Love Notes

Nancy and Rinus Lammers pose for a portrait at their home Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Cary, Ill. The pair met at JFK airport in 1989. (Taylor Glascock, Chicago Tribune)

On a cold December night in 1989, Nancy Bailey was heading to her car in a manager's parking lot at JFK Airport when she noticed a man in front her holding a briefcase and a pair of gloves.

"I was freezing, and here's this man who has gloves and he isn't wearing them," recalls Nancy, who was working as a passenger service supervisor for Aer Lingus and living in Long Island, N.Y. "I said, 'Wouldn't those work better if you had them on?'"

The gloveless man was Rinus Lammers, a maintenance supervisor from the Netherlands who also lived in Long Island and worked for KLM airlines.

"I'd been transferred to New York from Saudi Arabia, so I had been used to extreme heat," Rinus says. "The cool air felt nice to me, so I didn't put on my gloves. I see this tall woman, and even though she had boots and a long coat, somehow there was this chemistry right away. I think my heart skipped one or two beats. And I thought, 'Wow! This woman is not only gorgeous, she's got quite a good pickup line too.'"

Still, they went their separate ways.

"I kept thinking about him, though," Nancy admits. "I had no idea who he worked for. I just knew it was for one of the airlines a couple of doors down. So that following August I was back in the parking lot and saw him, and I got excited."

A casual chat ensued, but their dramatically different schedules prevented any conversations for several months. However, they did get to learn what car the other was driving, and in December 1990, a year after their first encounter, Nancy found Rinus' business card with a "Happy Holidays" message on the windshield of her blue Ford Thunderbird.

"I always looked for his car whenever I went to the parking lot," she says. (Rinus drove a dark red Jeep Cherokee.) "So I left him one of my business cards and wrote 'Same to you.'"

Rinus called Nancy soon after getting her card. They met for coffee. Conversations picked up and so did their ability to run into each other at the airport. But they were proceeding with caution because each had just gone through a divorce.

"You want to make sure you want to be together and you're not just seeking comfort for the wrong reasons," Rinus says. "So we went to get a drink after work and hear some music one night, and we were chatting and she put her hand for a moment on my arm, and I will never forget this: It was as if electricity went through me. It was like a bolt of lightning went through my body when she did that."

More dinners, dates and weekend getaways followed. By the summer of 1992, they spent the Fourth of July holiday on Long Island. But two days into their trip, Rinus got a call from his boss and learned that KLM has transferred him to Dubai.

"Needless to say, I kind of fell apart, because at this point I'm hooked," Nancy says. "So he goes off to Dubai in August, and this is 1992, so there is no email, no Facebook. Just the phone."

"So we proceeded to make AT&T rich," Rinus adds. "They didn't have these packages that you have nowadays."

"One month my phone bill was more than $800," Nancy says. "We were easily spending $1,000 a month on the phone."

Nancy took some time off to be with Rinus in October to see if she would like Dubai. "From the moment we walked out of the airport, I loved it there," she says. "In those days it was way more modern and liberal than Saudi Arabia."

Rinus proposed during Nancy's monthlong visit, and for the next year they kept their relationship alive through phone calls or by meeting in the Netherlands.

"It's two seven-hour plane rides to get to Dubai," Nancy says. "So we would meet halfway in the Netherlands. There was one trip where I was on the ground for less than 24 hours."

By October 1993 Nancy left her job with Aer Lingus and moved to Dubai. She and Rinus married the following March.

"Three months later and we go on our honeymoon in the Netherlands," he recalls, "and when we get back, she says, 'What's wrong with the coffee? It smells horrible!' and I said, 'Don't tell me you're pregnant!'"

"I'd always been told I couldn't have children," Nancy says. "So we got the home pregnancy test, and I took two of them, and they both came out positive. It was such a surprise, but what a gift."