Birthdays are the Best Days: Alumni Couple Grows Together
As part of a week-long series alongside Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring stories about UF couples, past and present, called “Findlay Faithfuls.” Did you meet the love of your life on campus? We want to hear about it! Share your story via Facebook or Twitter using #IHeartUFindlay #FindlayFaithfuls.
To claim that “Birthdays are special” is likely to vastly understate the catalyst for Nate and Lauren Etler first meeting each other while students at University of Findlay.
Nate and Lauren, both graduates of UF, were at a downtown restaurant a few years ago when they spotted one another. Nate was celebrating the birthday of a friend, and Lauren was out marking her own. As college students often are, the two were happy in their own little universe, spending most of their waking moments either in class or with friends. Sometimes, however, the small universe gets bigger, and two people begin to see stars they’ve never seen before.
“I was shy and slightly nervous of this random stranger, but found him very attractive,” Lauren said. “A friend I was with worked with him in the UF computer lab and said she saw him all the time. She knew his name, and encouraged me to talk to him.”
Nate was seeing stars as well, but was hesitant to view them from anything outside of a safe distance. “My friend and I saw Lauren for a second time that night at a different place, so I thought it was appropriate to say something to her,” he explained. “I did not, however, have enough courage to do so at first.”
So, there was one thing the couple had in common right from the start: shyness. But a little apprehension was not going to stop Nate from the chance of expanding his cosmos. “My friend and I had left,” he said. “But after much talking on the walk home, he told me to just go back and get her number.” That’s when the stars began ever-so-slowly aligning.
Their first official date was at a staple of downtown Findlay, the Main Street Deli, and that’s where they really learned about the more important things they had in common. Their shy exteriors broke open and they found themselves talking intently about a mutual fondness for the outdoors, a love of gardening, and a passion for sports. “We were both nervous, but conversation seemed to come easy between us,” Lauren recalled. “I am an old soul and I feel Nate complements that well.”
Soon, Lauren and Nate created their own small world, and in it they did exactly the same thing they were doing before they met, with one exception: instead of their waking moments being spent in class and with friends, it was now in class or with each other. There was still time spent with friends, of course, but it was while together that they were most happy. “We spent a lot of time in the AMU studying or doing homework together in between classes and jobs,” Lauren said. “We loved our time at UF.”
And they were together on graduation day also. Lauren graduated in May of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing, and Nate at the same time with a doctorate in Physical Therapy.
It wasn’t until a year later that boyfriend and girlfriend were destined to become man and wife. The two were taking an annual trip with Lauren’s extended family to a “little town called Saugatuck,” she said, on the shore of Lake Michigan. “It’s one of my favorite places in the world,” Lauren explained. “We went for a walk down the dunes along the lake and he proposed.” Nate had secured Lauren’s grandmother’s ring, a piece that had always been close to her heart. “The diamonds were my great-grandmother’s and were passed down to my maternal grandmother who had them placed in the setting I wear today.” Even more profound was that the engagement happened on July 4. “My favorite holiday at one of my favorite places in the world,” Lauren confessed.
The two married on a beautiful Labor Day Weekend in 2016 in the front yard of the home that would become theirs together soon after. “The day was absolutely perfect,” Lauren said. “It was 75 degrees and sunny, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.” The home and barn in Jenera, Ohio, were built by Lauren’s great-great-great grandfather in 1853, and the two said they have learned quite a bit while renovating the home.
“We have found many great relationship building qualities put into motion by projects like the house,” Nate added.
And now, fixed on their present life–Nate is a physical therapist at Northwest Ohio Orthopedics in Findlay, and Lauren the Special Events and Communications Coordinator at the Hancock Historical Museum–the two Findlay Faithfuls settle in to the house at which they became one, a house in which they’ve grown and learned so much; they cite the conservation of it as a “focal point” throughout their relationship, one that will surely add to their story as time moves forward. “Five-plus years later, we still lean back on our times of growth in an effort to propel our marriage into new territories,” said Nate.