They lived just three miles apart - he lived in Baxter, she lived in Brainerd.
But Chris and Dave Bergin of Fort Ripley never would have met, fallen in love or started their family if it weren't for those three magic words:
"You've Got Mail."
The Bergins met through an online dating service, Match.com. Their first correspondence was an introductory e-mail sent by Chris - at 2:48 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2003, to be exact. (Dave saved all those first e-mails sent between them.) She liked his online profile - he had written that he liked to read, liked animals, that his faith was important to him and he didn't have children but would like children of his own someday.
A connection made on an online dating service is what brought Dave Bergin and his wife, Chris, together four years ago. They recently paused in their Fort Ripley home with their 2-year-old son, Hunter. They encourage all singles looking for love to take a chance and look online, too.» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
"He had a really nice smile and blue eyes and looked handsome and I thought, 'What the heck?'" Chris said.
"I was trying to find somebody to take me," said Dave. "Lonely puppy needs home."
Both Dave and Chris had been signed up for Match.com for about the same amount of time, a couple of months, and had each gone on a few dates but hadn't yet found anyone they shared a "spark" with.
"When I'd heard of people before on Match I thought they were kind of desperate and I thought it was kind of odd," Chris said with a laugh. "But a girlfriend of mine who lived down by the Cities was having fun with it and she encouraged me. We shop online for all kinds of things, why not try dating online?"
They chatted on the phone later that Sunday night after Chris had first contacted Dave and after exchanging a few e-mails. They talked for an hour and made plans to meet for lunch at Poncho and Lefty's the next day. Their first lunch lasted three hours.
"Neither of us are very patient, really," said Chris when asked why they met so quickly after connecting online.
"We were desperate, that's all," joked Dave. "All I know is she looked pretty hot the day we had lunch. She was wearing this white sweater - ahhhh. She gave me a hug afterwards. It was so sweet."
The next day they went to the movie, "Lord of the Rings" together, a suggestion made by Chris.
"I knew if he'd go watch a dorky movie like that with me, he must be nice," she said. Dave didn't have plans for the holidays and his family didn't live in the Brainerd area so a couple weeks later he met her family on Christmas in Pine River. They discovered that Chris' dad's best friend knew Dave when he was a young boy vacationing on Leech Lake.
"That legitimized me, right there," said Dave.
The couple became engaged in October of 2004 and got married a little more than a year after they met on Jan. 6, 2005, in South Padre Island, Texas. Their son, Hunter, is now 2 and Chris is due with their second child in July. She works as an accountant for a business in Garrison while Dave is part owner of Fiducia Benefits Group in Brainerd.
"For Dave and me, it is probably not likely that our paths would have crossed," Chris said if they hadn't met online.
Would they recommend those looking for love in the Brainerd lakes area this Valentine's Day check out online dating? Absolutely.
"You've got to have some fun with this and don't be in a rush," said Dave. "Don't be afraid to go out on dates and meet lots of people."
"I felt like I had fun with it," said Chris. "I didn't date a lot, but I just kind of had fun with it. I think with dating in general you have to trust your instincts about each other. Keep in mind you want to be safe."
Chris said at first she shied away from explaining to people how they met but after three years of marriage, she doesn't feel there's much to be embarrassed about any longer.
"I'm not near as embarrassed about it anymore because it's working for us," said Chris. "I think online dating is a lot more acceptable now, too. Back then you didn't hear about it as often."
For Valentine's Day, the Bergins conceded they have nothing too romantic planned. She's got a doctor's appointment to make sure everything is going fine with the baby and Dave teaches judo. While it may be a work-related conference - they raise cattle on the side - they do plan to get away together, just the two of them, this weekend for a trip to Hudson, Wis.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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