OnLove: Kerilyn Fox and Peter Russo Followed an Indirect Route to the Altar

From break-ups to 'I do's': It took a few years, but Kerilyn Fox and Peter Russo finally got it right.
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009

The program for Kerilyn Fox and Peter Russo's wedding ceremony bore a passage from "Captain Corelli's Mandolin."

"Love is a temporary madness," it begins. "It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision."

Apt words for a bride who describes the journey that brought her to the altar as "part fairy tale, part 'Jerry Springer' episode."

Fox, 34, and Russo, 38, met first in 1996. Russo, a native of Queens, was living with a cousin in Morgantown, W.Va., and working as an auto mechanic. Fox, a West Virginia University student who also spent her early childhood in Queens, was plotting a transfer to a school in Savannah, Ga., where she could study interior design.

Friends introduced them during an all-you-could-eat crab feast at a restaurant and Russo was immediately taken with Fox's big smile and open-book demeanor. They began hanging out as friends. Fox was aware of Russo's interest, but distracted by her impending move. When the day came, he showed up to help her pack her belongings and waved as the moving truck drove away.

For the next 3 1/2 years, the two had almost no contact. Fox got her degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design and relocated to Arlington. Russo developed a love of cooking, graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York and found work at a restaurant in New Jersey.

After a conversation with a shared friend, Fox asked for Russo's number and decided to call just to catch up. He was at the dinner table with another woman when he answered the phone. He was thrilled to hear Fox's voice and when she asked if he was going to a WVU homecoming game two weeks later he answered, "I'm gonna go now."

They had dinner after the game; this time the attraction was mutual. The following weekend Russo visited Fox in Washington, beginning a long-distance romance that would last more than a year, until Fox said she needed more. Russo agreed to move to D.C., got a job at TenPenh in the District and -- after an apartment of his own fell through -- moved in with Fox.

Six months later they broke up. Fox had been laid off and was anxious about her unemployment. Russo was working incredibly long hours to prove himself at the restaurant. Their lives were full of friction, so he moved out.

They spent the next few years being together -- talking constantly, spending nights at each other's apartments -- but not officially dating. Fox wanted the relationship to progress, but Russo was intensely focused on his career. "I knew that once he was ready, he was going to come looking for me," she says. "But I just couldn't wait."

In 2006, she told Russo she was moving on. A few months later she met someone new. And, as Fox had predicted, Russo soon came calling.

"She was in a relationship, but that didn't matter to me," says Russo, now executive chef at Lia's in Chevy Chase. "Because I knew that I was going to marry her. I knew we loved each other and I knew it was going to happen."

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