When Michele and Howard Klein first began dating in 2008, they both agreed that marriage wasn’t part of their future plans. Howard, a partner at Skoda Minotti in Mayfield Village, and Michele, who works for the Allen Co. in University Heights, had each gotten divorced after 15 years and 23 years of marriage, respectively.
So it was a profound moment in 2013 when Michele and Howard had a conversation and both decided they had changed their minds about getting married.
“We had both sort of said we weren’t interested in getting married again, so we just never brought it up,” Michele said. “We lived our lives and were together. As time went on I figured I didn’t really want to get married per se, but I wanted to get married to Howard. That made the difference.”
Embarking on a second marriage and blending two families is no easy task. Fortunately, Michele, 57, and Howard, 62, had the support of their family, friends and, most importantly, their children, which encouraged them to continue to move their relationship forward.
The first date
Michele and Howard were fixed up by their mutual friends, Marilyn Oif and Dan Gross. One afternoon Marilyn’s husband, Ken, was walking through Beachwood City Park when he bumped into Gross, his accountant, who was at the park with Howard. When he came home to tell Marilyn about the encounter, she inquired about Howard.
“She called Gross the next day and asked him about Howard,” Michele said. “He said he was divorced and a really nice guy and she said she had a friend who’s divorced and a really nice girl. He gave Howard my number and he called me the next day.”
Unbeknownst to Michele, Howard had tried to connect with her previously on JDate.
“I knew I had tried to connect with her, so when we were fixed up, I went back to check out JDate once I knew her name. I looked through the profiles and found her,” Howard said. “She didn’t know how to use JDate so she never connected back.”
For their first date in early August 2008, Howard and Michele met at the former Caribou Coffee at La Place in Beachwood. They ended up talking for three hours and finally left because the coffee shop was closing.
“I drove to Caribou because I didn’t want to walk by myself at night and I didn’t want this gentleman knowing where I lived because I didn’t know anything about him,” Michele said. “When Caribou closed it was pouring rain. Howard had walked to Caribou so I ended up being the one to give him a ride home.”
The next day, Howard sent Michele a card in honor of her 50th birthday and a bouquet of yellow roses. Michele still has the card and a single dried flower.
“Like in ‘Jerry Maguire’ when she (Dorothy) says he had her at hello — Howard had me with those flowers,” Michele said.
Howard said he thought Michele was a nice person and easy to talk to, while Michele viewed Howard as a giving and funny individual who could make her laugh. They also appreciated the fact that they each had similar hobbies.
Sharing common interests served as the foundation for Michele and Howard’s blossoming relationship. From catching a Cleveland Indians game to going to a Cleveland Orchestra performance to taking bike rides and walks together, Michele and Howard grew close from all the time they spent together.
For Michele, dating Howard included many new and special experiences.
“Howard took me to places that I had always wanted to go,” she said. “I had always wanted to go to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida so we went down there once. I wanted to get to Gettysburg, so we went there for a weekend. We went to Acadia National Park. All those trips were really special to me that he took the time and interest to plan.”
“I keep crossing items off her bucket list and she keeps adding,” Howard joked.
Blending two families
Unlike some courtships, Michele and Howard both have children who they had to involve in their relationship.
Michele has two children, Kari Innenberg, 25, and Brian Innenberg, 28, while Howard has one daughter, Hallie, 25.
The couple waited several months before they decided to introduce their kids to each other.
“I didn’t think it was right to meet each other’s children until we knew that something was serious,” Michele said.
Perhaps by happenstance, their two daughters met each other before being formally introduced by their parents.
“Hallie, her junior and senior year, worked at Mitchell’s Ice Cream. The one day my daughter (Kari) was at Mitchell’s and she knew Howard’s daughter was named Hallie … she went up to her and said, ‘Are you Hallie? I think my mom is dating your dad,’ and that’s how they ended up meeting,” Michele said.
While blending two families together can be a challenge for some couples, the process was relatively simple for Howard and Michele.
“My kids were happy to see me happy,” Michele said. “They wanted me to go out and meet people and they were just thrilled.”
“I don’t think we would’ve gotten married if our kids weren’t all in and didn’t get along. We were very fortunate from that standpoint,” Howard said.
After dating for about four years, Michele and Howard decided to merge the two households and move in together. The transition was easy for the two of them, but for Kari, who had to move to a new city and into a new house, it was a bit rough at the start.
“Hallie was really great and talked to Kari and made her feel welcome, because Kari was the one moving. We decorated her room and she got to pick out her carpet and paint so it would feel like her own,” Michele said.
The three now get along like siblings, Michele said, even despite the fact that Kari and Brian attended The Ohio State University and Hallie went to the University of Michigan.
“We are a house divided, but even with that in and of itself they are still good friends,” Michele said, while Howard added jokingly, “November is tough.”
After his divorce, Howard had moved to Beachwood and settled into the single lifestyle. Rather than looking for another marriage, he said he was simply seeking companionship.
“Then Michele came along and changed all of that,” he said.
Howard proposed to Michele in August 2013 after receiving some words of encouragement from his daughter. The two shared the news with their children and were met with excitement.
As they began planning their wedding, Howard’s vision vastly differed from Michele’s.
“I wanted a really small wedding – like two, in Vegas,” Howard said with a laugh. “I used to go to Las Vegas a lot when I was younger. I guess it was on my bucket list to get married in Vegas.”
But Michele didn’t want to remarry without their children being present. She also didn’t want to exclude their family and friends who had supported them throughout the years.
“One day Howard was talking to someone about our engagement and he said, ‘If I really had a choice, I would just get married at an Indians game.’ I heard it, and I thought that sounds like fun, I would do that. So we decided to have our wedding at the game,” Michele said.
A family affair
Michele and Howard are self-proclaimed big fans of the Cleveland Indians. Throughout their courtship, many of their dates involved trips to the stadium. So when it came time to plan their wedding ceremony and reception, Michele and Howard both knew they wanted to get married on a game day.
They also knew that they wanted their children and friends to be a part of the celebration. So when they discovered that their rabbi, Eddie Sukol, was going to be out of town for their wedding, Michele asked her son, Brian, if he would do the honor of officiating the ceremony.
“My son is into acting as a hobby, and at one point he had mentioned that he would like to do wedding ceremonies. This was years ago,” Michele said. “So I thought about it and I said Brian could just do the ceremony. So I asked him and he said sure.”
Michele and Howard’s wedding ceremony took place just before sundown on Sept. 5, 2014, inside the newly created Champions Suite at Progressive Field. After becoming ordained online, Brian married them in front of 70 of their closest relatives and friends.
Their daughters, Kari and Hallie, stood by their sides while the two friends who had fixed them up, Oif and Gross, held up Michele’s father’s tallis, which served as the chuppah.
The reception followed in the suite. Since they had instructed their guests to wear Cleveland Indians gear, Michele put on an Indians jersey over her dress while Howard sported an Indians tie. Their children all wore baseball caps.
“The whole night was perfect. Just having the ceremony and then hanging out with our friends at the game, that was perfect for me,” Michele said.
For Howard, having both of his parents present was an important part of the day.
“My dad at the time was 92 and he hadn’t been to a game in a number of years because of his age, but he was able to make it down there. My mom was 89. They both saw me get married again, and that was important to me,” he said.
To make the evening even more special, the Indians ended up winning 2-1 in the 10th inning and the night finished with a grand fireworks display.
“The second those fireworks ended it was a huge storm, which they were threatening all night. I thought it was sort of telling because we met on a storm that ended the evening and this one did too,” Michele said.
A new journey
After returning from a 10-day honeymoon in Hawaii this past December, Howard and Michele are settling into their new life as a married couple in Beachwood. They’re also adjusting to being empty nesters.
“We have a lot of evenings and time on our hands that we didn’t have before, and we do a lot of things together,” Howard said.
Whether they’re attending a show at Playhouse Square, cheering on their favorite team at Opening Day or planning a family vacation, Michele and Howard are enjoying experiencing as much as they can together.
“Howard treats me wonderfully. He’s the most selfless man I’ve ever met,” Michele said. “My children are like his children now. I can see living together a long life."