Local couples find out that Cupid apparently likes skating

Brandi (left) and Chris Fife, of Huntington, are one of the many couples who met and fell in love at the local West Park Skate Center. They celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary in January.
Brandi (left) and Chris Fife, of Huntington, are one of the many couples who met and fell in love at the local West Park Skate Center. They celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary in January. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

According to Kathy Elmore, if you’re looking for love, you should probably strap on a pair of skates.

As the office manager of West Park Skate Center in Huntington, she has seen a lot of love go ’round and ’round the skating rink over the 40-plus years the center has been in business. It’s the perfect place to find a valentine, she says. She can’t count how many people have met and fallen in love on wheels.

“I know we have had couples since the first year,” she says. “Those were clear back in the late ‘70s and early ’80s.”

Elmore cites the main reason that makes the skate center a great place to find romance is the low-tech interaction that young people today find lacking in their hobbies and avocations.

“It’s a social gathering,” she explains. “They don’t have to wear roller skates to meet somebody, but most do, and it’s just a natural, social setting for middle school and high school kids. When you go to movies you don’t talk to each other. A lot of the things that kids do don’t allow for socialization. And this is one thing left that people talk to each other and socialize. It’s a good way to actually get to know somebody.”

Elmore’s own parents met on the roller skating floor, at Roller Dome North in Fort Wayne, while on a blind date. Later, he built the rink in Huntington, which has since been the venue of three weddings and several wedding receptions.

“We’re still open, and the wheels keep going ’round and ’round,” she says, with a laugh.

Chris Fife thought he was signing up for a men’s roller hockey team, traveling to West Park from Wabash to join up. What he didn’t know was that forces were at work to bring him and his wife together.

“I was the assistant manager of the skating rink. I was working for Kathy Elmore at the time,” explains Brandi Fife. “She was determined that – I was 20 years old – and I needed to have a date. They had started a men’s roller hockey league on Sunday night, and she always made sure that I was working … She’d scope out the guys right along with me!”

Brandi says Elmore’s plans succeeded. A group of young “regular” girls who frequented the center at the time snuck word to Chris that Brandi “liked” him.

“I went up and talked to her about it,” he says. “She was just hot!”

“He asked me for my number, and I said, ‘Well, when are we going out?’ He just wanted to call and talk to me,” Brandi adds, laughing.

After meeting, it was soon evident they were crazy for each other. They got married in 1995, and skating continued to be a big part of their lives, having signed up their first child for skating lessons at the rink, and hosting birthday parties at West Park as well for their two kids, now ages 18 and 15.

The Fifes just celebrated their 22nd anniversary on Jan. 28. Chris, who is a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) programmer at PHD and Brandi, a secretary a Riverview Middle School, don’t skate as much now, but still spend time at the center, such as chaperoning a fund-raiser skate for the high school’s Post-Prom event.

“If it says ‘skate’ we can’t stay away,” Chris says. “It’s just become a part of us.”

The Fifes say if it hadn’t been for their love of roller skating, they most likely would have never met.

“We wouldn’t have been together, I’m sure of it,” Chris says. “We were in two different cities. That’s the only reason I even came to Huntington, was for the skating.”

“I don’t know what it would have been like, but I don’t think we would have found each other any other way,” Brandi adds.

Phil Farley met his wife, Paula, at the rink on Nov. 11, 1989. They will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on April 11.

“At the time, Kathy’s (Elmore) brother Tom was running the skating rink, and it was a Saturday night,” he recalls. “There were a few other people there – a normal-sized crowd, but there wasn’t really anybody there I knew.”

Phil says he had been feeling a bit blue that he didn’t have someone special in his life, and prayed that God would send him his mate. Less than two weeks later, his prayer was answered.

Some of the folks in his group called another friend to come join them at the skating rink one night, and she asked if her friend could tag along.

“I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ and it turned out that Paula was her friend. “That night I got both their phone numbers, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll take both of them out and see what happens.’”

It wasn’t a hard choice – not long afterward Phil and Paula became an “item,” and wedding bells followed.

“One of the guys that was in my wedding party was Bob Lusch. Bob and Beth met out there (at West Park). What is funny is, Bob and Beth got married on Dec. 30. I was in their wedding. Dec. 30 is Paula’s birthday. We, in turn, got married on April 11, and Bob was in my wedding and that’s his birthday. I had no idea it was going to end up that way – it’s just one of those random things.”

They newlyweds worked at West Park Skate Center part time after they got married. Phil Farley now works at GM and Paula is the Huntington County treasurer.

The Farleys don’t skate much nowadays; work schedules, two children, physical ailments and the ever-changing priorities of life have kept them from doing the things they used to do on skates, Farley says.

“We still try to get to the reunion skates when they have them,” he adds. “If it hadn’t been for (the skating rink) we wouldn’t have met.”

The Farleys’ friends, Bob and Beth Lusch, met at West Park 41 years ago, on New Year’s Eve of 1975.

“We were out there skating and didn’t know each other,” Bob Lusch recalls, with a twinkle in his eye. “We started skating together, and by the end of the night I got a kiss on New Year’s.”

As Beth remembers it, she was already dating another guy at the time, but she didn’t have anything to do for New Year’s Eve.

“My brother and I went out to the skating rink, and I ended up with a date, and he didn’t,” she says. “It was funny because a friend of mine that I was in study hall with introduced us … So then we started skating together, and I guess the rest is history.”

Bob was just 15, and Beth was 16 going on 17. Nearly every date they had was spent on roller skates.

“We’d skate at least once a week,” Bob says.

“It was so much that Mom and Dad decided I needed to have a new pair of roller skates,” Beth adds. “I got roller skates for my birthday that year.”

Bob had been competing in dance skating with Kathy Ness (now Elmore) as his partner. His skating prowess back then caught Beth’s eye, and nothing has changed since.

“We had a lot of fun together. I thought he was the guy, because he could skate so well,” she says. “He was so good at skating, and so easy to talk to. We just had a lot of fun together that night. And he was a good kisser!”

“She had beautiful, long, red hair,” Bob adds, giving his wife an affectionate squeeze. “That was my – yeah. She was really sexy.”

Three years, a few more kisses – and a lot of miles going around in circles – later, the couple tied the knot. They have three children, now ages 37, 35 and 32, and their kids also grew up on roller skates. Bob now drives a semi for Alpha Leasing, and Beth drives a bus for the Huntington County Community School Corporation.

The couple says if someone wants to look for love in all the right places, they should consider trying out the roller rink.

“It’s exercise, it’s a way of mingling with the opposite sex, different people, different ages,” Beth says. “Our oldest son met his wife at a skating rink over in Cincinnati.”

“It’s a great place for kids to hang out and get to know each other,” adds Bob.

Although the Lusches have been through the usual ups and downs that accompany married life, they say that just like skating, you work through everything.

“Start every day off with a kiss,” Beth says.

“… And end every day with a kiss,” Bob interjects.

“… And tell them you love them every day,” Beth adds.