That journey is why Cole and Lisa Gonzales, 36, of Marietta, found it appropriate Saturday to marry in the chapel that formerly sat on Dobbins Air Reserve Base — a building once threatened with being torn down.
The pair first met when they were seventh-graders in North Carolina. “I fell in love with her the first day,” said Cole, a tech sergeant who works at Dobbins.
The feeling wasn’t mutual. Gonzales only ever saw Cole as a good friend, “but he always gave me this look of just holding something,” the Wells Fargo teller said.
Cole said “either I was too scared or my timing wasn’t right” to tell her the truth.
The two went their separate ways after high school, with Cole going into the Air Force and Gonzales getting married shortly thereafter.
They stayed in touch off and on through the years, but it wasn’t until 2008 when Gonzales, Cole and some mutual friends met in Marietta, and Cole felt his old feelings for Gonzalez resurface.
Gonzales divorced later that year. Cole said it took him another year before he finally confessed his feelings for her in a letter.
“Most people, if you cared about somebody so long, would be ecstatic about something like that, but I wasn’t. I cared about her. … but I had to get (how I felt about her) off my chest.”
Cole said he wrote the letter while he was stationed in Kuwait. He was hesitant to describe what he wrote, but said he told her he never forgot that first day of school when he first laid eyes on her.
Gonzales, who never suspected Cole had loved her, said, “When he did tell me, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, all this time?’”
That look of wanting to tell her something finally clicked.
“When I read the letter, it finally made sense.” Gonzales said. “When I read it, just a rush of emotions came over me. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever read.”
She said they eventually fell in love over the phone.
He bought her a ticket to Dubai and convinced her to see if it was worth it to pursue the relationship. The trip was awkward, they both admitted, until one night when Cole wanted to pour tea for Gonzales.
“I made it the way I had learned how to make it when I was deployed in Qatar, and it was hot. And I was sitting there, tripping, almost getting third-degree burns.”
Gonzales said, “It was really cute the way he was carrying it over as he was getting ‘third-degree burns.’ He was so happy to bring it over to me.”
The couple said that little act of kindness is what “saved the day,” but they did not ride off into the sunset. Gonzales had three children from her previous marriage and was hesitant to bring a new person into their lives. Cole said his mother wasn’t sure Gonzales was the right fit for him, and put doubts in his mind about his and Gonzales’ future.
They’ve broken up twice, and unsuccessfully attempted marriage counseling classes. Yet something kept pulling the couple back together, and they ultimately thought their relationship was worth saving.
That’s part of the reason they chose to have their wedding at the Dobbins chapel.
“They were going to tear it down, but God moved it and found a better place for it,” Cole said.
Gonzales added: “They salvaged it, sort of like our relationship.”
The chapel sat on the base just inside the gate on Highway 41 for 63 years, said John Powers, a retired 30-year veteran of the Air Force who lives in east Cobb.
Powers was part of group that set up a foundation to move the chapel to a more secure location on base. After a “long struggle of eight years,” that goal was accomplished, he said. Through donations, the foundation raised enough money to move the building.
It now sits on the Georgia National Guard’s part of the base and was rededicated in April.
“We wanted to save it where the military men and women in uniform … or retired (service members) or their immediate family could use that chapel for weddings, for memorial services or for chapel,” Powers said. “It’s gratifying to know it’s being used.”
Powers said part of the contract when the foundation that saved the chapel gave it back to the Georgia National Guard that there would be no expense for service members or their immediate family — a price attractive to Saturday’s newlyweds. They were one of the first couples to get married in the chapel since its move, and mark the first with a full wedding party, according to Chaplain Blair Davis.
Their parents were present and Gonzales’ children were all involved in the ceremony.
Moving ahead, the family plans to live in Marietta and hopes to stay in the future.
“I love it here. I call this my home, but it’s wherever God leads me,” said Cole, who is aspiring to reactivate with the Air Force as a recruiter.
“I thank God every day for the journey,” Cole said.