Happy Valentine’s Day! To honor the most romantic and gushy of holidays — and remind you that, yes, the ice will eventually melt and the weather will be warm again — we’re featuring the stories of three couples who fell in love on Lake Erie.
That love transcends the lake’s pink-and-orange sunsets, and strolls on the sand. Love on Lake Erie may mean battling big wind or baiting your own hook.
Without further ado, here are three couples whose love stories involve our Great Lake.
Romance the Lake is a collaborative, occasional series between RocktheLake and Peter & Co. Jewelers in Avon Lake. Throughout 2018, we’ll bring you the most romantic spots on Lake Erie, the best wedding photo ops and the most swoonworthy stories of love on the lake. Because Lake Erie not only rocks, it romances.
Falling for fishing
Lana Holdash and Justin Ostry met in middle school. Back then, the 29-year-olds were girlfriend-boyfriend, hanging out and going to the movies. But as tweenage romances are wont to do, they broke up and only reconnected after graduating from Independence High School.
It was Lake Erie that crystallized their relationship. The couple, who were attending Cuyahoga Community College, fell in love fishing from the breakwall at East 55th Street Marina.
Lana grew up fishing, during summers around her family cottage in Marblehead and during the school year, when her dad let her play hooky on Fridays to take a fishing charter. But Justin had never spent much time on the lake.
“That’s where he realized he really liked to fish,” said Lana. “We always teased that I was the one that got him into fishing and the reason he bought a boat.”
They spent nearly every weekend on the lake, on the 19-foot Sunbird catching perch, or in Lana’s kayak catching walleye. They went to the Cleveland Air Show together.
They even got a dog, who they named Erie.
Justin drove the boat. Lana is in charge of buying bait, at Shine’s Bait & Tackle in Cleveland.
“I get extra minnows,” she said. “They don’t get many girls in the bait shop.”
In August 2015, they got married on Johnson’s Island, where they tied fisherman’s knots in a rope together to signify their commitment.
While they considered using the boat as their getaway car, they chose a golf cart instead, with a Just Married sign on the back.
“A lot of fishermen have told us we’re really lucky because their significant other is always annoyed that they’re out on their boat,” Lana said. “We think it’s a good trait.”
Spending the off-season at Stone Lab
Matt Brehm and Alycia Gabriel fell in love on Gibraltar Island, where they were living and teaching workshops at Stone Laboratory.
“We were at times literally stuck on an island together,” said Brehm, 40, of West Liberty. “She didn’t have any other options.”
Matt went to Ohio State University. Alycia, who was from near Lancaster, went to Ohio University. He both majored in fisheries management and she had a degree in wildlife biology.
In fall 2002, they both remained on Gibraltar, in the Put-in-Bay harbor, when the crowds left for the season. They had bonfires and went fishing and walked around the empty town.
“It’s nice because there aren’t as many tourists and the lake is very interesting with the fall weather and the spring weather. You get big seiches. You get really windy days when you can’t do anything, you can’t get off Gibraltar.”
Matt had been hitting on Alycia for a few weeks when he finally got her to agree to dinner, at Mossback’s on Put-in-Bay.
“She tells me I didn’t talk at all. I don’t remember that. She tells me I couldn’t dock the boat over there. I don’t remember that either,” Matt said. “She had a boat and a Jeep and she had season’s tickets to Browns games. So I was like, this chick is really cool.”
The couple got married in Alycia’s grandparents’ barn and moved to Matt’s hometown of West Liberty, north of Springfield. They have two kids, ages 8 and 5, and haven’t been back to Lake Erie a whole lot since.
But they’ll always have Gibraltar.
Celebrating at Lakehouse Inn
Last Valentine’s Day, Tommy Baker surprised his girlfriend, Rachel Jervis, with a weekend at the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Jervis had such a good time, she wanted to return in the fall. So in October, Baker surprised her again – this time with a stay at the Lakehouse Inn and Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Baker booked a cabin and a spa morning for her. And even though it was 40 degrees and raining, he insisted they go down to the beach before an afternoon at their favorite Ashtabula County wineries. Why?
“He says he wanted to look for clams,” she said. “I think he literally didn’t know how to get me down there. I don’t know what he was thinking.”
The couple didn’t find any freshwater mussels. But Baker asked her to turn and look.
She turned around, and he was down on one knee, proposing.
Jervis said yes, of course. Her photographer best friend popped out of the bushes, and her friend’s husband filmed the whole thing. Baker even had a pink smoke bomb go off!
“He’s got this big smile on his face,” Jervis said. “It was a really special time for us.”
Jervis, 27, is the director of marketing and event planning for the Summit Choral Society in Akron and owns Rachel Lucia Photography. Baker, 29, is an operator relief at Wyoming Casing in Canton. They’re planning to get married in October in Massillon.
But before then, they want to go back to the Lakehouse Inn, in the summer this time, so they can sit on the deck and drink wine.
“It’s our favorite weekend getaway spot,” she said. “He never liked wine until he met me.”
Got your own love on Lake Erie story? Or great wedding photos on the lake? Share them on our Facebook page.
Meanwhile, need a few ideas to celebrate lake-style? We’ve got eight here.