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Leap into Love: Veterans find unexpected love through rowing

Geoff Chunyo and Carolyn Williamson didn't expect to find romance later on in life. But when they did, they celebrated in a unique way.

AKRON, Ohio — Some things are just worth the wait. That's something Geoff Chunyo and Carolyn Williamson know, firsthand.

"I had kind of reached a point where I thought, 'you know, maybe I'm gonna grow old on my own,'" Carolyn said.

"I remember a number of years ago and one of my younger cousins said, 'I'm going to be like Uncle Geoff. I'm never getting married.' And I said, 'Oh, Kevin, please don't say that.' It wasn't really the plan." Geoff said.

Now, it's the only plan: An unusual wedding date, for an unexpected romance.

They lived most of their lives on different paths. Carolyn was just starting over after divorce and a battle with Meniere's Disease.

"I was ready to just, you know, give up. And my doctor said, 'Well, we do have a destructive surgery.' And they said, 'Well, you give up your hearing and half your balance organs, but you have a chance to get your life back.' And I researched it, called him back and said, 'I'm in, I want it.' Got scheduled two days after school was the let out. And, I went in and had it done. I had to relearn everything. Oh my gosh, I life-changing," Carolyn remembered.

Then she decided to go back to her roots in Northeast Ohio.

"It really was a culture difference for me. And, had some hard rough spots adjusting, and my sister's the one who dragged me into rowing. She was like, 'You have to get out of your house. You need to be doing things," Carolyn said.

Credit: Lindsay Buckingham

Rowing was also the activity that introduced her to Geoff. 

"My thought was, 'Great teammate, he can carry the boat,'" Carolyn said.

They were new teammates with the same foundation.

"My team from the year before, they couldn't get a coach, and so I had to move to the veterans team. The veterans program had started the year before and I saw them all over there and I noticed her," Geoff recalled. 

"Because you do recognize once you've served that you look at things a little differently than people around you who haven't," Carolyn said.

Soon, teamwork turned into friendship. And then, something rocked the boat.

"I realized how much of an impact he was having on me in a very positive way. There's so many things that drive him that drives me in the same manner. And I wasn't even sure it would be romantic, but I wanted him in my life," Carolyn said.

"Well, it was, we just, it was very easy. We just clicked. It wasn't even like there was a question. It just flowed very naturally. It just was there," Geoff said.

After a year of being together, they were ready to take the leap.

"And, wouldn’t it be hilarious to do it on leap day? You know, like leap year, leap of faith, leaping into something?" Carolyn remembered.

"For me, it was, 'Friday or Saturday?'… Great, let’s go!" Geoff said.

So on Leap Day, they said their self-written vows. Just a few family and friends, and, each other.

It's the kind of love you don't find every day, or every year.

Check out Lindsay's "Love in the Land" series:

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