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How We Met: Up the Escalator

Timing was everything for Ridgefield couple David and Valerie Rich



Photo by Kristen Jensen

It’s better to be lucky than rich, and luck was definitely on David and Valerie Rich’s side the night they met. It was a cold, rainy night in February 1987, and their meeting almost didn’t happen. 

David Rich, an Australian living in London, invited friends to see Macbeth. At the last minute, one friend canceled. Another friend who was going asked a flatmate if she would like to join them. 

That flatmate was Valerie Rettberg, originally from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who had been living in London. She almost declined the invitation because of the weather, but ultimately decided to go. She went with her friend to meet David and his friends, who were running late. Unable to get in touch with David and his friends, Valerie and her friend decided to leave, thinking they were no-shows. 

As David recalls, he was riding up the escalator from the Underground toward the theater. “I see a lady who was remarkably beautiful going down the escalator.” He ran across the way and got his friend and Valerie to come back for the show. Valerie and David sat next to each other and chatted during intermissions. “That’s how it started,” says David, who as a shy 22-year-old, didn’t ask for her number.

The two ran into each other about a month later at a party, where they hit it off. They left the party with a group of friends and drove to Stonehenge at 2 a.m., and on the way home, Valerie and David stopped, just the two of them, at a rest stop where they had breakfast and talked until 7 a.m. 

That’s when he was ready to ask her out. For their first date, they went horseback riding in Stratford-Upon-Avon, William Shakespeare’s birthplace. In the weekends that followed, he had a car and the two would take road trips together to escape city life in London. “So I asked her to marry me,” says David. “She said no, and we broke up.” 

Valerie says that during that time David was “very persistent.” 

He agrees. “I knew I was looking at my wife. I said, ‘Let’s be friends and still get out to the countryside.’”

Once, they went to Bath for the day and went to a nice pub for dinner and saw A Fish Called Wanda. He suggested they stay in Bath for the night. 

They did. That’s when they got back together. “Then I asked her to marry me,” says David. 

“And she said yes.”

David got a job in Melbourne, so before they moved, they were married in August 1990 in Florida, where Valerie’s parents were living, and traveled around the U.S. for their honeymoon. 

Eventually, David came upon a job in Stamford. “I told him I’d only move there if he found me a beautiful town,” says Valerie. So David drew a 30-minute radius from Stamford that included items from Valerie’s wish list—green space, great community—and drove to Ridgefield. Valerie was sold. 

David now works for MasterCard in Purchase, and continues to travel the world, while Valerie teaches yoga and meditation at Yoga Shala. 

David still can’t believe that moment on the escalator, and how close he and Valerie came to missing each other. “If we’d missed each other that night, I don’t know if it would have happened.”

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