For Maple Grove couple, love proves to be a grave matter

| July 31, 2014 | 0 Comments
Dave and Kathy LaPlante stand at the spot where they first made a love connection — the St. Vincent de Paul parish cemetery in Brooklyn Park, where their respective deceased spouses are buried just two plots apart.  Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Dave and Kathy LaPlante stand at the spot where they first made a love connection — the St. Vincent de Paul parish cemetery in Brooklyn Park, where their respective deceased spouses are buried just two plots apart. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

There are all kinds of places where eligible men and women meet — bars, concerts, even churches.

But cemeteries?

It’s probably the last place most would think of to meet someone of the opposite sex. Yet, it was here, among rows of tombstones at the St. Vincent de Paul parish cemetery in Brooklyn Park, where Dave and Kathy LaPlante had their first conversation in early July 2005.

Both were there to visit the graves of their spouses. Dave’s wife, Shirley, had died in 2003; Kathy’s husband, Neil, in 2001.

Turns out, their spouses’ graves were almost next to each other. Just one plot separated the two, which is how Dave and Kathy ended up standing next to each other on a hot July evening.

They had exchanged simple greetings a couple of times at their parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park, and in passing at the cemetery as they came and went. But, this was the first time they had an actual conversation.

“It was a Saturday evening, and I was there with my daughter, who at the time was 23,” said Kathy, 63, who had been married to Neil just nine days shy of 25 years when he died of a heart attack. “We stopped to water the flowers at the cemetery, and Dave happened to be there.

“My daughter is not a patient girl. She still isn’t to this day. And, Dave and I must have talked for probably over an hour. . . . We just chatted about general things. And, when I got in the car with my daughter, she said to me, ‘Mom, he’s really a nice man. I think you should ask him to go to coffee with you.’ She had never, ever in the four years since her dad had passed, suggested that it would be OK for me to move on [and start dating]. So, that was very, very interesting that she said that.”

Kathy agreed with her daughter, but “wasn’t forward enough to do anything” about it.

No worries. Dave’s wheels were spinning almost immediately after they started talking. Though he had been told it was too early in the grieving process to think about dating, he decided otherwise and took note when Kathy said she often came to the cemetery after 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday.

“So, I stopped by [a few weeks later] and there she was,” said Dave, 68 and a retired mail carrier, of his subsequent visit to see his wife’s grave — and Kathy. The date was Aug. 28, and he cut right to the chase after spotting Kathy.

“He comes up to me and says, ‘Have you dated at all?’” Kathy said. “And, I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’ And, he said, ‘Are you interested?’ I said, ‘Well, I think so.’”

That was it. Their first date was five days later on Friday night at Houlihan’s in Maple Grove. Both ordered the same entrée, chicken alfredo, and that seemed to seal their destiny. They got married at St. Vincent de Paul on Feb. 2, 2007. But, it was the date of Dave’s proposal that stands out in their minds.

“We got engaged on my birthday, Aug. 8,” Kathy said of the night Dave popped the question following dinner at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing. “He got down on his knee and pulled the ring out of his pocket [and said] ‘Will you marry me?’ And, I said yes without hesitation.”

They had talked about marriage months earlier, so Dave’s proposal was no surprise to Kathy. In fact, they would have gotten married earlier if it weren’t for the marriages of two of their children during 2006, one in May and the other in August.

“We realize how lucky we are that we did find each other,” said Dave, noting that both he and Kathy’s first husband were postal employees and Vietnam veterans, with Dave serving in the Army on a helicopter crew and earning a Purple Heart for being wounded in action.

“We love each other very much and we’re very happy to have found each other,” Kathy said. “I will not be afraid to say that I miss Neil and I still love him, and I believe that Dave feels the same way about Shirley. But, we also know that we have found a new love, and someday, we hope to be reunited with our spouses in heaven.”

For now, Dave and Kathy are enjoying a life of travel, bowling and spending lots of time with their grandchildren. They also go to eucharistic adoration at St. Vincent de Paul every Monday at 5 p.m. Kathy has been going for 12 years, and Dave joined her right after they started dating.

And when the clock strikes 6, they head to a local restaurant for dinner with a grief support group that Kathy started going to after Neil died and took Dave to after they started dating.

“It’s a bonding thing,” Dave said. “I’m friends with all of those people now.”

Added Kathy: “We’ve seen a lot of changes in our grief group that have occurred over time. But, these are the people that were there for me for those first years up until I met Dave. And, they were the ones that understood.”

The two still make trips to the cemetery and the graves of their respective spouses. But today, those visits feature more smiles than tears.

They like to believe that Neil and Shirley somehow had a hand in their romantic tale.

“They were up in heaven playing cards is what Dave says,” Kathy said. “And, they said, ‘You know, we’ve got to get these two together to meet.’ We certainly know that they approve. There’s no doubt.”

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