Lasting love: Local couples share their secrets

The Park Rapids Enterprise asked married teachers and others what brought them together, and what keeps them together. Here are some of their answers.

The Park Rapids Enterprise asked local "power couples" around Valentine's Day, 2022, what they do together to keep love alive. Top row from left: Matt and Nicole Brandt, Sara and Garrett Kovach, John and Julie Cook, Lisa and Tom Coborn; bottom row: Olaf and Kay Netteberg, Greg and Angie Kuehn, Brianna and Chris Kirchner, Zelda and Larry Novak.
Contributed photos
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The Park Rapids Enterprise recently reached out to some local “power couples” to ask what makes their relationship work.

Questions included what romantic gestures they’ve made toward each other, when they realized they were in love, how they keep love alive and what they enjoy doing together.

Lisa and Tom Coborn

‘I didn’t want him to go’

Tom and Lisa Coborn both teach in the Park Rapids Area Schools – Tom in the high school social studies department, and Lisa in the Alternative Learning Center.

“Tom and I have been together since 1986 – 36 years,” said Lisa. “I don’t remember the exact moment I realized I was in love. I remember noticing him at SnoDaze and then saying goodbye to him when he went into the Army, and I knew then that I didn’t want him to go because we always had so much fun together.”


The couple has two sons, ages 28 and 30, and three dogs. They enjoy camping, boating, snowmobiling and traveling together, and spending time with family.

“Tom always picks wildflowers for me,” said Lisa. “We laugh together a lot, and we let each other know we appreciate each other.”

Zelda and Larry Novak

‘Our love has grown’

Zelda and Larry Novak have been married for almost 25 years. Their blended family includes eight children as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“We had an immediate attraction when we first met,” Zelda said. “Our love has grown and matured over the years we have been together, and we enjoy our time together. We keep our love alive. We play and support each other through good times and bad. And we have lots of little traditions that help to keep us grounded and in touch with each other.

“Every month on the 21st, Larry gives me an anniversary card. I can only recall one month that he missed during our marriage. Larry and I share our commitment to Lions Clubs International, our church and of course our families and friends.”

Olaf and Kay Netteberg

Can I hold your hand?

Kay and Olaf Netteberg both teach at Nevis School. They will be celebrating their 25th anniversary this June and have three sons, one daughter-in-law, three grandsons and two cats.


“On our third date, he asked if he could hold my hand. It was all downhill from there,” Kay said.

She said Olaf buys her gifts for odd holidays, like Groundhogs Day, and they share small sweet moments every day as well as crazy, spontaneous adventures.

“Being on the water, watching the sun come up in the hot tub, going to our grandsons’ hockey games, skiing with our boys, traveling whenever and wherever,” she said.

“She is my best friend and my favorite adventure partner,” Olaf said. “We work hard, play hard, and laugh a lot! We enjoy everything from traveling to drifting across the lake on the pontoon to watching the sun rise.”


Brianna and Chris Kirchner

‘Support is huge’

Chris Kirchner is a middle school art teacher and his wife, Brianna Kirchner, is an elementary counselor, both at Century School. Together for 10 years, they have two “cat children” but no human ones.

“I proposed on top of a mountain in Canada after an 11 kilometer hike,” said Chris. “If she would have said no, it would have been a long hike down.”

“When we were in college, he would pick me up and drive me home, so I wouldn’t have to bike at night,” Brianna recalled.

Their romance grew on long camping trips they took across the country. The Kirchners enjoy fishing, camping, traveling, snowmobiling, ice skating, cross-country skiing, golfing, hiking, exercising, cooking, snuggling with their “fur babies” and binge-watching HBO together.

“We support each other in all our endeavors,” they said in a joint email. “Support is huge in our relationship. We keep traveling, exploring and getting to know one another better every day. We also give each other space and support to pursue our own ventures. Laughter is also key.”

Nicole and Matt Brandt

‘Trying new adventures’

Nicole Brandt teaches first grade at Century School, and husband Matt Brandt is a high school special education teacher. The couple has been together for 22 years, married for 20, and have twin sons Kolby and Hunter, who are in college, daughter Madeline in seventh grade, and pet rescue dogs Anna and Bella.

“When we were first married and were starting out,” said Matt, “my wife cooked a homemade Valentine’s Day supper. It was a complete surprise, and she totally fooled me. She kicked me out of the house to bring the boys to the babysitter’s, and when I got back to the house, a meal was ready. It was outstanding.”

Nicole said Matt is great at remembering the little things, like “knowing that getting my favorite dessert after a difficult day makes me feel better. Or on cold days he warms the car up for me. He takes time to show he cares.”

She said they were high school sweethearts who had known each other for years before they started dating.

“The switch from friendship to a person I had feelings for happened on a run,” said Nicole. “I was getting ready for track season, so I was planning a run. Matt, who is not a run-for-fun kind of guy, asked if he could run with me. During the run I realized … how sweet it was that he wanted to spend time with me.”

She added that as their relationship grew, she continued falling in love with Matt more and more, “as I saw his faith, saw how he supported my dreams and how great of a dad he is.”

Asked when he realized they were in love, Matt said, “When I found myself wondering what she was up to when we were not together. … Plus, she has a smile you cannot forget.”

The Brandts enjoy completing do-it-yourself projects, traveling together, watching their kids participate in sports and spending time with family. “We also truly enjoy living in Grandpa’s house he built and spending time on the lake,” said Matt.

Keeping their love alive, he said, is about “spending time with each other and continuously trying new adventures that can bring us closer together.”

“He makes me laugh and is fun to go on adventures with,” said Nicole.

Greg and Angie Kuehn

‘Laughing with each other’

Angie and Greg Kuehn both teach at Park Rapids Area High School – she in business education, he in special ed. They have been together for 40 years, married for 38.

“We have two adult children, two grandchildren and a geriatric rat,” said Angie.

The couple agrees that laughing with each other is what keeps their love alive. They also enjoy snowmobiling, taking road trips, sightseeing and spending time on the lake together, and hanging out with their kids and grandkids.

“She makes me feel like the guy she started dating 40 years ago,” said Greg.

Angie’s idea of a romantic gesture is when “he plans getaways for us.”

They also seem to share the same memory of the moment they fell in love. Angie: “Him making me laugh.” Greg: “Her laughing at my ridiculousness.”

John and Julie Cook

‘Little thoughtful gestures’

John Cook is the band teacher at Park Rapids Area Schools, and wife Julie Cook teaches high school math. Together 20 years, they met at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and have been married for 16 years.

“Neither of us are into grand gestures, but we enjoy doing little things for each other,” said Julie.

Falling in love wasn’t so much a moment as spending time together, deciding they wanted to continue doing so, growing together and having adventures together, she said.

The couple has three kids, a dog, a cat and chickens.

Keeping love alive, Julie said, is about “spending time together with the entire family; taking time to have dates, even if it’s just running to town to grab coffee and sit by a lake for a few minutes; doing little thoughtful gestures for each other; helping each other through hard times.”

The Cooks enjoy SCUBA diving, traveling, watching movies and having outdoor adventures together, such as camping, hiking and fishing.

‘My stomach did flip-flops’

Kimberly Lembcke teaches kindergarten, and husband Nic is a middle school math teacher, both at Century School.

They’ve been together for 11 years, married six-and-a-half, and they have three kids – Sawyer, 6; Hudson, 4; and Gracyn, almost 2 – as well as an 11-year-old dachshund named Snickers.

The couple enjoys rare moments alone together, dining out, watching TV and taking pontoon rides on the lake during the summer.

“A few days before the early arrival of our first child, he surprised me with flowers and a heartfelt poem,” Kimberly said. “It was supposed to be going into the last four weeks before baby would arrive, but Sawyer came a few days later.”

She said she knew she was in love with him “when all I wanted to do was be with him,” adding that when they first started dating, she would see him while picking up her class from P.E. “My stomach did flip-flops every day when I’d see him in the hallway.”

Kimberly said raising three young children together is stressful but also a blessing. “The moments of keeping love alive are few and far between,” she said, “but Nic reminds me to see the humor in this young, busy stage of our kids’ lives. Seeing the love and enjoyment that he has for our kids reminds me how much I love him.”

Also, she said, seeing their excitement to see “Dada” walk through the door brings her back to how it felt to see him in the hallway at school.

Krystal and Kevin Murphy and their dog, Buck.
Contributed / Krystal Murphy

Keeping God at the forefront

Krystal Murphy is the community career collaboration coordinator at Park Rapids Area High School, while husband Kevin Murphy is a middle school social studies teacher at Century School.

“We are high school sweethearts,” said Krystal, adding that they first told each other “I love you” at a homecoming dance. Together since spring 2009, they’ve been married almost seven years.

“I like to make my own cards for Kevin, especially for Valentine’s Day,” she said. “I also like to give Kevin little random gifts that are either sweet or funny. But if one of us needs a project done for the home or farm, we usually work on it together.”

Kevin said, “I made a custom picture frame for Krystal when she was going off to college and put a picture in it to remind her of me when she was away.”

Regarding how to keep love alive, Krystal said they keep God at the forefront of their marriage, make time for each other and have honest communication.

“We both love traveling, trying new foods, spending time with our families, and doing projects together on our hobby farm,” said Krystal.

The Murphys don’t have any children yet, but Krystal said, “We do have the best dog in the world, named Buck, and our farm animals including our horse Sparky, Jimmy the goat and our chickens and ducks.”

Sara and Garrett Kovach

‘I’m a catch and so is he’

Sara Kovach teaches elementary special education, and Garrett Kovach teaches middle school special ed, both at Century School. They were married 17 years ago in Las Vegas.

Sara said she doesn’t remember the moment she fell in love with Garrett, but “I just ended up liking him so darn much, I figured it must be love.”

For a romantic gesture, she recalls the time Garrett didn’t shovel the driveway and she got stuck in the driveway, making her late for work. “He sent me flowers,” she said, “mostly because he felt bad, but a little bit because it was Valentine’s Day.”

The Kovaches have a daughter, Emma, age 14; a son, Jack, 13; and two dogs, Dante and Daisy.

“I enjoy everything more when I do it with him,” Sara said of Garrett. “Once he put a ring on it, it was pretty much a done deal. I’m a catch and so is he, so I think we complement each other well. We don’t do mushy things, but do make fun of each other until we snort-laugh, so that’s nice.”

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