The Times West Virginian

January 28, 2014

Kim and Matt Holbert were destined to meet

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — A laugh.

That’s all it took for Kim McMillan to fall for Matt Holbert.

That and his zest for baklava, she said.

She’ll always remember the day they met.

It was June 21, 1999 ... her sister’s birthday. She was living in Dayton, Ohio.

She wanted to go to a street fair and asked a friend to come along.

“She was just moving into a place with her boyfriend and asked me if the friend who was helping them move could come with us.

“I said, sure,” she said.

That friend was Matt Holbert.

She was drawn to his “fun zest for life,” whether it was eating, joking around or just making other people feel special.

“Matt enjoys food. And when he’s eating a food he likes, he does a happy dance. He has such a fun zest for life.”

He’s also a “real positive person,” she said.

“When he talks to you, he makes you feel like you’re the only person in the world. Now, I don’t know if that’s because he married me or if he makes everybody feel like that.”

She laughed.

It turned out they had a lot in common, including a unique sense of humor.

“It’s kind of off-the-wall,” she said. “Slightly irreverent. Mildly weird. Plus, he’s very punny.

“When I took him home for the first time to meet my parents, he and my mom just went at it for a while, trying to come up with the best puns,” she said.

“Nobody ever wins in a pun contest. The people who are forced to listen lose the most.” Again, she laughed.

Needless to say, he hit it off with her parents.

“And every time my parents asked him a question he didn’t want to answer — like, ‘What do you think of the battle of the sexes?’ The kind of question you know you cannot win, no matter which way you answer — he’d take a giant bite of food or change the subject, like, ‘I really like that wallpaper.’ Only, there’s no wallpaper in that room.

“He was quite funny, but my parents knew what he was doing. And they would try harder to get him to answer. It was outrageous.”

Her meeting his family was just as memorable.

The pair drove the two-and-a-half hours to Wheeling, but his parents weren’t home. Undaunted, Matt suggested they go for a walk to this beautiful waterfall he knew.

So they went.

“But there’s a difference between Ohio geography and West Virginia geography,” she said. “I’d never been in West Virginia before and it’s a bit more ... textured ... . That walk was not a stroll. It was more like a hike.

“I’m a flat-lander,” she said. “My mother’s family is from Indiana, where you can see tomorrow in front of you, yesterday behind you and into someone’s next week on the side. I like flat.”

They made it to the waterfall which by now, because of a summer drought, “was more of a trickle. I’ve seen more water coming out of a bathroom faucet,” she said, laughing. Combine a strenuous walk with summer heat, and add the stress of meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time.

“Yeah. I was in a lovely mood,” she said.

There was another wrinkle, too.

“His father is the most gentle, loving soul you’d ever meet ... until you deprive him of coffee or food. And he’d not eaten the first time I met him. I thought the man hated me.

“But Matt said, it wasn’t me. He just needed food,” she said with a laugh. But no need to worry.

“They honestly treat me like I’m another daughter. I have wonderful in-laws.”

After about a year and a half of dating, she suspected things were getting serious. And one day, she knew for sure.

“I was at  his apartment when the call came from the jewelry store that the ring was in,” she said. “He’d told them to leave some vague message like his mother’s something-or-other was fixed.”

“You didn’t hear that,” Matt jokingly told her.

Months went by and no proposal. Each time they went out, she thought maybe this would be the time. But, no.

Then one day they went to the Cincinnati Aquarium. She saw the ring box in his pocket, so she thought he’d propose at some point when it would be all romantic.

“So we go all through this aquarium and nothing,” she said. “I was thinking maybe I was mistaken.”

They were leaving through the parking lot with a construction zone on one side and the muddy Ohio River in front of them. He stopped “and pops the question,” she said.

“Really? You had 15 beautiful locations inside to ask and you choose the construction site? Really?” she said she asked him.

“Oh, I give him grief, but it really was a lovely proposal, very sweet and thought-out,” she said.

They got married in June 2001, or as she said Matt likes to tell people, “Six two one, half a dozen of the other.”

(You’ve just been punned.)

She laughs.

They waited another 18 months for the wedding. He was helping his dad as a wedding photographer and she was the manager of a tux shop.

“He was going to seminary in Columbus. I was in Dayton and when they found out I was dating Matt seriously and driving from Dayton to Columbus, they kept moving me to stores closer and closer.”

Had she waited another day to ask her friend to go to that street fair, she knows Matt would not have been there.

“But before this, I lived in California, and he had to choose seminary there or in Ohio. So I have a feeling we would have met either way.”

Email Debra Minor Wilson at