They had one, maybe two classes together, but Linda Hylas and Steve Wolf never really hit it off in high school.
“I took choir. Steve took all the smart-people classes,” she said.
Post-high school, they moved away from their hometown of Mexico, Mo. — he to Texas and she to Florida.
In 2005, organizers of a class reunion contacted Steve about tracking down classmates. He took the list and made some calls to past no-shows — including Linda Hylas.
“I called her the next day at work and she blew me off,” Steve said
“I did not!”
“Naw, I’m teasing.”
“Can I tell my side now?”
“Sounds like we’ve been married a whole lot longer, doesn’t it?”Steve was a high school principal and Linda was working at the Tupperware world headquarters in Florida when he called.
“I was hosting a one-day sale for people who worked there,” Linda said. “I had a line of people from the cash register all the way out the door when Steve called me.” Though it had been seven years since she last heard his voice, her first words after “Hi” were, “Can I call you back?”
“After we talked that day, we exchanged e-mail addresses,” Linda said. “To get reacquainted, we would send each other little questionnaires.”
One subject that could have doomed the couple was sports. Steve asked Linda to rank her favorites.
“My least favorite? Baseball. His number one favorite? Baseball. It’s a miracle that didn’t end the relationship right there,” she said.
Another deal-breaker could have been Linda’s herd of cats.
“She told me she had a high-strung Sheltie and two cats,” Steve said. “Cats were not part of my childhood. Never had one, never wanted one, never liked them.
“So I go to St. Louis to pick her up at the airport and first thing after she says after a hello is, ‘I need to tell you about Walter and Victoria.’ I’m thinking, ‘Oh, there’s cousins or uncles or co-workers to meet.’
“No. Walter and Victoria were cats number three and four.”
Soon, their phone calls and visits were more than just a catch-up session between old classmates.
“We knew it was more than, ‘Let’s plan the next high school reunion,’” Linda said. So the two began with a mission — marriage, job-hunting and announcing their quiet engagement.
But sending out wedding invitations stirred up a ruckus in the small town.
“No one believed it,” Steve said. “It became this urban legend. I had waited until I was 50 to get married.”
Linda knew she was up against some hefty expectations.
“All of his friends had been waiting for him to get married, and it had never happened,” Linda said. “They were all waiting for this big event.”
Now, living in a remodeled farmhouse (“The first time he visited, I made him help me paint”), the two are surrounded by a collection of pets — including Linda’s cats.
Even Steve beams with pride now when he brags that one cat is able to stand on her hind legs and turn a doorknob.
“I still ask, ‘What made you call me?’” Linda said. “I think he always thought about me, because when we would see each other every several years it was so comfortable and just so nice talking to him. When we picked up the phone, it was like a long-lost friend on the end of the line.”
When the two ended up back in Mexico together, childhood friends weren’t surprised.
“The friends we mutually have — who were our friends 20 or 30 years ago, say, ‘Oh yeah. Perfect match,’” Steve said.
“They saw it all along.”