A chance meeting leads to marriage


Elizabeth Folsom And Edward Garcia

October 28, 2001|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

Elizabeth Folsom and Edward Garcia almost ended up on opposite ends of the country, but when circumstance brought them to Gallaudet University in 1998, they knew right away that they were meant to be together.

Elizabeth, who is hard of hearing, was living in High Point, N.C., earning her bachelor's degree in psychology and working full time when she became interested in deafness issues and deaf culture.

"I started doing some research," she says, and found "there were other people like me." She decided to pursue her master's degree and work toward a career helping people who are deaf.

Her first choice for graduate school was Gallaudet University in Washington. It was here, she told her friends, that she would meet the man of her dreams, and he would sign his wedding vows to her.

But a professor in North Carolina discouraged her from going to Gallaudet, and she took his advice, making plans instead to study in San Francisco. It was only because of the encouragement of her college advisers and the Gallaudet brochure -- which had her favorite symbol of yellow suns on it -- that she signed up for summer sign-language classes at the school.

Edward, who is not hearing-impaired, was on his way to medical school at the Johns Hopkins University after a nine-year career in the Army, but he also decided to improve his sign-language skills that summer at Gallaudet. He had started signing the previous year on impulse: A sign-language class caught his eye while he was registering for medical school prerequisites.

Elizabeth says she saw Edward often around campus, and "He was the most beautiful man I had seen in my life." Two weeks later, she got up the courage to speak to him in the cafeteria as they poured their morning coffee.

Breakfast stretched into three hours of conversation, and then Edward offered to give Elizabeth a ride for a haircut appointment. At the salon, they shared their first kiss, and when the stylist asked how long they had been a couple, Edward said he felt as though he had known Elizabeth all his life.

"That second I knew I wanted him to be my husband," she says.

The stylist told her to give up her plans for California and stay with Edward, and a few weeks later that's what she decided to do. They moved into the home Edward had just bought in Butcher's Hill, and Elizabeth started working at Gallaudet while Edward began medical school.

They were married Oct. 13 at the First and Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Mount Vernon.

The church was decorated with Hawaiian flowers because Edward grew up in Honolulu. A friend of the couple, Mala Kleinfeld, provided sign interpretation for their hearing-impaired friends and family throughout the ceremony, during which Edward did indeed sign his vows to Elizabeth.

Kleinfeld also interpreted the toasts and activities at the reception at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion in Mount Vernon. Afterward, Elizabeth and Edward went to Disney World and the Bahamas for their honeymoon.

In May, Edward, 34, will graduate from Johns Hopkins' medical school and go on to his residency. Elizabeth, 31, now a records specialist at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, plans to earn a doctorate in a deafness-related field.

"We both knew that [marriage] was something we wanted to do," says Edward, although Elizabeth was still very excited when he proposed in July 1999. He asked her to marry him at a statue on the Gallaudet campus -- the same spot where they spent their first evening together sitting and talking.

"She kept saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God,' " says Edward. "She finally stopped and said, 'Oh, wait, can you ask again?' because she had never actually said yes or no."

That enthusiasm is part of what he loves about Elizabeth.

"I'm a free spirit," explains Elizabeth, "and he's the solid foundation that keeps things going."

"I think that's what we've always loved about each other," says Edward.

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