From the heart

The Tiahrtsí love story

Story by Julie Schillings | Photography by Michael Bankston

He first noticed her beautiful eyes and long brown hair, describing her as the prettiest girl on campus. She caught sight of his distinctive walk as he navigated the halls during new student orientation at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Both were too coy to introduce themselves - at least for a while.

After several days of bumping into each other around campus, in the dorms and at the shopping mall, she boldly asked him, When are you taking me out? He was quick to respond with, How about tonight? As the couple became acquainted over Steak-n-Shake burgers and a football game, Todd and Vicki Tiahrt's love story began.

Todd is fun, dangerous and a little bit of a rebel, snickers Vicki as she tells of their escapades sailing, hiking and water skiing in the Ozarks.

Todd goes at life one-hundred miles per hour, and our life together has always been an adventure. The couple begins to share a story about a motorcycle ride into a cornfield after a wink and blushing cheeks, nothing more is said. Two weeks into his relationship with Vicki, Todd knew he had found his life's partner and professed his love. Vicki is a lot of fun and so smart. I knew she was the girl I would eventually marry.

The college sweethearts dated intermittently while Vicki finished her degree in psychology and speech therapy. Todd explored his career moving to the west coast and throughout the Midwest. While living in Iowa, Todd frequently drove eight hours to Springfield to visit Vicki after work on Fridays; then Sunday night he made the trip back to Iowa arriving just in time for work Monday morning. During one of those weekend trips, in the fall of 1975, Todd proposed. Vicki, I want to love you for the rest of my life. I want to love you like Christ loves, for the rest of my life. Will you marry me? She didn't see it coming, but answered with an enthusiastic, Yes!

Todd and Vicki exchanged wedding vows on a scorching August afternoon in Vicki]s hometown of Pratt, Kansas in 1976. While celebrating one of their early wedding anniversaries, Vicki was touched by Todd]s sentimentality when he pulled a tattered paper from his wallet with his original hand-written vows. 35 years later, the couple can quote segments of the promise made on their wedding day: make whatever changes are necessary so we can genuinely enjoy life.

After a few years, the newlyweds began a family and decided to move closer to home, bringing the Tiahrts to Wichita. Todd joined the Boeing Company, working alongside many of Vicki]s family members. He loved working at Boeing. Vicki explained that among his assignments, Todd worked in the black hole on confidential military projects. In fact, both Todd and Vicki have longtime connections to the company. Three of Vicki]s aunts were genuine Rosie the Riveters during WWII. Many friends are still at Boeing, Vicki said with a somber tone. We are very sad to see them leave. Boeing is a part of our family]s story.

Vicki is the unspoken secret to my success  Todd Tiahrt

Relishing her maternal role, Vicki made the decision not to work outside the home while raising their three children Jessica, John and Luke. In 1992, Todd was elected to the Kansas State Senate. His move to Washington, D.C. was quick to follow in 1995. Todd reflects on his 16 years in the United States Congress as being a great honor. The Tiahrts confess that their 35-year marriage is not a perfect fairytale. The constant critique that comes with politics is expected, but the couple endured their most difficult challenge in 2004 with the loss of their son, Luke. We made an intentional decision to make our marriage work following Luke]s death, explained Todd. We did not give up during the pain, knowing there are always better days ahead. The grieving parents found support through their faith in Christ and solace in their dedication to one another.

Since leaving Washington D.C. last year, Todd has begun new ventures as a consultant in the aviation, aerospace and energy industries. The Tiahrts described their intent to sample retirement now that they have transitioned from public to private life. Vicki shared, Todd will never fully retire. He will work really hard, then we will take some short getaways. In celebration of their 35th wedding anniversary, Vicki and Todd took to the seas on a two-week Mediterranean cruise. They enjoyed the romance of Rome]s outdoor cafes and indulging in simple relaxation while on board.

In the spirit of Valentine]s Day, the Tiahrts shared some intimate secrets with SPLURGE! It is a little-known fact that Vicki is a talented ventriloquist. She entertained with her puppet for many years until the Tiahrt kids admitted being scared of him. Todd reveals that he comes from an artistic family and enjoys sketching as a way to relax. Most recently, he has begun sculpting and has considered joining a class or two. The couple complimented one another on their culinary skills and admitted that their ideal romantic dinner is one prepared at home where they can reconnect.

The Tiahrt love story is still being written, each chapter with renewed dedication and intent.

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