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Cover Story - Posted January 25, 2013 11:35 a.m.
photos by Pam Lary photography

To Have And To Hold

Meet some of Amarillo’s most romantic married couples

A few months back, we asked our readers to nominate Amarillo’s most romantic, devoted couples. We wanted to capture romance through the ages, from newlyweds to experienced older spouses.

Marriage is a commitment, and the four couples we chose embody the sanctity of marriage beginning with “I do” to parenthood, to beyond the golden anniversary. A surprise proposal after a decade of dating, a relationship founded upon a courtship of love letters, a blind date set up through personal ads and a 63-year marriage esteemed by five generations of family sound like scripted love affairs seen in films – but that’s not the case. They are real-life love stories, straight from the heart of Amarillo, and the insight they’ve gained is a benefit for partners of all ages.

Adrian and Morgan Thomas
Married 8 months
Nominated by Morgan’s mother, Jennifer Schutters

It’s been 10 years since Adrian Thomas and Morgan Schutters met. They caught each other’s eye at a church youth group in their hometown of Silva, N.C. He was 17; she was 14.

“I thought he was the hot kid of the group and he was pretty cool and I was like the nerdy home-schooled girl. We became friends. He was my first kiss,” Morgan gushes.

Adrian joined the United States Marine Corps, and by the time Morgan enrolled at Asbury University in Kentucky to pursue a broadcast journalism career, Adrian had put thousands of miles on his car, traveling all night from Pensacola, Fla., where he was stationed, only to see her for a few hours before he had to head back.

He followed her where her career took her, and a few months after he asked Morgan’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, an EF5 tornado ravaged the city of Joplin, Mo. where Morgan was working at KODE Action 12. He arrived a week later and Morgan was an “emotional wreck,” she recalls. He took her to a nearby park spared from the disaster and asked her to look away. When she turned back, he was on one knee with a ring and an eloquent speech that brought Morgan to tears.

“I thought it was the most ridiculous thing to be doing when 75 percent of my town is destroyed, and he’s taking me to a park! But here’s my knight in shining armor, not only to rescue me from hell on earth, but to ask me to be his wife, which I thought he was never going to ask!” she laughs, coyly nudging her husband.

Adrian and Morgan say they’ve known since they were teenagers that they were soul mates. It just took a few bad relationships and short breaks apart to realize that no one else could compare.

“People have always told us we were unique, but as time progressed we saw it blossom and grow,” Adrian says. “But you knew, though, when we first started dating, that you wanted to marry me,” Morgan counters. “That’s what you told me.”

The newlyweds, who married June 16, 2012 in Naples, Fla., say their strengths and weaknesses balance their relationship. Morgan is the outgoing, creative and social half while Adrian is the logical, level-headed half. As Adrian puts it, “I’m the rock and she makes it the party rock.”

Before they were married, Adrian and Morgan were already familiar with each other’s quirks and habits. With a friendship spanning a decade, there were no surprises. They know they can’t change each other and choose instead to focus on what they value in one another. For instance, Adrian admires Morgan’s passion and energy, and tells everyone she is his free entertainment. Whether she’s with him, friends or conducting business with customers as a realtor, she is always the same person, Adrian says. For Morgan, it’s Adrian’s leadership skills that she respects, and his drive for perfection in all that he does, whether it’s at his job at Bell Helicopter or a task as mundane as fixing the stereo.

The Thomas’ attribute their strong marriage to honesty, (there’s no sneaking anything past the other half), compromise and selflessness, but something else takes precedence. “If faith is part of your life, that comes first, but after that, it’s going to be your spouse, and guarding it like it’s a precious gem,” says Morgan. “Our time together we regard as sacred time. When I get invited somewhere, I always ask him, ‘What are your plans?’ because my time with him is more important than my time with anybody else."

Ryan and Allison Neusch
Married 8 years with one son
Nominated by Allison’s mother, Cathy George

Ryan and Allison Neusch’s love story is the stuff of fairy tales. A brief meeting that blossomed into a courtship of love letters between a woman and a soldier as he fought for his country overseas, a first embrace after a year of correspondence, a declaration of love after a mere three days of each other’s company, a proposal with rose petals two weeks after returning from Iraq – that in itself is enough to make even the most hardened cynic believe in true love.

While Allison was working reception at an insurance agency, a tall, handsome solider days from deployment strolled in. Her coworker was playing matchmaker and made sure Ryan came back the following two days because he “forgot” to sign some papers. The third day, Allison was making copies when the soldier popped his head in: “If you want to write me, you can,” Allison remembers him flirting. Ryan insists he was much more suave, though. The letters began soon after he arrived in Afghanistan.

“The way I like to say it is, when I left, all I knew was she was pretty,” Ryan says. “That’s the only thing I knew about her. I didn’t really know her name until later. She was just a pretty girl until I got a letter.”

Six weeks after their first meeting, she sent this stranger a care package filled with homemade, holiday treats like chocolate-covered pretzels and peanut brittle. “That’s when I fell in love,” Ryan laughs. That package cost $33 and Ryan knew that Allison, a college student juggling three jobs, couldn’t afford it.

What began as a timid, periodic correspondence developed into a relationship. Allison wrote him nearly every day for two years. Ryan would receive stacks of mail at a time, his jealous comrades often trying to hide them from him. Those letters are locked in a fireproof safe in the Neusch home, which will one day be shared with their 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Zayin.

“For me, it was easy,” Ryan says of perpetuating a long-distance relationship. “She was staying true to me, writing me letters every time I needed her,” Ryan recalls. “I was thinking, ‘What other woman would do that for a man she didn’t even know?’ They’re trophies.”

For Allison, it was nerve-wracking. She tried to tune out the news, but couldn’t resist it. She would check the mailbox every day for a letter or box of souvenirs. However, she found comfort in Ryan’s loved ones. “I was able to see what a great man of God he was, what a great person and how much he loved his family,” she says.

Eight months after first meeting, Ryan returned from Afghanistan for a week and Allison and he finally spent time alone together. It was awkward at first, each having revealed their wants and desires to one another in writing, yet never having been on a date. But deep down, they knew each other.

Once Ryan was deployed to Iraq, he and Allison were able to communicate more efficiently, via phone and email. When Ryan was scheduled to return to the states in 2004, Allison flew to Fort Bragg. He was delayed for days, but when Ryan finally stepped off the plane, he was greeted by a large, yellow sign with a message: “Since you won’t ask, will you marry me, Ryan Neusch?” Two weeks later, he proposed, and on Dec. 11, they tied the knot at the west campus of Saint Stephen United Methodist Church.

The foundation of the Neusch’s marriage isn’t just their faith. “Marriage isn’t always easy. Everybody has their hard times. But for us, all I have to think about is how we began,” Ryan pauses. “There is no doubt that we were meant to be.” Ryan and Allison believe if they had met any other way, their relationship would have fizzled and died. She was an Amarillo High School varsity tennis player and he was a long-haired, “grungy,” musician from Tascosa High School. Courting each other, and learning intimate details about each other cemented their relationship.

“God has a purpose and he planned it exactly right, because he knew if we would have done this in person, we would have messed it up,” Allison divulges, “And especially if we had met earlier in life, there wouldn’t have been a chance. There’s no doubt it was meant to be.”

Dr. John and Dana Young
Married 24 years, with four daughters and two grandsons
Nominated by their daughter, Caitlyn Gates

It was 1986, and personal ads had just emerged on the scene in Dallas. John Young was a 22-year-old medical student at UT Southwestern. Dana Bottlinger was a psychology major at Richmond College, and it was in her psych class that her professor brought in the personal ads from the Dallas Observer for his students to study different personality types. Much to Dana’s mother’s horror, she sent one in for herself.

John was in Microlab when he heard his classmates laughing. He meandered over and saw they were eyeing a personal ad for a 5-foot 3-inch, 125-pound blonde with blue eyes, seeking a med student. His
classmates dared him to respond. John’s was the last manila envelope of prospects Dana received. There was no picture inside, but he had three undergraduate degrees (psychology, biochemistry and biology) to make up for it. John called Dana the Sunday before Thanksgiving during half-time of a Dallas Cowboys game.

“We went on our first date and neither one of us went out with anybody else. It was meant to be from then on. I didn’t lose him that night even though I ate tortillas smothered with butter on them!” Dana laughs. He was too impressed with her knowledge of the Dallas Mavericks and Cowboys for her offbeat food choice to deter him. He proposed on Valentine’s Day in 1988 and they wed Dec. 3 at Zion Lutheran Church on Lovers Lane in Dallas.

During their pre-nuptial class, they were stunned when they were told they were the most compatible out of all of the thousands of students that had taken the class. They still have the test, and the results have proven true over the years. John was a third-year med student when they moved into a 10-by-70-foot mobile home in Irving, and six weeks into their marriage, Dana got pregnant with the first of four daughters, Caitlyn.

Three months after she was born, Caitlyn could barely hold her head up and it wasn’t until she turned 2 that she could walk. After a series of tests, they discovered she was completely deaf in her left ear and partially deaf in her right, and by that time, they had already had their second child, Christian. “First years are stressful any way, but when we look back, we think we sure added a lot to the plate for it to be even more stressful,” Dana says. Two years later came Callan and six years after, Camryn. Recently, the Youngs began sponsoring George, an AIDS orphan from Kenya, and are putting him through college in Nairobi.

The gregarious Dana seems to outshine a more reserved John, but that isn’t the case when it comes to helping sick children at his practice, Panhandle Pediatrics. Dana is all about the present, a “we-could-be-hit-by-a-Mack-truck-tomorrow person,” but John looks toward the future.

When they designed their home, John knew when to hand the reins over to Dana. “I always say, if your marriage can survive building a house, it can survive anything,” Dana says. “People asked us, ‘How did you survive that?’ And he said, ‘Because when the sheet rock went up, I was done.’”

Compromise and understanding are fundamental components of the Youngs’ marriage, especially with John’s career as a busy pediatrician. He’s missed many a ballgame and school programs, but Dana bears no resentment toward him because it’s simply part of his job.

“It works well because I couldn’t have somebody who was really needy and Dana wasn’t. She can absolutely handle everything,” John begins.

“I had to learn to do that. It wasn’t easy, but he has a great job,” Dana says, raising her eyebrows. “It’s kind of like being married to an accountant during tax season. We always say pediatrics is a winter sport. We’re not going to see him as much.”

The best way to understand the Youngs’ marriage is to listen to Clint Black’s “Something That We Do,” hey say. They do things for each other that they don’t necessarily like themselves, such as John picking up clothes or doing the dishes so Dana can relax, or Dana listening to John talk about economics or science.

“Love is not an emotion. It’s a decision, a commitment,” Dana wisely denotes. “There are plenty of times you don’t like your husband, but you love him. There are plenty of times when he doesn’t like me, but he’s in love with me. That supersedes.”

Antonio and Elena Magallanes
Married 63 years with eight children, 23 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and two great-great- grandchildren
Nominated by their granddaughter, Blanca Frey

The name Magallanes is proudly nailed above the porch of Antonio “Tony” and Elena’s Amarillo home. As it should be. Sixty-three years of marriage and five generations of the Magallanes family are alive today. Tony and Elena, who have lived to know two great-great-grandchildren, met in Juarez, Mexico in their twenties. Tony, dubbed El Canario for his songbird-like voice, was the neighborhood heartthrob, but Elena had a job and didn’t desire to bat her eyelashes at the smooth musician.

“All the girls were after him,” recalls Elena, who returned to Juarez after living in New Mexico as a child. “He played the guitar. They were all emotional about that… They were always talking about him, ‘Oh, he plays the guitar so good, and ‘Oh this,’ and ‘Oh, Tony.’ “He just started talking to me, and I thought, ‘Well, there’s all those girls in the corner; he never goes up to them,’” she softly laughs.

Chagrining her mother and infuriating her strict father, Elena and Tony eloped, but three months later on Dec. 31, 1949, they did “right by God” and were married in the church. Their first child was born the following December, and eight more followed. However, in 1954, they lost one of their daughters to spinal meningitis. She was 2 years old. All in all, they have eight surviving children who have given them 23 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

“I feel very grateful the Lord has let me stay this long so I can know them all,” Elena utters.

Tony emigrated to the U.S. to find work before bringing his family over and lived with Elena’s relatives until he saved up enough money to rent a little house. He had already furnished it by the time Elena and the children arrived. He worked at Buccolo Masonry for 34 years until he retired, and to this day at nearly 90 years old, he keeps his pay stub in his wallet, so worn and brittle it’s as fragile as a dragonfly’s wing.

“I always had compassion for him because he worked so hard,” Elena commends. “He worked labor. Then after that he started going up and went to foreman in his job, but still he worked hard because he drove the big machinery, carrying stuff to the upper floors. I was always worried about him. He lost his hearing driving that machinery.”

Life hasn’t always been easy for the Magallanes, but their faith in God has never once faltered, even when Tony had tuberculosis in his spine and underwent a seven-hour spinal surgery for Pott’s Disease in 2000, coding more than once on the table. The doctors told Elena he may not make it. Her response was staunch: “I said, ‘You know what? By the grace of God he is going to live.’ ‘OK,’ they said. And he did. He did, he did. I never thought about him dying. I was always positive because I just have that in my heart that he was not going to die.’”

As Elena and Tony sit side-by-side at their kitchen table, their left arms crossed over their right, they appear as one. Of course there have been hard times over the course of half a century together, but divorce was never an option and they’ve never separated.

When their daughter, Virginia Dunn, prods her mother to talk about the days when she and her father would sing together at Amarillo nightclubs and perform at the Tascosa Country Club and Amarillo Country Club, Elena daintily waves her hand in front of her face as if batting away a fly. Tony had an agent, and the couple even sang on the radio.

“My mom would dress in these beautiful dresses with petticoats underneath,” Virginia describes with the adoration only a daughter can feel for a mother. “She would wear satiny skirts with sequins on them and pumps that were like stilettos, pointy heels. I would just stand back and admire how beautiful she looked.”

Even with six daughters, two sons and a one-bathroom house, Tony never demanded his children work. When Elena brought up that it was time for son Ignacio, “Nacho,” to get a job, Tony retorted with a resounding no, a day she has not forgotten.

“He was always so careful, taking good care of all our kids when they were little… One day I told him, ‘I think Nacho is old enough to go out and deliver the newspaper.’ ‘Ha!’ he said. ‘No way. I do not want my kids to be slapped around like I was slapped when I was little.’”

Tony lets his wife lead the conversation, but when asked what she has done for the family, his voice cracks: “A lot. We started a life. It’s hard to tell you. She is everything good for us, for the whole family. She is one of the reasons we don’t have problems… 63 years!”

by Drew Belle Zerby

After graduating from LSU in 2009, Drew Belle worked as a page designer in north Louisiana until moving to Amarillo and joining AGN Media in late 2010. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel and spout out useless movie trivia.
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