Newlyweds use distance to their advantage

Jake and Megan Zimmerman on their wedding day, June 26, 2011, at Lake Tahoe. Photo: Sheri Dita

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Trying to sustain a romance over long distances often ends in disaster, or at least in breaking up. But newlyweds Jake and Megan Zimmerman of Olivette are convinced their relationship survived because they spent the better part of 18 months living nearly 1,000 miles apart.

“This would never have worked if we had been in close proximity to each other all the time,” says Jake, 37. “It wouldn’t have worked if we were 10 years younger and in college. We’re both too independent minded and professionally focused. We’re both too driven.

“If we hadn’t had our own space to work it out and if we hadn’t met at a point of maturity, it wouldn’t have worked.”

To tell this ultimately happy tale of love, longing and politics, let’s rewind to 2008, shortly after then-Senator Barack Obama became the Democratic candidate for President. That’s when Megan Robertson, 31, who grew up in Little Rock, Ark. and had been working in Washington, D.C., moved to St. Louis to take a senior staff position with the Obama campaign in Missouri. She soon became friends with fellow campaign staffer Jennifer “Jen” Haro, who also happened to be a friend of Jake’s.

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“From the moment I met Jake I adored him,” says Haro. “I told him not long after our meeting (four years ago), I would do two things for him that I never do: I would raise money for him and I would set him up. So I kind of had my eyes open for a while.”

After getting to know Megan, Haro says she thought this “funny, outgoing, smart, laid-back” woman would be a great match for Jake. “I began looking for opportunities to introduce them,” Haro says.

One such opportunity presented itself when Jake was tapped to speak at the opening of an Obama campaign office in St. Louis County. At the time, he was state representative from the 83rd district. (In April, he was elected to his current job of St. Louis County assessor.)

“His speech (to about 300 people) was passionate, insightful and spoke directly to each hard working campaign volunteer in that room,” Megan recalls. “I was instantly impressed and I must say, I am very rarely impressed. So that sparked my interest in getting to know him. Though, I think his ‘wooing’ came much later. It takes Jake a while to catch onto these things.”

Jake remembers giving his speech and introducing himself to the campaign staff. “But I think my personal interaction with Megan lasted for about five seconds,” he says.

Between July and October 2008, the two saw each other at various campaign events but “we were like two ships passing in the night,” they say. All of that changed, though, after Jake received what he describes as “a serious of desperate emails.”

The emails were being volleyed among campaign staffers, including Megan and Jen Haro, who had looped Jake into the exchanges. The messages expressed the usual complaints of a haggard staff working 16 hours days, seven days a week.

“I’m stuck at my desk until 10 p.m.,” read one of the emails. “Why won’t someone bring me a glass of wine?”

Jake figured that was something he could do. So he loaded up a cooler with cheap white wine and Corona beer – “We now call it the cooler of our love,” says Jake – and headed over to the Obama campaign office in the Central West End.

“All the staffers were very appreciative but after a while, they went back to work,” says Jake. “There was only one person interested in talking to me and that was Megan.”

A date to 33 Wine Bar and Bailey’s Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square eventually followed, although scheduling the date proved difficult during the month leading up to the general election. The two managed to squeeze in some more time together before Megan moved back to D.C. in mid-November. She worked on Obama’s inauguration, and then landed a prestigious administration position as director of scheduling for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jake visited Megan as often as he could, coordinating trips to meet her friends and family and gaining their approval. The two spoke frequently. It soon became clear to Megan that there was something pulling at her from St. Louis. Meanwhile, Jake says he was smitten by her “extraordinary energy and vibrancy, coupled with a goofy sense of humor” that complemented his perfectly.

In late January 2009, Megan agreed to meet Jake’s parents in Las Vegas where they were attending a conference. Susie Zimmerman, Jake’s mother, remembers thinking “there was a spark between the two of them that I had never seen Jake have for any other woman. I knew there was something special between them.”

After the Vegas trip, the two started to have what Jake calls “big conversations” about their future and how to make their relationship work. “We knew we couldn’t do it living in two different cities,” he says.

By 2010, Megan, feeling some job burnout, was ready for a change. “After years of working in D.C., I had reached the dream,” she says. “Jake was really good at giving me the space to make my own decisions. It’s a huge life-changing decision to move and change career tracks. But in a way it was an easy decision because when you know, you know.”

After Megan moved to St. Louis in June 2010, she and Jake embarked on road trip “to spend more than three days in a row together.” Over the Fourth of July weekend on a mountaintop outside Asheville, N.C., Jake proposed to Megan with a gorgeous sapphire ring.

“The whole way up, she wanted to know what I was doing dragging her up this hill,” says Jake “The good news is that she was a whole lot happier going down.

“The bad news is that it’s been made clear to me in the future she expects strenuous hiking will be rewarded with jewelry.”

The two were married in a small ceremony on June 26 at Lake Tahoe officiated by Rabbi Doug Heifetz, a friend of Jake’s from kindergarten at Glenridge Elementary School in Clayton. A reception was held the Sunday of Labor Day weekend at Araka restaurant in Clayton. Recently, Megan began work as program and strategic planning manager at Crown Center for Senior Living in University City.

While proud to have accomplished both of her goals for Jake, Haro says she’s “one and done” as far as matchmaking goes.

She laughs and adds: “Jake and Megan are totally taken with each other. They find each other ridiculously funny. All the things about him that would drive someone up the wall Megan finds adorable.”

Calling all couples: Share your stories

The Jewish Light is interested in telling more stories about how local soon-to-be-wed or newlyweds, or couples celebrating milestone anniversaries, met and fell in love. If you have a unique love story to tell, please submit some details about your story to Editor Ellen Futterman at [email protected] or mail them to her c/o St. Louis Jewish Light, 6 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63146. Be sure to include a daytime telephone number so that she can be in contact with you.