These NOCO couples found love in adorable ways

By Jared Fiel

In romantic comedy movies, there are certain things you can kind of guarantee are going to happen: the main couple will have funny friends who hate each other, the couple will probably get back together crying at an airport and there will be some sort of meet-cute.

The meet-cute, as the term implies, is a situation where the couple meets for the first time in a way that is sweet and, occasionally, awkward, leading them to love.

But meet-cutes are not just for the silver screen. NOCO Style is going to introduce you to three local couples who can out-cute the best Sandra Bullock or Matthew McConaughey could offer.

Michael and Marie Kirkpatrick: Match made in elementary school

Neither Michael nor Marie Kirkpatrick thought much of the other when they first met. Marie, 9, was best friends with Michael’s sister, Tina. Michael was 10 and wanted nothing to do with his younger sister or her friend.

“If anything, I thought she was annoying,” he says.

And she felt the same about him. “He just wasn’t on my radar,” Marie says. “He was just my friend’s jerky older brother who had a big ego.”

And that was how things stayed for…years. Michael graduated from high school and went away to college in 1995. Marie and Tina were seniors in high school in Washington state.

Michael got a call from his sister who informed him that she and Marie and three of their friends didn’t have dates for the senior prom and wanted to know if Michael could get four of his friends to take them.

“It was humiliating,” Marie remembers. “I had never been asked to a dance and I wanted to go to the freakin’ dance.”

Being the older brother, Michael wanted to help his sister out, but he wasn’t going to make it easy. So, he laid down the ground rules: 1) The guys don’t have to wear tuxedos, 2) The girls have to officially ask the guys and pay for dinner, 3) The couples would all go on a “pre-date” so they knew each other a little, which would make prom less awkward, and 4) Michael got to take his pick of which of Tina’s friends would be his date.

“Marie always used to prank me and pick on me,” he says. “She was at our house all the time. But I thought about it and thought she would be fun.”

Nobody was more shocked than Marie. “Tina told me, ‘You are going with Michael.’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding? I’m going with your brother!’” she says. “I felt like such a loser.”

But Marie’s desire to go to the dance overrode her embarrassment of the situation and she called Michael to “officially” ask him. “I thought it was going to be terrible, but he was so sweet. He said, ‘Marie, it’s so good to hear from you,’ and when I asked him, he said, ‘I would be honored to go.’”

When Michael returned from college, Marie said things were different. “He was wearing these hiking boots and these shorts and a wool sweater and he had this scruff,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, he really grew up.’”

Michael responded by yelling “PROM DATE” and running over to her and tackling her. “It was just so sweet and open and kind,” she says of that moment.

The couples had their pre-date at Red Robin and Michael and Marie really hit it off. “He just made me feel lovely,” she says.

For his part, Michael started to take the prom seriously now. He bought a red corsage (instead of an innocent white one) to indicate his interest. He even wore a tux that he had from his choir days.

And when Michael saw Marie in her black dress, he was blown away. “My mom said my jaw dropped,” he says.

The couple had a great evening. “I was smitten and fluttery,” Marie says. “He was such a gentleman and was just doting over me all night. I couldn’t believe this guy had been under my nose my whole life.”

Prom night led to many other dates. Marie would call the house and ask to talk to Michael and not Tina. “It was a summer of innocent love,” she says, remembering their first kiss listening to Led Zeppelin.

When Michael went back to college, they did the whole long-distance thing (they still have boxes of love letters they sent each other) and there were a few moments of dating other people, but the magnetism that started on that prom night kept bringing them back together.

Michael proposed in 2002 and the couple moved to Greeley and then New Mexico and then back to Fort Collins, where Michael is a popular musician and Marie has been working for New Belgium Brewery since 2005.


Brittany and Rich Gratton: The cheerleader and the wrestler

In 1999, Rich Gratton was a freshman wrestler on the Erie High School team and he had his eyes on the cute girl one grade above him, Brittany, who was also one of five cheerleaders at the small school.

The wrestling team was headed to Weld Central for a meet that also included Lyons High School, which shared the bus for the trip. Due to the tight conditions, the wrestling coach told the cheerleaders to go sit with the wrestlers, something that didn’t happen very often.

“I saw him sitting there and I knew he was one of the Gratton twins, but we had never met before,” she says. She sat down next to him.

“From my perspective, this was the ideal situation,” Rich says. He had clearly made his interest in Brittany known to his twin brother, Ben.

Ben was sitting behind them and yelled, “Hey Rich!” The couple turned around and Ben gave a big thumbs up. That was how Brittany knew which of the twins she was sitting with.

“We must have talked on the ride, but I can’t remember what we talked about on the way there,” Brittany says. The ride home wasn’t as good since the team lost and the coach didn’t allow the cheerleaders to sit with the wrestlers going back.

Over the next week, as these things happen in small high schools, Brittany was made aware of Rich’s interest in her. The Snowball Dance was coming up. But Rich still hadn’t asked her to the dance.

Finally, Brittany sent him a note in class that said, “If you ask me to the Snowball Dance, I will say yes.”

“She made it so easy for me,” Rich says. The couple went to the dance and started dating.

They did break up for a few months at one point, because “Rich would not hold my hand when we were in front of other people. But we got back together that summer,” Brittany recalls.

The couple went to college together at Colorado State University, including grad school. They even both worked at the same place, JBS, for the first seven years after college. They were married in 2009 and have two sons: Grayson, 6, and Logan, 4.

“People always ask if we get sick of each other, being around each other so much,” Rich says. “But we started out so early and we were so young and that’s when you are developing your own personality and you develop with that person. You share all those life events and how could you get sick of that?”


Nadia and Patrick Duncan: Hookah-ing up

“He just had this look. You know. Long hair and I just thought, I want to talk to that guy,” Nadia Duncan says of the first time she saw the man who would become her husband, Patrick, at a party in 2011.

The party was at a mutual friend’s house. Nadia had come to the party with a guy, but they were not together. But Patrick didn’t know that.

So even when Nadia sat down next to him and started talking, he didn’t seem interested. “He just kept shrugging me off because he thought I was with that other guy,” she says.

She found out later that Patrick had just gotten out of a huge breakup, which may have added to his reluctance. But Nadia was determined. She pulled a friend, Katie, into the kitchen to tell her she was interested in Patrick. “I had to make sure she knew. He was mine,” she says. “I’m going after him.” That was fine because Katie was interested in Patrick’s roommate, Drew.

The party was kind of boring so Nadia suggested they could go to her place because she had a hookah they could smoke. Somehow the word got out to most of the other people at the party and everyone ended up at Nadia’s place.

But that still gave them time to talk. “He was being shy and coy,” she says. “He told me later that he liked the punk rock eyeliner I wore back then.” The couple talked much of the night but never exchanged phone numbers.

A few days later, Nadia was getting out of a concert when she got a text from Katie asking her to come hang out with her and Drew. Nadia knew that meant Patrick would be there also and she headed over.

She found him sleeping in a hammock on the patio. He said he was just trying out some camping gear. “From there we stayed up talking until 3 a.m.,” she says. “He walked me to my car, and we kissed for the first time as it started to snow.”

Now, 11 years later, Patrick and Nadia have been married for five years. They had a son, Wilder, in 2020 and have another due in March. Nadia owns Impulse Dance and Fitness and Patrick runs Duncan Mountain Properties.

And Nadia has a tattoo on her wrist of a mountain snow scene to remind her of that snow that fell during their first kiss.

Jared Fiel is a writer in Northern Colorado who met his sweetie online. Yup, not that cute, but it works!