Denyce Graves and Hopkins transplant guru Dr. Robert Montgomery… (Matt Mendelsohn Photography )
A surprise sprung on shoestring. Another orchestrated at 30,000 feet with a crew of flight attendant co-conspirators. And a couple of conclusions reached jointly, wordlessly — and no less romantically.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, we asked a handful of well-known Maryland couples how they got engaged.
They are Dr. Robert A. Montgomery, ground-breaking kidney transplant surgeon, and his wife, opera star Denyce Graves; Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein and his wife, Sheryl Goldstein, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice; Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, the renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, and his wife, Candy, co-founder and executive secretary for Carson Scholars Fund; and Bill and Nancy Devine, owners of Faidley's Seafood in Lexington Market.
Whether on bended knee or behind the wheel, amid the glamour of world travel or the terror of a highway near-miss, on the eve of a foot race or between military deployments, these four couples came to the same conclusion: It was time to get hitched.
Coming to the same conclusion
Ask Ben Carson how he and Candy Rustin got engaged, and you get a story that sounds like it might end on the operating table, not at the altar. The tale begins in the 1970s, when he was a senior at Yale and she was a sophomore.
"We were both from Detroit, but we had to go to Connecticut to meet each other at Yale," said Carson, 59, of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "We were both from families without much in the way of finances, and we wanted to come home for Thanksgiving. The school would pay your way home if we would do some recruiting for them. So we went on their dime, we got a chance to go out to restaurants and do things we normally would not ever have the chance to do. We began to start having some feelings for each other."
When their weeklong visit to Detroit was over, they headed back to Yale by rental car.
"We had been in Ann Arbor the night before. Probably stayed up later than we should have. We were going to drive all night to get back the next day. She was going to help keep me awake. That didn't work very well."
Candy was soon sound asleep. And by the time they hit Youngstown, Ohio, on Interstate 80, Carson was nodding off.
"I fell asleep at 90 miles an hour and was awakened by the vibrations of the car as it was going off the road, heading off into a ravine," he said. "I grabbed the wheel, and it just started spinning. They say your life flashes before your eyes, and it's true. I saw all these scenes from my life and I thought, 'I'm gonna die.' And it just stopped on the shoulder, just in time before an 18-wheeler barreled by. And Candy awakened and said, 'What happened?' and I said, 'Nothing.'"
Of course, she knew better.
"I explained what happened, and we said, 'You know what? God spared our lives because he wants us to do something.' And that was the first time we kissed each other, and we started going together at that moment. … We were basically inseparable from that point on in school, and after I left to go to medical school at the University of Michigan, we wrote letters to each other every day. And we would call whenever we could. One evening we had a six-hour phone call. We never got billed for it. We were dreading it."
More divine intervention?
"Probably they looked at it and said, 'This is a mistake.'"
Candy graduated from Yale in June 1975, and they were married that July.
So when did the question actually get popped?
"It wasn't sort of a, 'Will you marry me?' It was more of a, 'When do you think we should get married?'"
Without saying as much, right there in the car on Interstate 80, they both concluded they'd spend their lives together.
"We knew," Carson said. "It was never in doubt after that day."
Before they were Baltimore's crime-fighting duo, State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein and mayoral criminal justice guru Sheryl Goldstein were a romantic duo.
Then they weren't. And then they were again.
The two dated "on and off for a period of time," Goldstein recalled. Theirs was a long-distance relationship at some points, as Goldstein moved between jobs in Baltimore and New York.
She was back in Baltimore and back with Bernstein in November 2002, when they were heading to New York City to run the marathon.
"I had run the New York marathon, and he wanted to run it," Goldstein said. "We signed up and trained."
Two nights before the race, as they packed for their trip to New York, Goldstein picked up her Adidas and spotted something sparkly on the laces.
"He laced my engagement ring in my running shoe," she said.
They were married in March 2003.
As for the race, Goldstein, now 44, finished in about 3 hours, 45 minutes and Bernstein, 55, in about 4 hours, 5 minutes.
"Gregg often jokes that even the ring didn't keep me from leaving him in the dust," Goldstein said.
A quick decision
Bill Devine is fond of telling any crab cake customer who asks that he's not the owner of Faidley's.