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Together again, this time for keeps

The courtship of Bettianne Kazmierczak and Eric Sweet, which led to their wedding June 20, lasted less than six months. But in another sense, it began 40 years ago, when they met as freshmen at West Seneca East High School.

“I was very good friends with both Bettianne and her twin brother Eugene,” said Sweet, but the two never dated, he said, although “she was always interested in me and I was interested in her.” But they valued their friendship, he said, and if one approached the other romantically, “what if you got the answer, ‘no’?”

Both dated other people casually in high school, and went their separate ways after graduation.

Sweet joined the Air Force and was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii in December 1982 when his father died. On leave back in Western New York, he met Eugene, who told him two surprising bits of news: His twin had joined the Navy and she was stationed at Pearl Harbor Naval base.

Back on base, Sweet, a heavy-equipment operator, jumped in a dump truck and drove to the Pearl Harbor base, where the Marine guard went to get Kazmierczak. “When she recognized me, she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug.”

The pair dated until Sweet was reassigned to another base in California in 1983, when they again went their separate ways. Kazmierczak re-enlisted and participated in Operation Desert Storm. Sweet left active duty and joined the 107th New York Air National Guard in Niagara Falls. Both graduated from college – Sweet with an associate degree in civil engineering technology from Erie Community College and a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering technology from SUNY Buffalo State and Kazmierczak with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in geriatrics from Weber State University in Utah.

Each married and had two children.

Through the interceding 20 years, Sweet occasionally met up with Kazmierczak’s younger brother, Phil, and in January, he asked Phil about his sister, who was living in Boise, Idaho. When Sweet heard that his long-ago girlfriend was again single, he asked for her phone number.

“It’s kind of interesting, the role that the two brothers played,” said Sweet. When he called Kazmierczak out of the blue, he said, “she was just floored, she was so excited that I called. She said, ‘Eric, you remember me?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’”

After “many, many hours” on the phone, they discovered many similarities in their experiences. “Our personalities and how we felt about each other in earlier days remained the same,” said Sweet.

He proposed a visit, and in the airport when she met him, “I saw the same girl I knew back in high school and in the military,” Sweet said.

Eventually talk turned to marriage, and Sweet proposed. When they discussed marriage, Kazmierczak said to him, “Eric, we’re both 53. There are no rules – why wait? We can get married as soon as you want to.”

The pair settled on a small wedding at 2 p.m. June 20 in Vista Point, South Lake Tahoe, Nev., followed by a reception across the California state line at Aston Lake Front Resort. The Rev. J.B. McIntyre of South Lake Tahoe officiated.

The couple plans a second celebration with their families in Western New York this summer.

The bride is a daughter of the late Eugene and Bettianne Kazmierczak; Sweet is a son of Enid Sweet of Buffalo and the late Clark Sweet.

The couple is planning a honeymoon, but the most important journey is the one that will move her to West Seneca so they can begin their full-time life together. And this time, said Sweet, “It’s for good.”

– Anne Neville