JASON GONDEK and Melissa Smith, who met at The Theater Project in 1984, will be married Nov. 1 at the community theater in Brunswick where they met.

JASON GONDEK and Melissa Smith, who met at The Theater Project in 1984, will be married Nov. 1 at the community theater in Brunswick where they met.


Sometimes love goes in a circle.

Consider Jason Gondek and Melissa Smith.

Gondek grew up in Topsham playing soccer out on Foreside Road.

His obsession with Charlie Chaplin, his gregarious personality and gift of mimicry led his parents, Marilyn and Richard Gondek, to drive slowly down School Street one day, and, in an act of desperation, push Jason out onto the sidewalk in front of the Theater Project, where acting classes for kids were going on.

Al Miller was just what the doctor ordered: Gondek loved everything about The Theater Project and the people there.

It was the summer of 1984.

Meanwhile, Smith and her sister, Kate, arrived from Virginia to visit their cousin in Bath. The three girls spent a few days at The Theater Project’s acting camp, and Smith met Gondek.

Sparks occurred. Neither of them recall the details, but they started writing to one another.

They lived too far apart to be anything more serious than close friends, and so, in their respective worlds, high school romances led to college romances, and working lives led to marriages to other people.

Gondek worked as a production accountant in the film industry. Most of his career was spent with Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions. Smith developed a strategic planning and business practice. Both traveled the globe for their jobs.

For 29 years, they kept in touch: by mail, phone calls, and a rare visit, sharing the events of their lives.

Like many people approaching mid-life, personal challenges appeared.

In the aftermath of spousal loss — one to divorce, the other to an untimely death from cancer — Gondek and Smith began to share, carefully, the details of their lives, and hopes for the future.

They discovered that they had kept all of their letters from one another.

Gondek had not lost his wise-cracking edge. Smith still had her fun-loving energy.

After a couple of crosscountry jaunts for visits, they decided to take a holiday to Hawaii, hiking and sightseeing.

Gondek suggested dinner on New Year’s Day “to celebrate the last day of vacation.” A stretch limo picked them up, complete with chilled champagne and romantic music, the latter courtesy of the friendly driver.

An hour and a wonderful chat later, the limo pulled into the St. Regis resort in Princeville. Inside, the concierge met them with two fragrant leis, which they shared.

Then the man led the way, past the piano bar, beyond the restaurant and outside.

Across the resort lawn was a stunning view of the ocean and one of the Kauai mountains, silhouetted by the setting sun.

It was raining a little, so the clouds were layered and lit up from below, as Smith said, “like a Chinese painting of misty hills.”

At the very edge of the water, a torch-lit table waited under the canopy.

The view was breathtaking, and not another soul was outside to enjoy it.

Gondek said off-handedly that before dinner started, he had a question.

In a distracted way, Melissa quipped, “42.” (See also: “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” where the answer to all important questions is “42.”)

Without missing a beat, Gondek pushed back his chair, went down on one knee, and asked Smith to marry him.

There were tears of joy, of course, and some serious laughter.

Now the couple who met in Maine is coming back to tie the knot.

Since they’re both sentimental, romantic types, they will marry Nov. 1 at The Theater Project, where they met 29 years ago, with Al Miller performing the ceremony.

They will return, together, to their new home in Pasadena, Calif. — kids who played together in Theater Project productions as kids who went their separate ways.

Now, after divorce and death, a second chance at a match made in heaven.

Or, at least, in Brunswick.

MARTHA STERLINGGOLDEN is a Times Record subscriber who lives in Topsham.

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