Love Letters winners: Together 29 years after an unlikely start |

Love Letters winners: Together 29 years after an unlikely start

Angelyn Frankenberg
Brad and Sunny Hackman on a visit to Leadville.
Provided |

‘SWEET TOMATO’ There’s serendipity in a love story; chance, wisdom and discovery. “I can’t believe it, I’m a stepchild! How awful is that!” said one. “Why can’t I have any say in the decisions that affect my life,” said the other. Our marriage certificate, which represented our hopes and dreams for the future, was a death certificate — a declaration of war to my teenagers. I had been a fly-by-the-seat of my pants, single Mom, ruled by the tyranny of the urgent. If a man crossed my path and asked if I had any children, I said, “12, 12 and 12 months.” Chance: Brad, a never-married engineer who had sworn off dating, dreamed about the woman on the La Bella San Marzano tomato sauce can. The next day he met me, a dead ringer for the blue-eyed, brunette under the heavy, gold crown inlaid with Roma tomatoes. He asked me out. A relationship began. When I met Brad, he was working through a self-prescribed improvement program using Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues. Eventually, Brad asked all of us out for dinner. Surrounded by a toddler dunking her napkin furiously in his water with one hand and emptying sugar packets with the other and teenagers lobbing conversational grenades hitting the mark, squarely on target, he was paralyzed. Brad took this as an opportunity to practice Benjamin Franklin’s virtue of tranquility; “be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable.” After a two-year courtship, we tied the knot. It was not a decision entered into lightly; Brad made a list of pros and cons. There was not one reason under the pros. Percy Sledge is right, “When a man loves a woman he will trade the world for what he’s found,” and ask, “Why?” afterward. Benjamin Franklin, himself, weighed in with, “It’s best to keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.” Wisdom: We joined a step-parenting support group, surrounding ourselves with wise people. We learned that it takes 6-8 years to blend a family. Discovery: I discovered that it was possible for me to burn my ships like Hernando Cortez when he arrived to conquer Mexico. The kids and I were not turning back. The kids discovered that not only I loved them and that they loved me, but Brad was lovable, too. Brad discovered that he was home when his feet stuck to the kitchen floor, the best antidote to sibling rivalry is a common enemy, and never leave home without a Band-Aid in your wallet. But this is just the self-sacrificing mechanics of family life, what each of us discovered was the lessons we learned and the feats we accomplished changed each of us so profoundly that we do no longer recognize ourselves in the mirror. The other night in the stillness, Brad leaned over and pulled me close, “Honey, before I met you, I was just waiting for life to happen, now it happens all the time.”

The Post Independent asked for your love stories, and you responded with passion, humor and creativity. We received three dozen entries from all over Garfield County, the Front Range and even beyond Colorado.

Your essays, poems and letters treated us to stories of romantic love, family ties, friendship and literal puppy love. Some of you wrote about reverence for the Earth, the ocean and all of nature.

Couple stories ranged from love at first sight to strong dislike upon meeting. You told us about young love, missed opportunities that ultimately worked out, and seasoned love tested by distance, serious illness and other challenges.

Our winner, “Sweet Tomato,” by Sunny Hackman of Lakewood, is a look at one of those challenges: a single mother of three and a never-married engineer blending all the stuff of life into a family.

The Hackmans, who visit Glenwood Springs “all the time” and hope to move here in part because their youngest daughter lives here, win a $450 prize package provided by our Love Letters contest sponsors: The Flower Mart (a dozen roses), Ironbridge Grill (dinner for two), Jewels and Gems (a pendant necklace) and Simply Massage (couples massage).

In the winning entry, Sunny wrote that she had been “ruled by the tyranny of the urgent” when she met Brad Hackman, the engineer with no parenting experience — Sunny adds that it did not come naturally to him — who had sworn off dating.

It was an unlikely match, but the Hackmans married and began their family journey 29 years ago. Sunny’s children, two teenagers and a 4-year-old, were not at all impressed by the new path their lives were taking. Sunny said no one would have bet on them staying together.

So how did they do it? The familiar bedrocks of love and faith in God were essential. But it took commitment and work, too. The couple joined a step-parenting support group and learned valuable lessons from people facing the same issues. One of those was “never let the kids divide us,” Sunny explained.

It worked. The children survived, and Sunny and Brad are still in love.

They hope to move here to be closer to youngest daughter Jesslyn Hildred, who lives here with her husband, Chris. They are expecting a baby in March.

Sunny said that will give her even more reason to spend time in Glenwood. She is an avid reader of the Post Independent, and her children joke that she knows more about what’s going on in Glenwood than many residents.

Other Love Letters finalists were:

“Horses” by Raymond Van Der Veer of Rifle

“From Germany With Love” by Ari Wolters of Carbondale

“You Are So Hot” by Susy Ellison of Carbondale

Browse all of the Love Letters entries at

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