You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
top story

Celebrate Valentine's Day with Charleston's pandemic love stories

  • Updated
zoom wedding.jpg

Mary Tinkler and Tad Woovis (right) Zoom with family at their wedding in September. Only 13 family members were present for the ceremony, and the rest tuned in virtually. Deirdre and Jon Photography/Provided

To celebrate Valentine's Day, The Post and Courier reached out to readers who shared their "pandemic love stories." 

These aren't your conventional love stories because it hasn't been a conventional year. But here's how some people in the Lowcountry have celebrated, struggled through and solidified their love during a unique era. 

We hope you feel the love through these narratives, in readers' own words. 

Get a weekly list of tips on pop-ups, last minute tickets and little-known experiences hand-selected by our newsroom in your inbox each Thursday.


mary tinkler 2.jpg

Mary Tinkler and Tad Woovis got married in front of 13 of their closest family members during the pandemic. Deirdre and Jon Photography/Provided

The Zoom wedding: Mary Tinkler & Tad Woovis

2020 was a year unlike any other. There is no doubt about that. But I will always be forever grateful for “love in the time of corona.” In many ways, the slow down of life allowed my now-husband and me more time to appreciate time with one another — a lot of time with one another.

After three years of dating, Tad proposed over Zero George’s Burger Royale Special (a picnic lunch of two of their burgers, a bottle of wine, potato salad and a couple of cookies) on my parents’ back porch, April 25.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, we decided we wanted to do a micro-wedding in five months, Sept. 24. Trying to juggle between pandemic surges, hurricane season, property tax season (I’m the county treasurer) and the heat of a Charleston summer was no easy feat, but the day could not have been more perfect.

We opted to do the ceremony and dinner on a Thursday night and all in one location — Wentworth Mansion and Circa 1886 — for the sake of easy coordination. The team made us feel safe and healthy during this uncertain time.

There were 13 of us physically present at the event: just parents, siblings and our officiant. My aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents joined us via Zoom for the ceremony and a champagne toast. 

Since we met on Bumble, our day was subtly woven with a honey and bee theme: Bee's Knees as the signature cocktail, local honey for gifts and place cards made from pressed flowers known to attract bees. I wanted the details to be thought out and the event to be just as special and unique, no matter the size.

We’re almost six months into marriage and are certainly looking forward to a honeymoon when it feels safe to travel again! We're eyeing New Zealand. 

—Mary Tinkler

owais.jpg

Owais Jadoon and Gauhar Fatima were married in March in Pakistan. Owais, who lives in Charleston, had to return to the U.S. because of COVID-19, but Gauhar couldn't join him because she is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The two haven't seen each other since their wedding. Provided

The socially distanced marriage: Owais Jadoon & Gauhar Fatima 

My wife and I were introduced to each other in the summer of 2019 by way of my mom. We were what you would term an “arranged marriage,” and I just want to make it clear for readers what that means because it can be a loaded term that often gets confused with a "forced marriage." It's important to remember love and arranged marriages are not mutually exclusive.

All that typically happens is that families as a unit meet first to see if the matchmaking will be successful, and then the couple, over time, decide if they want to get married. It’s a fully consensual process with its own set of complexity. Both Gauhar and I were totally down for this.

I got Gauhar’s number from her family, and we talked with each other long-distance until November 2019. From our first-ever conversation, we knew we just vibed with each other.

I then went to Karachi, Pakistan, where she lived, and we spent quite some time together. We decided to get married in March 2020. At least internationally speaking, this was right when the virus was making headlines and people had just started to take it seriously.

Turns out, it was one of the last weddings to happen in the country for pretty much that year. Immediately after our wedding, the entire country was shut down with one day's notice. Curfew was 5 p.m., and our honeymoon was canceled. 

I had to get on a U.S. Embassy-arranged flight back to Charleston after several weeks, but my wife couldn’t come since she is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. We filed for her paperwork as soon as possible but here we are, 10 months after the wedding, with no physical contact since April 2020. 

It's been a whole lot of FaceTime and all the usual long distance stuff, just with a 10-hour Time Zone difference and an immigration battle.

We are waiting for her immigration paperwork to clear so that we can be together again, but the pandemic and the past administration have made the already intense process even worse.

I'm hoping to be able to visit her on our one-year wedding anniversary.

Presently, we are 7,800 miles away from each other but strong as ever, despite COVID-19, despite immigration, despite it all.

—Owais Jadoon

taylor.jpg

Hudson Kent and Taylor Flynn went on a few dates in college but then reconnected online and moved in together during quarantine. Provided

College to quarantine love: Taylor Flynn & Hudson Kent

Hudson and I met about seven years ago at College of Charleston. He was the leasing guy at the apartments I lived in and I always thought he was cute whenever I walked by. We went on a few dates around four years ago, but we were on different paths, so it never worked out with us.

About a month into quarantine, I (or the wine) responded to one of his Instagram stories, and then he said we should hang out and catch up. I went over to his place and we hung out every day after that. I moved in shortly after.

We just moved into our first actual apartment together last weekend! Without COVID-19, we never would have reconnected. 

—Taylor Flynn

chad dyar.jpg

Chad Dyar (left) and Tony Beard met on Tinder during the pandemic. Tony would ride his bike 45 minutes to visit Chad on quarantined Folly Beach for long walks and outdoor dinners. Provided

Pandemic transplant meets local yogi: Chad Dyar & Tony Beard

When the pandemic hit, I was just starting my sixth year in New York City. The day I flew home from San Francisco for work was March 12. I remember this because I had tickets to a preview of "Mrs. Doubtfire" on Broadway, and that was the day Broadway shut down.

It only took two weeks for me to go from slightly paranoid to full-blown panic attacks during quarantine. Although I was a healthy man of 44, in my 30s I had two heart attacks and a stroke so I was "high risk." People I knew were getting really sick, and some were dying.

I began to hatch a plan to get out of New York City. I grew up in South Carolina and spent most holidays down in Charleston with a close friend from college and her family. They lived close to Folly Beach, a place I loved and often vacationed. After a week in lockdown, my friend and I secured a rental house on Folly Beach for the month of April.

We arrived in South Carolina the night before the lockdown. Once we were on Folly Beach, we were quarantined there. April flew by with beautiful weather and fresh seafood from local restaurants. In May, I found a condo, decided to stay a while and downloaded Tinder.

Within a few minutes, I matched with a handsome yoga instructor who lived on James Island. His profile painted the picture of an easygoing yogi, and his pictures showed a fun and handsome guy with the best smile I had ever seen.

Within a few messages, we exchanged numbers and began texting. The conversation was easy, and we obviously had a mutual interest. I asked if Tony wanted to come visit for dinner and a walk on the beach. The island was still shut down, but Tony biked the 45 minutes to me. 

We had dinner at a restaurant with outdoor dining. (It was my first time at a restaurant in months so I randomly ordered a kids' hot dog plate.) Then we had our first long walk on the beach. The chemistry was instantaneous. We were holding hands and talking like we had known each other for years.

The next morning, we got up, cooked breakfast and went for another long walk on the beach. Our first date lasted over 24 hours, and so did the next five. On our pandemic dates, we cooked for each other, went for long walks on the beach at sunset, had dance parties to the new Lady Gaga album, watched superhero movies, and spent hours talking and getting to know each other. What is a better way to pass the time in a pandemic than to have a fling?

Then the fling became a thing. 

Tony and I have been together for nine months. We still go to Folly Beach every weekend and walk the beach holding hands the way we did on our very first date. We know the pandemic was incredibly difficult for most people, but we found an unexpected love that changed the course of both of our lives forever.

—Chad Dyar

IMG_1481.jpg

Jacqueline Lobato and Gordon Mahy got married before Gordon proposed. He planned a surprise carriage ride for the occasion. "Will you marry me? You can't say no" was the running joke for a while, he said. Provided

'Married' at a UPS store, then engaged on a carriage ride: Gordon Mahy & Jacqueline Lobato

Jackie and I met in late 2018. She had recently moved here from Brazil, so there was a bit of a language barrier at first, but it was something we were able to get past. 

When COVID-19 started to really happen, I left work at the end of March and was on unemployment and quarantined at my house. At that time, Jackie continued working because she really had no other choice. So we only ever really saw each other once about every two weeks. We were just trying to play it as safe as we could, especially since I have terrible asthma, but it was absolutely soul crushing.

We started making plans to find our own apartment together, and when it started to come together, I made some kind of joke about being married. Then it turned into us just saying that neither of us wanted to go anywhere or be with anyone else and that we loved each other. I remember just saying, "Well hell yeah, let's get married!"

gordon.jpg

Jacqueline Lobato and Gordon Mahy got their marriage license notarized in a UPS store during COVID-19. Provided

So we went and got a marriage certificate and got it notarized in a UPS store. We had celebrated the night before, so we were a bit hungover. 

The proposal was after we got married, which I always think is funny. "Will you marry me? You can't say no," was the running joke for a while.

My friend who works for Palmetto Carriage hooked us up with a private carriage tour and had a photographer waiting for us in front of Waterfront Park, where I proposed to her in the carriage. 

We still do have plans for a wedding, but being poor and also in a pandemic are a bit of a delay. But it will happen. 

—Gordon Mahy

love.jpg

Phares and Tyler Lee at their wedding in Lacey Park in California. Provided

Poly love in a pandemic: Phares Lee, Tyler Lee & Rhys Crabtree

Being a polyamorous pansexual trans man, love and relationships can already be complicated enough. Adding a global pandemic just made things even more difficult.

Before the pandemic, I had life down to a science: working 40 to 60 hours a week in a regional security operations center, taking full-time college classes online to get my bachelor's and making sure to fit in time with my two boyfriends: Tyler and Rhys.

Living with Tyler, it was a little easier, but since we both worked night shift, we were never awake for typical daytime date nights. Dates usually consisted of running errands together and the occasional Netflix movie.

Every week, Rhys and I would schedule a day or two for us to spend together at his apartment. Late-night dinner dates at Waffle House and long conversations about everything and nothing were common.

love 2.jpg

Rhys Crabtree (left) and Phares Lee had to figure out how to maintain a relationship during a pandemic while living apart. Provided

But when the pandemic hit, things changed. Tyler’s hours were changed and cut; we no longer had the same days off together. My hours were extended to 12-hour shifts that made it difficult to complete homework on time.

Even worse, how was I supposed to maintain a relationship with Rhys through social distancing and masks, especially if we were both essential workers who needed to stay healthy and safe?

It took some effort, but through teamwork and determination we were able to craft a schedule that worked for all of us. Since Tyler and I had fewer shifts together, I got to spend more time with Rhys than before, and after going through a career change, Rhys was able to bring me with him to his new job delivering The Post and Courier, giving us many more hours of bonding.

Additionally, Tyler and I tied the knot in Lacey Park in California on Oct. 31, 2020, before a small group of masked friends and family, though our honeymoon had to be postponed.

—Phares Lee

shelley.jpg

Shelley Haselden and Frank Hodges recently reconnected during the pandemic. They dated in high school. Here, they're standing next to a picture of them in high school. Provided

Rekindling an old romance: Shelley Haselden & Frank Hodges

I have recently reconnected with a fella from my hometown that I've known since I was 13 years old. I'm 54 years old now.

We first met when I was 13 and he was 17 in 1979. He would give me rides home from the neighborhood swimming pool in his little burgundy MG. I had a mad crush on him. I told my mother I was going to marry him.

We dated my junior year in high school, and I fell madly in love. We broke up that following summer, and it took me almost two years to get over it. The last time I saw him was my freshman year in college in 1985.

He got married in 1993, and I got married in 1999. We became Facebook friends in 2009 and, on occasion, would send random messages to each other asking about the other's family and travels. 

I was divorced November 2017, and he was divorced November 2019. He messaged me via Facebook to let me know. Me, feeling like I was the expert on divorce, sent him messages of dos and don'ts. I never considered that anything would become of us because he lives in Pensacola, Fla., and I'm here in Charleston.

This past September, though, he called me on Facebook messenger. He said, "I was thinking about you and something told me I needed to call you."

I started going through old scrapbooks and found pages of newspaper clippings of him (he played baseball in high school and college), cards and letters, dating all the way back to 1980.

I also went through my diary, finding hundreds of excerpts of my undying love for him.

We have discovered that we have lived quite parallel lives. Even our kids are the same age. We have the same quirks. Our parents now live in the same neighborhood.

We have logged hundreds of hours on the telephone and probably a thousand text messages. We have fallen (back) in love, fast and furious, and are talking about spending the rest of our lives together.

—Shelley Haselden

linda frier.jpg

Linda and Donnie Frier got engaged in 2019 and planned to open a restaurant in 2020. It had to open as a to-go only restaurant. Provided

Restauranteurs and newlyweds who pivoted: Linda & Donnie Frier

My husband Donnie and I live in Summerville. 2020 was a stellar year for us (we've been married for just six months), but COVID-19 sure added a few dips we didn’t expect.

We dated for around six years before getting engaged in the spring of 2019. We both had dreamed of running our own restaurant, so after decades in successful careers, we began doing our homework. We closed on a great property in historic downtown Summerville in July 2019.

After months of renovations, blood, sweat and a few choice temper tantrums, we received our final inspection in spring of 2020 and opened in April — the week after dining rooms had been closed in South Carolina. Our timing couldn’t have been more strange, but we decided it was better to open, even with limitations, than wait out the pandemic.

So This Little Piggy opened as a to-go only restaurant. Now, we're open and fortunate to have a large outdoor patio. 

We also knew we were ready to get married, so on July 21 we were married at Folly Beach. We planned  a small ceremony and celebration on the deck of a beautiful front beach house we rented.

We’ll always remember 2020 as our year: joyful in many ways and painful in others. As my father used to say, “This too shall pass,” but we’ll still be in love and, hopefully, selling great barbecue, side by side.

—Linda Frier

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

Kalyn Oyer is a Charleston native who covers arts & entertainment and food & bev for The Post and Courier. She's a music festival & concert photographer and used to write about music for the Charleston City Paper, among other publications.