Published On: Thu, Feb 16th, 2012

Local couple’s Valentine’s story spans globe

HARTINGTON — He was a Husker fan from Nebraska – she grew up and lived in Rochester, N.Y.
They met for the first time in Rome and ever since then have spent every Valentine’s Day together.
Dean and Nancy Wortmann, who now make their home in Hartington, will be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary June 29 this year.

Dean was spending 10 days in Rome for the 2000 World Youth Day to take part in a Mass conducted by Pope John Paul II.
Dean and his friend, Carly  Christensen, were there to help Father Jim Keiter chaperone a group of 90 high school students from the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Nancy Schumacher was on a three-week European tour she had decided to go on at the last minute. The tour group was near the middle of the trip and had reached Rome.
Dean and Nancy, both happened to be staying at the Ergife Palace Hotel in Rome.
Dean had gone down to the lounge at the hotel around 10 that evening.
“I looked around and saw an open spot at a table. Nancy was sitting there – I knew I wanted to  meet her,” Dean said.
Dean walked over to the table and said, “I am Dean – I am from Nebraska. Does anyone speak English?”
Dean and Nancy talked for hours that night and exchanged phone numbers. Nancy left early the next morning on the tour bus.
By the time Nancy arrived back in the United States she had already received flowers from the guy in Nebraska.
“When I got back home, my roommate said I had received some flowers and wanted to know who Dean was,” Nancy said.
It was August when they first met in Rome. By the end of September, Dean made his first trip to Rochester to see Nancy.
On Nancy’s first trip here to see Dean, she was introduced to Husker Football.
The first night the pair attended a Cedar Catholic game that Dean’s brother Neil was playing in. The next day they headed to Lincoln to watch the Huskers.

“Nebraska was playing Baylor.  Russ Hochstein, #55 was playing for Nebraska,” Dean said.
“I think I met the entire town of Hartington at the game. They threw me a t-shirt and everyone talked to me,” Nancy said. “It was exciting.”
Flights between New York and Nebraska became a regular thing for Dean and Nancy.
“Our families thought we were crazy,” Nancy said.
Dean made the trip back out to New York to attend Nancy’s high school class reunion.
Nancy was in Nebraska for Christmas and Dean was back out in New York at Easter time.
On Holy Thursday in April 2001, the couple became engaged.
Dean moved out to New York a few months later.
They were married June 29, 2002, at Blessed Sacrament Church, Rochester, N.Y.
Russ Hochstein, who was living in New England at the time, was among the guests at the wedding.
“Around 50 people from Hartington came to our wedding. It was so much fun. We chartered a bus for them so they could see Niagara Falls,” Nancy said.
A few years later after their first child was born, the couple decided to move to Hartington.
Nancy had a difficult pregnancy and had been put on bed rest for 12 weeks. Their son, Lukas, was born premature and weighed only four pounds.

Nancy, who had been a teacher in the Rochester School District for eight years, didn’t want to go back to work. She wanted to be home with the baby.
Dean had the opportunity to come back to Hartington and work in the family business with his Dad, Roger Wortmann.
At the time, Dean and Nancy were both ready to leave New York and move to Nebraska.
“I am a Midwest guy,” Dean said.
“It was the best decision for our child,” Nancy said. “My family is scattered along the east coast. I grew up in Rochester but my parents now live in South Carolina. My family is spread out. Dean’s family is here – there was more support for us.”
Nancy has adjusted well to life in the mid-west. Less traffic and the small town community are among the things she likes about living in Hartington.
“The people are friendlier here. It is a smaller community where everyone knows everyone,” Nancy said. “There is no traffic and no stop lights. I used to drive an hour in traffic to get to my teaching job. I can now walk to the grocery store and to the post office.”
Nancy was used to cold weather from living in New York and she thinks the weather may actually be a little nicer here.
“I like it here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now that I have lived here,” Nancy said. “I love the Catholic School and the Church in Hartington.
I am the youngest of eight children – Dean is the oldest of eight. We both grew up in a Catholic family.”
Less then a month after their marriage the couple were among the million people who jammed Downsview Park in Toronto to attend their second World Youth Day.
A news story that was written about the World Youth Day 2002 reported the pair had come to celebrate faith in their church and in each other.
The news story went on to tell how the couple had first met while in Rome in 2000.
“The rest is pure Catholic romance,” the news reporter had written.
When Dean made the first trip to World Youth Day in Rome he did not have any idea that he would be meeting his future wife.

“When I first saw her I knew I wanted to marry her. I had God on my side,” Dean said.
It’s amazing that she wanted to move to Nebraska, he said.