Dot and Gary Beckner are sitting on their living room couch, near the Douglas County Fairgrounds, blissfully recounting their unusual love story. They're close enough you couldn't get a piece of paper between them. Gary's arm is draped gently around his wife's shoulders. They're both 53 and have been married "nearly 11 months."
"During our sophomore year at Wichita North High School (1970), I first saw Dot in Mr. Jeeter's history class, and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the whole school," Gary said.
The adulation continued, which brought about a brief series of head-down-denials and "will you stop its" from Dot, who was enjoying every moment.
Gary finally asked her for a date, but she had to get permission from her dad first.
"We had dinner at Pizza Hut and had a medium pizza with two drinks, and it cost $2.10," Gary recalled. Then they hopped into his 1958 Chevy Delray and headed for the Westport Drive-in to see "Easy Rider."
They dated for almost a year, and as Gary puts it, "I got lost in a crowd of admirers."
After high school, Dot married and moved to Emporia and later, Lawrence. Gary married and remained in Wichita. Both had families, and both later divorced.
Neither heard a peep from the other until 2002, when they were invited to their 30-year high school reunion. Both sent information about themselves to Wichita, and the reunion committee put it on their Web site.
Dot spotted Gary's little piece and sent him an e-mail.
"I said you probably don't remember me ... but you and I used to date in high school ... blah, blah, blah," she said.
It had been 30 years.
Gary did remember and fired back a big hello that included, "you were my first love."
It got her attention.
"I always remembered his dimples," Dot said, giggling. "It was his dimples."
"Not the dimples again," Gary cooed.
Both were single.
They met in Wichita for dinner at reunion time.
Lots of e-mails followed.
Their first dinner date in Lawrence was at the Plum Tree - now it's "their place."
Gary frequently made the 300-mile round trip from Lawrence to Wichita.
The couple dated for nearly a year. Gary arrived on Valentine's Day 2003 with a diamond ring.
"Gary asked me to marry him, and I told him no," Dot said.
She thought it was just too soon, but Gary insisted she keep the diamond for her Valentine's present.
"I figured she was holding out for a bigger ring," he said, laughing.
Over the next year he asked her three more times, always getting the same answer.
Dot says she wanted to make sure she was doing the right thing in their relatively brief, long-distance courtship. And she has major health issues and wanted Gary to be sure he knew what he was getting into.
Gary was wondering how realistic their situation was becoming. He didn't want to walk away from his job at Cessna and knew Dot needed her health insurance in Lawrence.
The couple think it was God who finally got them together.
In March, Dot was hospitalized and "really sick" for three weeks. Her doctor wouldn't release her until she had full-time home care. Gary called her in the hospital, and Dot told him of her predicament.
"Well, I can come stay with you for two weeks because I was just laid off my job at Cessna," Gary said.
"I thought, 'Wow, that's an answer to my prayers.' ... It was really a God thing."
Two weeks later, Gary moved to Lawrence to look for work, and Dot went back to her job in Lawrence at NCS, a telephone contact service.
Gary later joined the NCS staff and still works there.
Dot's poor health forced her to quit her job in July 2005.
"I had a real bad fall and was on a walker and had several surgeries," she said. "And I wanted him to see just how debilitating my illnesses are."
While Dot was home and disabled, Gary did the housework after he got off work.
"He is just the best help and cook," she said.
In May 2005, when her health improved, the pair revisited "their" restaurant, the Plum Tree. Gary asked her to marry him again.
Dot said yes.
After dinner, Gary took her up the street to Hurst Fine Diamonds, where he got on one knee and slipped a diamond on her finger.
"Gary is shy. ... I was so shocked he'd do that with all of those people watching," Dot recalled.
Gary said he wanted witnesses to hear her say yes.
Dot had nearly five months to plan their wedding, and "I wanted it to be special, a family occasion."
Friends and members of both families were in the ceremony.
The couple were married Oct. 8, 2005, by the Rev. Rod Hinkle in the Faith Church of the Nazarene, 1020 Kasold Drive.
The couple had a weeklong Kansas honeymoon, one day per trip.
One of their day trips was to Wichita to visit their old high school and other haunts like the Pizza Hut, the scene of their first date.