Photo courtesy of Carole Chase
Two past Barometer staff members who met because they both worked for the student newspaper in the early 2000s reconnected three years ago and are now engaged to be married.
Carole Chase, a former humor columnist and now a human services specialist for Pacific County Health Department, was writing columns for The Barometer’s daily newspaper in 1999. She said she would often get emails about the columns she wrote and one day received an email from someone who claimed to be in love with her.
The email came from Joel Fowlks, now a lawyer of a private law firm, who was a stranger to Chase at the time. Aside from admitting his feelings to Chase, though, Fowlks also expressed his interest in writing for The Barometer in this email.
“It was a cute fan letter and he opened it by saying, ‘we’ve never met but I’m in love with you,’” Chase said via email. “We brought him in for an interview, and though it didn’t have an impact on why we hired him, I thought he was very cute.”
When Fowlks finally did meet Chase in person, after writing her the love letter, he said he felt very embarrassed about admitting his feelings but tried to play it off.
“I recognized right away that not only was she beautiful, but that she was also funny, caring and whip-smart,” Fowlks said via email. “That attracted me, but also sort of intimidated me because the type of girls I was used to dating were the ones who would be impressed by one of my dumb pick-up lines.”
However, Chase does believe she had been dating someone at that time, so she and Fowlks were unable to pursue a relationship. They became fast friends and both Chase and Fowlks said they spent most days hanging out with each other while working. They would flirt, bounce story ideas off each other, and write columns together.
As they became closer friends, Chase said that she “harbored a secret crush on him, for sure.”
Still, despite that everyone at The Barometer knew they liked each other, the two didn’t date. Fowlks said they were probably both waiting on the other to make the first move.
A fellow Barometer writer and friend to both Chase and Fowlks was Matthew LaPlante, a current author, journalist and associate professor at Utah State University. He was one of their coworkers who knew, at least, of Fowlks’ crush on Chase.
“Joel was in lust. But that didn’t seem to be unusual where Carole was concerned,” LaPlante said via email. “He’d melt whenever she walked into the room. It was cute and also really pathetic, because it didn’t actually seem like he had a chance with her. Carole played her cards a bit closer. If she was into Joel, it wasn’t clear to him or me, and to be honest it didn’t ever occur to me that they’d get together.”
The closest that Chase and Fowlks ever came to dating in college was when LaPlante hosted a barbecue during their junior year. Chase had planned to ask Fowlks to go to her sorority’s barn dance during the barbecue, but, unfortunately, Fowlks didn’t ever show up.
“It sounds so immature now, but I got a bit huffy at this perceived slight, and didn’t ask him to the barn dance,” Chase said. “Our running joke now is that ‘if only I had asked him to the barn dance,’ we could have been together all this time.”
Despite having worked with each other at The Barometer for some time, Chase and Fowlks graduated from Oregon State University without ever dating. They did, however, remain close friends through email and social media for over 17 years.
“We would message here and there about things we would have never talked about when we were younger and in college,” Chase said. “We helped each other through some difficult life moments. We both grew up and I think also grew our friendship.”
Then, three years ago, Chase said she reached out to Fowlks for help on legal advice. They started talking again and didn’t stop. After a few weeks of this, Chase said they agreed to meet again, after having not seen each other for about 17 years.
“When we met in person again, it was like no time had passed,” Fowlks added. “It’s been the easiest and most fulfilling relationship I have ever had and could ever imagine.”
Chase, too, commented on how easy the relationship was after they reconnected. She said that she knew right away that Fowlks was a once in a lifetime person.
“Immediately, everything felt right. Safe. Comfortable. Fun. Exciting. Perfect,” Chase said. “He truly is my best friend, so to be able to share a wonderful love with someone who ‘gets you’ and you also just really enjoy spending time with is truly amazing.”
After getting a second chance, Fowlks said he didn’t want to make the same mistake. So, it was during only their second date that Fowlks knew he wanted to marry her.
Fowlks asked Chase if she would marry him and continued to do so until she realized he was serious. Then, after about six months of dating, they finally made the engagement official.
“I jokingly said that if he was serious about this marriage thing, I would need to have a ring,” Chase said. “He produced a credit card from his wallet, handed it to me, and said, ‘pick any ring you want.’”
Chase and Fowlks have since been engaged to be married and are waiting only for the pandemic to be over to set a date for the wedding. They may have not been able to start a relationship while they were both working for The Barometer, but Chase and Fowlks still ended up together in the end.
“Everybody ended up where they needed to be — especially Joel and Carole,” LaPlante said. “They’re both exceptionally good people — and good people deserve to be with good people.”