Jo Jamieson and Cliff Ferreira worked in the same building at San Ramon's Bishop Ranch, but they never set eyes on each other until they were among hundreds of employees converging on St. Louis when their company was in the frenzy of a major merger.
It's likely they still never would have met if Jo hadn't decided to play hooky one beautiful Sunday to get a look at the Mississippi River and St. Louis' landmark Gateway Arch.
In October 1999, Jo and Cliff were working for SBC, Jo in procurement and Cliff in operations. SBC teams from all over the United States traveled to St. Louis to work on the company's merger with Ameritech. Members of the teams worked 12-hour days on the merger, and the entire downtown was overrun with "telephone folks in suits and with briefcases," scurrying between the SBC buildings and the three major downtown hotels, Jo said.
On the last Saturday night of that month, some guests in the room below Jo's hosted a big, loud party that lasted until 3 a.m. and kept her awake most of the night. The next morning, she slept until 11 and decided to take the day off.
When she stepped into the elevator on the fourth floor, she met Cliff. The two struck up a conversation and were amazed to learn they worked in the same building. They also learned that they both were headed to the arch, the Eero Saarinen-designed, 630-foot monument built in the mid-1960s to honor Lewis and Clark and St. Louis' role as the gateway to the West.
They ended up spending the day together, touring the museum at the arch and riding one of the small trams to the top. "I was too short to see the view out the windows at the top, so he lifted me up to look out the window," Jo said.
Lunch that day was at a McDonald's -- located on a riverboat on the Mississippi. They extended their day to dinner, which was at a downtown restaurant where all the wait staff wore costumes; both Jo and Cliff had been so busy with work they had forgotten it was Halloween.
When they returned to California, the two, who each had adult children from previous marriages, began dating and discovered they shared a love of travel.
Since then, they have gone to Mexico, China, Machu Picchu in Peru, Paris, London and Athens, Greece. As their parents' health has declined, they have confined their trips to the United States or Canada, hitting many national parks.
They sold their condos and bought a house together in San Ramon in 2002.
"We both love to garden and have 13 fruit trees and raised vegetable beds along with our colorful flower garden," Jo said. "Our grandchildren love picking the fresh fruits and vegetables and hunting for the hidden strawberries."
They married in 2006 -- mainly, Jo jokes, to make her father happy. However, they mark their anniversary as Halloween 1999 and talk about being together 15 years, not eight.
"And," Jo said, "it all started by talking to a stranger on an elevator."
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