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Chance meeting led to love at first sight, then marriage
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The Harpers met in San Antonio during a pre-Super Bowl party in 2006. - photo by Photo Contributed

In 2006, the Seattle Seahawks made their first-ever Super Bowl appearance, facing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field in Detroit.

Prior to Super Bowl XL, two people – Jessica and Richard Harper – met by chance at a San Antonio sports bar that Jan. 14.

Call it fate, kismet or karma.

Richard was showcasing his custom-built Ford Excursion truck while on a date at this pre-Super Bowl party. Jessica was there with three of her friends, sitting outside on the sports bar patio.

First she noticed the souped-up truck and then she noticed the owner of the vehicle. Likewise for Richard – he couldn’t keep his eyes off Jessica.

Love at first sight?

“I remember being respectful since he was on a date and I knew that would not be very nice to approach him,” she said on Monday.

They did exchange words. “I said to him ‘nice truck’ as I was leaving,” Jessica recalled.

From there, Richard followed her in the parking lot. Never mind that he was on a date.

“He kept on insisting that (his date) was just a friend. He wanted to see me,” said Jessica, who ended up handing out her phone number.

At the time, she was 39, a single mom – her son Anthony was 16 – having previously been married for five years. Jessica worked in property management while living in her home town of San Antonio.

Richard had been married for seven years. He was originally from the Louisiana town of Houma and was in Texas via military active duty at Ft. Sam Houston. Prior to that, he had been stationed in Kuwait, Kosovo, and Germany.

They dated a few days after that first encounter.

At first, Jessica, who is 10 years older than Richard, wondered if the age difference would be a problem. As it turned out, it mattered not at all.

“It just felt right,” she said. “We had similar-type plans during that part of our lives.”

They saw each other practically every day until Richard’s deployment to Virginia Beach a month or so later.

So when Jessica flew out that way for a birthday visit in March, Richard popped the question.

“I came back to San Antonio engaged,” she said. “Oh, I made sure I gave my employer at least a six-month notice.”

Eight months after they met, Richard and Jessica were married before the Justice of the Peace in Virginia Beach on August 2006.

“We didn’t have that big of a wedding. There was no honeymoon. Richard was on active duty so he was very, very busy,” she said.

None of that really mattered since everyday was like a honeymoon.

Two years later, they welcomed a son, Ashton, into their lives.

From the Lone Star State to the picturesque sandy East Coast beaches, Richard, Jessica and their family later relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska.

“It was amazing being there but the weather can be very, very harsh. I’m a sunshine kind of girl,” she said.

As for his souped up truck, Richard sold that for a Chrysler 300. While in Alaska, he traded the sedan for a four-wheel Jeep Rubicon.

Last March, the Harpers moved to Manteca as Richard is now at the Tracy Defense Depot, working as a quality control food inspector. Next year, he’ll retire from military duty and is preparing for life as a civilian.

Jessica, who enjoys gardening, found the fertile Central Valley soil much to her liking. She was laid off from her job in real estate at Old Republic Title and has been a full-time mom since December.

As for the rest of the family, Ashton, 5, attends kindergarten at Calvary Community Church.

Anthony recently joined his folks in Manteca.

The Harpers look back at the past eight years with plenty of fond memories.

“It’s been an experience and a journey,” said Jessica. “It’s also been a blessing to have another son later in life.”

As for Valentine’s Day, they’ve decided to wait for the following day to celebrate this special event for lovers.

They’re planning to spend the day in San Francisco accompanied by young Ashton.