After being lost, they found their way

Just Married

Mary Ann McGaret and William Earl

August 11, 2002|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,Sun Staff

Mary Ann McGaret didn't know what to expect on her second date with William Earl. Perhaps they'd have cocktails by the harbor, followed by a gourmet dinner. Maybe they'd walk in the park, or go dancing.

Instead, they got lost in the woods.

Just weeks after he met Mary Ann at a friend's cocktail party, William (Bill) took her orienteering: a sport where competitors find their way along an unmarked outdoor course.

"It was a very odd date," said Mary Ann. "But I could sense that he was just trying to test me."

With a map in one hand and a compass in the other, Mary Ann and Bill spent the afternoon racing over hill and dale. It was more the stuff of reality television than romantic date. But Mary Ann -- an athlete who likes to run, ski and hike -- rose to the challenge. She kept up with Bill's pace, and the couple was one of the first teams to the finish line.

"It's a very strenuous course and I wanted to see if she could cut it," said Bill. "After surviving that, I knew that we could get through anything together."

Over the next few months, Bill continued to court Mary Ann his way: on running trails, ski slopes and bike paths.

"Bill is the kind of guys girls dream about," said Mary Ann. "He can do just about anything -- run, fix cars, you name it. ... We can go jogging together, or we can do something cultural, like go to the theater. We've got so much in common."

Between the two of them, Mary Ann and Bill, both 44, have 30 years of military experience. A resident of Rockville, Mary Ann is a lieutenant commander and surgical nurse at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. She has three children, ages 18, 20 and 22, from her first marriage.

Bill, a former Army helicopter pilot who is now in the Reserves, works as a computer specialist at the Social Security Adminis-tration. Born and raised in Catonsville, he is the father of a 12-year-old daughter from his first marriage. He lives in Eldersburg, where Mary Ann will move later this month.

With Mary Ann, Bill said he's finally found someone who doesn't need to be wooed the old-fashioned way. In fact, ask him what a key ingredient is to their relationship, and he'll tell you it's not perfume -- but perspiration. "We're both happy in hot, miserable weather," said Bill. "We love to sweat." Their ideal date, he said, is a long run in the park, followed by dinner.

"We'll just towel ourselves off and sit down to eat," he said. "That's what I love about Mary Ann. She doesn't have to go home to shower and put pancake on her face before dinner."

Knowing Bill's bent for James-Bondlike adventures, Mary Ann imagined his popping the question from the side of a helicopter or a speeding train. But Bill surprised her with a less-dramatic proposal.

At Easter dinner last year, he took to one knee in front of eight of his family members.

"I was totally shocked," said Mary Ann.

After a long, awkward silence, Bill's sister-in-law said, "Well?" Mary Ann blurted out "Yes" and the whole family cheered.

The two were married on Aug. 2 at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel in the Charlestown Retirement Community in front of 100 of their friends and family. The reception took place at the Charlestown Conference Cen-ter, where guests danced to music from a disc jockey.

After about four hours, the music stopped. The DJ packed up his things, and the guests started to leave. Soon, everyone had gone home. Everyone, that is, except for Mary Ann and Bill.

That evening, as the caterers cleared the tables of cake and champagne, the newlyweds remained on the dance floor, swaying to the silence.

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