The Ebertz Family: A love story for Valentine's DayJoe and Genie Ebertz will be celebrating their chance meeting 20 years ago in the back of a pickup truck in the Andes Mountains this Valentine’s Day. As love stories go, the town of St. Joseph couple’s is hard to beat.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Joe and Genie Ebertz will be celebrating their chance meeting 20 years ago in the back of a pickup truck in the Andes Mountains this Valentine’s Day.
As love stories go, the town of St. Joseph couple’s is hard to beat.
Joe was a 33-year-old construction worker exploring South America during the off-season for building back in Minnesota. He had hooked up with a Swedish fellow who was backpacking, too, and the two of them were headed from Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.
Genie, then a 25-year-old graphic designer, had been backpacking in the Chilean Andes with the sister of her fiancé. They were returning to their homes in suburban Buenos Aires.
If you didn’t have a car, the only way to get around in that part of the world, at that time, was to hitchhike.
Joe and Genie happened to hitch a ride on the same truck.
They were in the back of the truck together for about an hour as they crossed through two checkpoints, one to get out of Chile and the other to get into Argentina.
The scenery was spectacular in that remote area of southern Chile, Joe remembers. They were surrounded by beautiful mountains and shimmering lakes.
Joe, who had been speaking mostly Spanish for several weeks, was surprised and pleased to learn that Genie spoke English. The two of them struck up a conversation in English to the annoyance of Genie’s would-be sister-in-law, who spoke only Spanish.
“I think there were some sparks, but it couldn’t be very overt. I was under tight watch,” Genie recalls.
The ride ended at the first small town they reached in Argentina. The foursome decided to have lunch together, and then spent the night at the same lakeside campground.
“We had a fun time together and really hit it off,” Joe says. “I was way more interested in Genie than in her fiancé’s sister, I have to confess.”
The next morning they parted company, but not before exchanging addresses and telephone numbers.
When Joe and the Swede reached Ushuaia, Joe penned a letter to Genie. She remembers receiving it about a week after she had returned to Buenos Aires.
Joe had written it in the third person, as if it was coming from his pen.
“It was romantic and poetic – very creative,” she says. “I still have that letter somewhere.”
Joe says, “She was still engaged at this point, so I was just saying hi, bye and if it doesn’t work out with this other guy….”
They continued to correspond after Joe returned to his Minnesota home and was back working for his father’s excavation company – Ebertz Excavating.
Genie says Joe always ended his letters with, “By the way, if it doesn’t work out with this other fellow, let me know.”
Joe, however, says he wasn’t responsible for the break-up. Genie’s mother didn’t like the other guy.
The week before Christmas 1989, during a record cold streak, the then Genoveva Taylor made her first visit to the Twin Cities.
“I remember getting out of the airplane and thinking, how can people live here?” she says. “I didn’t think it was possible. I had never experienced cold this cold. I couldn’t believe it. It was surreal to me.”
But the welcome Genie received was warm.
“I remember one of Joe’s sisters saying, she’s the one,” Genie says.
Joe returned to Argentina for most of January and February 1990.
On March 24 of the same year, he and Genie were married at the Woodbury Church of Christ.
Their first home was a granary on a Woodbury farm that Joe remodeled into a residence.
They moved to the town of St. Joseph in 1994, about the same time that they started Outdoor Concepts, a landscaping design and installation company.
Last November, Genie opened the Caminito Art Studio at 2000 O’Neil Road in St. Croix Business Park. The studio provides pottery wheels, hand-building tables, clay, glazes and a kiln that people can use to create their own ceramic art. (Go to www.caminitoartstudio.com to learn more about the studio).
Joe and Genie have two daughters, Allison (who goes by Alli), a seventh-grader at Hudson Middle School, and Valerie, fifth-grader at Houlton Elementary School.
The couple says the international component of their marriage hasn’t created any difficulty.
“I think for the most part it kind of spiced the marriage,” Genie says regarding their different cultural backgrounds.
Adds Joe, “Genie’s English is so impeccable that there’s never a problem communicating. There never has been.”
It’s an increasingly bilingual family. Alli and Valerie are learning Spanish with the help of their Grandmother Taylor, who visits each summer from Buenos Aires.
Genie’s mother is a retired public school principal. Her father, now deceased, was a businessman.
So what’s the secret to long-lasting romance?
“Stubbornness,” Joe says with a laugh.
He then adds, “Having a spiritual life in common.”
“We’ve had our ups and downs throughout life, but we’re still together and we’re enjoying life,” she says with a smile.
And what does Joe have planned for Valentine’s Day?
“Now correct me if I’m wrong. It’s a week away, is it not?” he asks a little worriedly.
“You put me on the spot. I almost had a panic attack,” he says when learning that he, indeed, does have another week to come up with a plan.
“Some years, we cook a nice dinner at home. We’ll probably do that this year, too,” Genie says, helping him out. “We’ll probably ask Grandma (Joe’s mother in Stillwater) to take the girls and just have a nice dinner.”