Instant attraction, finally together


Lisa Hoppenjans And Evan Mantel

March 31, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

Throughout Lisa Hoppenjans and Evan Mantel's eight-year relationship, their desire to build a better life for themselves led them to separate cities and even separate states, but the distance never diminished their commitment to each other.

Their relationship began when Lisa, from Takoma Park, and Evan, from Silver Spring, both worked at a Montgomery County drugstore. Lisa was a senior in high school and Evan had graduated two years earlier.

Evan, 27, says, "I was interested right away." Lisa, 25, also felt the attraction. "I thought he was good-looking," she says.

They started dating, and saw each other as often as they could while Evan worked various jobs and Lisa started college at Towson University. Things got easier when Lisa transferred after a year to the University of Maryland, College Park, which was closer to Evan.

But even as their relationship grew, Evan was dissatisfied with his professional opportunities. In 1997, he decided to move to Washington state, where his brother was living, to find a better job.

"It was hard," Lisa says of their separation, "but I knew it was something he needed to do."

By May of 1998, Evan was living in Walla Walla, Wash., and working as a correctional officer for the Washington State Penitentiary. Lisa graduated and went to join him. But she found the city of 32,000 people much smaller than she was used to and didn't think she would like living there. So she got a job in Seattle, several hours away, and visited Evan on weekends.

Over the next few months, as Lisa visited Walla Walla, she grew to like the town and realized how much she missed Evan. When she landed a job as an emergency dispatcher for the city, she moved there.

Now that they are finally together, they have to contend with their work schedules. He works 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., she works 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

They value the time they do spend with each other. "Our home is a kind of sanctuary," says Evan.

Last June, when Evan took Lisa out to dinner and proposed, she says, "I was definitely ready."

"He is ... very much a gentleman," says Lisa. "He just has a really good heart."

They were planning to get married in Las Vegas Sept. 15 but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made it impossible for many of their guests to join them. They canceled, and decided to get married in Baltimore instead, where many important people in their lives could easily attend.

The wedding took place March 16 at the American Visionary Art Museum. As the couple stood on a spiral staircase, Lisa's twin sister, Audrey Hoppenjans, played the violin. The civil ceremony incorporated elements from Evan's Jewish heritage, such as breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony. They also danced the hora, a traditional Jewish dance, at the reception.

After a honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean the couple will return to Walla Walla, where they plan to stay for a while.

"The more we go through," says Evan, "the stronger we [become]."

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