Szablya placed her ad in both Baltimore magazine and The Washingtonian. She got about 60 responses each time. “I was going to compare the two markets, write an article about it, and sell it to the Washington Post,” she says. Once she met Dann, she forgot all about the article.
Dann had been living north of Baltimore and had just moved to Columbia when he responded to Szablya’s Washingtonian ad. They discovered that they lived and worked within a mile of each other. At first Dann was much more into Szablya than she was into him. “I was a lawyer. Helen held that against me,” he says.
His niceness worked against him. Szablya had two children, ages 10 and 15, and both liked Dann. “I thought if a ten-year-old thinks he’s nice, how exciting could he be?” Szablya recalls.
It didn’t take long for Dann to change her mind. They met in July 1993, were engaged by Thanksgiving, and married the following May.
“I discovered he was extremely passionate,” she says. “He turned out to be a great stepdad and great fun now that the kids are grown and gone.”
Tim Hirt was a construction-company owner, a single father of three, and a self-described “president of the nanny-of-the-month club” when one of his childcare providers thought he was so desperate for a helpmate that she wrote this ad:
“A LITTLE BIT CRAZY DWM—31, business owner, overachiever (adult child), sincere, very attractive, nurturing, ability to share and be intimate. I am 5'8", 165, in excellent health & don’t care if you smoke. ISO S/DWF 25 to 40 pretty, petite, organized and funny. (No emotionally dead people please) Must enjoy spontaneity, kids, trips, hot tubs, and a life filled with laughter. Please send photo returned and a note.”
Terry Kobane responded with a note signed “TK.” Hirt answered and waited for Kobane to respond. She phoned Hirt, and that first conversation was not auspicious. It turned out that his construction company was renovating her office space. She told him that his foreman was entirely too friendly, that his work crew had never heard of a vacuum cleaner, and she had a few problems with their workmanship. She was also, she informed him, six years older than he was. Hirt was so taken with her sass and style that he never heard a word she said.
Kobane invited Hirt to pick her up at home for their first date. “She had beautiful blue eyes, and her blond hair was spiked straight up,” he says. “Then she smiled. She asked me to come in. I was in a daze”—so much that he and tripped on the stoop.
Only after a month of dating did Hirt dare to take Kobane to his house to introduce her to his children. His home life was so chaotic that he thought any sane woman would run for the hills. Instead, every day at work she regaled her friends with stories about her dates with her new boyfriend and his children.
“Terry took the ready-made family, the reverse age difference, and the wild-eyed boyfriend and made it work without a hitch,” Hirt says. They got engaged on Valentine’s Day in 1991.
Together they raised his children, had two daughters of their own, rehabbed two houses, and built a beautiful life. Kobane kept Hirt organized—with one exception. When their daughter Mackenzie was born a month early in December 1991, Kobane admitted in panic that she knew nothing about babies. “It was a funny role reversal with Dad showing Mom how to bathe, feed, and diaper a newborn,” Hirt says. But before long Kobane had the baby thing well in hand and enough energy to start a government-construction-contracting business in her “spare time.”
Ten years later, Kobane was diagnosed with metastasized cancer. She died in 2001.
Tim Hirt spoke at his wife’s funeral: “One of Terry’s friends asked me the other day—if you had known that she was going to die after 11 short years with you and your kids, would you have chosen to do it anyway? All I would have added was a million more kisses and a million more ‘I love yous,’ ” he said.
And an extra thank-you for the nanny who placed the ISO.