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Names may be novel, but love remains steadfast

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Jessica and Jesse Larson pose with their son, Dalton, in front of the fireplace at their home in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- It's often said that opposites attract, but apparently like-minded -- and like-named -- people are sometimes drawn to each other, too.

Cases in point: three Worthington couples who share similar first names, and another couple with last names that were homophones prior to their marriage.

More surprising is the fact that Alvin and Alvina, Jesse and Jessica and Robert and Roberta all live within a few houses of each other on a quiet southwest Worthington street.

Jesse and Jessica Larson, the last of the three couples to move there, were alerted to the anomaly by a neighbor who noted it was quite a coincidence to have three couples with such similar first names living so close together.

"I've just become used to it," admitted Jessica Larson, who grew up attending Worthington schools with her future husband, Jesse, "but maybe in the beginning it may have seemed funny to friends or family that our names were so much alike."

Alvina and Alvin Kooiman first met on a blind date following a Sunday night church service, when both were young people just starting out in their respective careers.

"Alvin was working in Luverne but still living in Edgerton, and I lived in Luverne when we met but was about to move to Worthington to teach," recalled Alvina. "He had to be home by midnight, and we had visited with other friends after church, so we didn't really spend much time together that first evening."

A short while later, Alvin called to invite Alvina for a day outing to Okoboji with a group of friends on Labor Day. But Alvina was about to begin teaching at Worthington Christian School (where she ultimately taught first and second grade for six years) and had anticipated using Labor Day to finalize her preparations for the school year.

"I said yes, but I stayed up the whole night before working, so on Labor Day I was just a zombie," shared Alvina. "I don't think Alvin was very impressed with me, and I later heard that his cousin told him, 'Well, she was up all night; give her one more chance.'"

Fortunately, Alvin did, and a better-rested Alvina apparently made a more agreeable companion; the couple was married less than a year and half later and celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Dec. 23, 2009.

"We have four children, all of whom are married," related Alvina. "I was named Alvina Beth for my two grandfathers, Albert and Bert, and three of our grandchildren were named in honor of either Alvin or me.

"Our son Scott's little boy is Samuel Alvin, and his daughter's middle name is Beth, and our daughter Tami's girl shares my initials--Alyssa Brianne."

Robert and Roberta (pseudonyms used at the couple's request, as their real first names are even more distinctive) were introduced to each other by mutual friends at a bar in a South Dakota town where each was working after college.

"My girlfriend said, 'I'd like you to meet someone; his name is Robert. Robert and Roberta. That's pretty cool, don't you think?' I just blew her off," laughed Roberta.

But Robert made more of an impression on her than Roberta expected, having perfected his jitterbug moves during his undergraduate years in Brookings, S.D.

"He's a really good dancer, and he taught me how to dance," explained Roberta. "He's very good at it, and we always had a blast.

Now, after raising three children during nearly 24 years of marriage, Robert and Roberta personally find something else about their relationship more remarkable, although it's not immediately noticed by others the way their shared first names often are.

"We had our first date on the 20th of a month, we were engaged on the 20th and we were married exactly 20 months after our first date," detailed Roberta. "On our 20th anniversary we also celebrated 200 months together."

Chris and Doug Brouwer don't have common first names, but even before taking her husband's moniker, Chris' last name sounded the same and started with a "B"--for the German "Brauer," rather than the Dutch "Brouwer."

"We had some issues with the names after marriage," acknowledged Chris. "We sent in for new checks with 'Brouwer' for both of us, and they kept sending them to us misspelled.

"I can tell that my mom still starts writing an 'A' in my last name before catching herself and changing it to an 'O,'" teased Chris.

Chris and Doug met when her steering column locked up one night in the Northland Mall parking lot and Doug, on duty with Mark's Towing, showed up to help.

"He said it would be easier to tow it in the morning when the lot wasn't so full, so he gave me a ride home," related Chris. "I thought that was the end of it, but two weeks later he called, and my first thought was I'd forgotten to pay the bill."

But Doug was making a third attempt to phone the effervescent, blue-eyed Chris.

"He asked me if I'd like to go out sometime, and I uncharacteristically said yes," said Chris. "Then he asked me what I'd like to do, and I suggested bowling--he doesn't bowl, but he said yes."

When Chris learned their last names were similar, she looked him up in the phone directory and was dismayed to see a Doug Brower (she wasn't yet clear on the spelling) listed with a Jackie.

"I thought he might be married, but I was wrong," clarified Chris. "We sometimes jokingly tell people we are cousins, but we were not related in any way prior to marriage."

After almost 10 years of marriage, Doug asked Chris to plan their Valentine's Day activity this year, as he believes it isn't a holiday for which men only should be responsible.

"We might go to Sioux Falls--or we might go bowling," quipped Chris.

Jessica and Jesse, who began dating after "meeting up" at a wedding dance in Wilmont years ago, now have a two-year-old son named Dalton and are expecting another baby in the summer.

"People joked that we should name our first kid 'Jesse Jr.,'" revealed Jesse. "But we didn't, and we don't plan on adding any more 'J's' to the family."

If you're still seeking that perfect Valentine-for-life, these couples advise to keep an open mind, even if that means dating a Terry if you're a Teri or a Kim if you're a Kym.

"When I was in grade school, there was a boy in my class named Alvin who I didn't think much of," confessed Alvina. "We were teased a lot because our names were the same, and I vividly remember thinking, 'No way am I ever going to marry an Alvin.'

"Never say never."