Friendship: common denominator for lifelong love

First Posted: 4/14/2014

When Sharleen Brayer’s mother saw a photo of Dennis Martin in Sharleen’s yearbook, she said she thought Sharleen was crazy for not going out with him.

“He kind of expressed an interest (in dating me),” Sharleen said, but “I was still in that high school mentality where you don’t date your teachers…I didn’t realize in college things were a little different.”

In 1969, Sharleen was a freshman at Brockport State College (New York) and Dennis was a teacher .

“We both started at Brockport State College at the same time in 1969,” Sharleen said.

They were able to get to know one another as members of a math group that got together regularly at the campus bar, but they didn’t “really” date for the first year.

“I joined the math club and Dennis had become the advisor, so I saw him there,” Sharleen said.

A year later, the two had their first date – the movie “M*A*S*H” in Brockport.

Once the couple began dating, Sharleen clarified, “it just didn’t seem right to take a class with him.”

“She was never one of my students,” Dennis said.

But one of the perks derived from dating a math teacher is having a guy who could help with your math problems.

“He’d tutor me if I had problems,” Sharleen said.

By Thanksgiving 1970, they were engaged.

“He asked me to marry him in a restaurant called Lum’s in Albany – a hot dog place that was a major chain back in the 60s,” Sharleen said.

On Christmas Day , Sharleen was sure Dennis was the real prize while visiting with Dennis’ brother and family in upstate New York.

“We were out and had done some shopping and came home with these boxes of Cracker Jack,” Sharleen said. “I didn’t think anything of it. It was a snack and everybody ate Cracker Jacks back then. When Dennis came in with this big bowl of crackerjacks, I thought, ‘That’s really strange…”

He used the box to stash his fiancée’s engagement ring that he had fastidiously wrapped in cardboard, so it wouldn’t get dirty, and placed it in the Cracker Jack box.

“He sealed the bottom of the box and wrapped it up as Christmas present…I opened the box of Cracker Jacks and inside the box was the ring,” she said. “His (Dennis’) nephew, who was about seven at the time, wanted to know where the prize was…”

They were married in Greece, N.Y. at Our Mother of Sorrows Church at the end of her sophomore year on May 29, 1971.

“It was chance,” Dennis said. “I’m not much on fate, saying things are ordained, but the important thing is when things happen, you take advantage of them.”

Sharleen’s take on their relationship is similar.

“I think we just kind of hit it off,” she said. “I don’t think there was anything in particular that drew us together. We had the math in common, because he was in the math department at the time and I was taking math courses.”

The integer that makes their relationship work, they agree, is friendship. Dennis is a procrastinator and Sharleen is the opposite extreme, but they don’t try to change each other too much.

“I like to do things tomorrow and she likes to have them done yesterday,” Dennis said.

Sharleen describes Dennis as silly at times and very argumentative, in the sense that he likes to debate issues, and when he gets under her skin, she said she walks away.

“Some of our walks have been separate,” Dennis joked.

Despite their differences, the couple share a love of traveling and being involved in historical research projects for the Lackawanna Historical Society Catlin House and the Abington Community Library.

Dennis is Emeritus Professor of computer science at University of Scranton and Sharleen is a former customer service representative for Harper-Collins Publisher. They have two children: Scott, 34 and Sarah, 32.

Both Sharleen and Dennis lead busy lives that hours can go by before they see one another.

“ His computer is downstairs and I have one upstairs and we both have projects we’re working on,” Sharleen said. “We have times when we’re just not together. We do IM (instant message) each other. Our daughter finds that hilarious that we’re in the same house…and it’s only a matter of walking down the stairs.”

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