmhouse followed.

After a honeymoon in California and Mexico, the couple, who live in Charles Village, plan to work, enjoy the outdoors and travel.

"Circumstance really came together in almost a fateful way," says Ethan. "It felt like it was wrong each time to be apart and somehow we were led back together."

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