I moved from Cleveland to the woods of Connecticut in 1981 to start a new job as an engineer for Uniroyal. It was February and freezing, there were very few women engineers, and while the people in my department were nice, most of them were 20+ years older than me. All good reasons to have a single goal—focusing on my career.
As I settled into my first week of routine, I noticed a handsome, sleek strawberry blonde man with a runner’s build looking my way. He almost walked into a rubber tree. I gazed around to see what distracted him. Me.
The next day he stopped by my desk to deliver a flyer about a “Fun Run.” His name was Arnis. Somewhere in my archives today, I have pictures of us both in our red, black and white Uniroyal running outfits.
A few days later, dinner. Arnis picked me up in a Lancia Beta Coup that was the color of an unripened lemon. Over duck drizzled in cherry sauce, he told me his life story. He’d been a refugee whose Latvian parents met at a British Displaced Person’s Camp after World War II. His love of running led to Ultra Marathons; he’d even run 50 miles. He’d gone to Brown. His various adventures charmed me.
He listened to me, as well. He saw and liked me. He had such assuredness. He was handsome and enthusiastic. I felt his confidence and joy of life could entertain me until I settled into my new home. But I was focused on my career.
So, on our second date, when I thought I was keeping it light, I said to him, “We can date, but I will not become serious with anyone who is not Jewish. I love being Jewish and that is the home I want to create.”
There was a moment’s silence. Then, the question that sealed our relationship: “What is this Jewish thing?”
Like everything he did, he researched conversion. He studied with various rabbis. I went to group classes with him. That’s when I realized that I knew nothing of being Jewish. Although I was confirmed and in temple and participated in Jewish Youth Groups until I was 16, I knew no Talmud, no Mishna. My family observed the holidays, but it was Jewish “lite.”
Arnis loved and embraced Judaism fully, as did I.
We had trust, humor, and respect, with love binding us together. We were together from the moment we met until he died of cancer in 2016.
I am grateful that God provided me with a good job and a great husband all in one decision. I made the conscious choice for the first part. The second part was beshert.
Loren Sara Schragger-Paeglis has been an engineer, mediator, and attorney. She volunteers at Jewish organizations, sings in the choir at Temple Beth Shalom and hikes in hill country. She works at an electronic discovery company in Austin, TX. Arnis Uvi Paeglis, her husband of blessed memory, researched and created elastomeric and asphalt materials, sailed, race-walked, played Words with Friends, and studied Torah. They raised three daughters. He died in 2016 of cancer.