RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE: She was becoming a lawyer but he raised the bar

Posted: November 5, 2017 at 4:28 a.m.

Staci Croom-Raley and Brian Raley were married on May 26, 2007, at Christ the King Catholic Church. “Everything is either on the 13th or the 26th,” says Staci. “We got engaged on Oct. 13, we got married on May 26, his birthday is the 13th, mine is the 26th.”

Staci Croom-Raley and Brian Raley were married on May 26, 2007, at Christ the King Catholic Church. “Everything is either on the 13th or the 26th,” says Staci. “We got engaged on Oct. 13, we got married on May 26, his birthday is the 13th, mine is the 26th.”

Staci Croom's plans involved passing the bar exam and moving to the East Coast. On the day she found out she passed the bar, she also found the love of her life -- in Little Rock.

Staci was working for the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board and going to night school, and she often dropped by the Central Arkansas Library System's Main Library downtown to study for an hour before she went to class.

The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “I thought, ‘Oh, he’s so cute.’ He had these wire rimmed glasses and he just looked really innocent and kind of adorable, actually.”

He says: “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, she’s really beautiful, and I hope I get the opportunity to get to know her better.’”

On our wedding day:

She says: “A co-worker’s son was 6 years old and his big thing was he wanted to dance with the bride, so at the reception he poked me and I turned around and there’s this little fellow and he said, ‘Will you dance with me?’ We danced together and that little kid did break dancing and all kinds of moves on the floor.”

He says: “After the ceremony was finally over … we got in the limousine and closed the doors and I remember we just looked at each other and we both did a great big sigh and just thought, ‘It’s over.’”

My advice for a long happy marriage is:

She says: “Laugh as much as you can, as often as you can.”

He says: “You have to learn how to compromise on things and accept the fact that you’re not always going to agree about stuff. And if you have an argument, one of you go in one room and the other go in the other room, spend a little time apart, take some time to calm down, everything will be just fine.”

Brian Raley was often using the computers on the floor just above her, but if their paths ever crossed they didn't notice.

After Staci sat for the bar in the spring 2006, her friends decided she needed to have some fun.

"My friends were like, 'Look, you've been in the library for four years. It's time for you to go out. It's time for you to meet someone. I was like, 'Oh, I don't know.' They said, 'We're going to set you up on this thing called Match.'"

Match.com offered a seven-day free trial and Staci agreed to try it out. It only took two or three days, though, for her to connect with Brian, who made a subtle first move.

"On Match they have this thing where you can basically wink at a person. He winked at me," she says. "Then we talked back and forth for a little bit."

They got to know each other online for a while, and Staci and her friends tried, to little avail, to find out what they could about Brian from the Internet. The only real reference they found to Brian was that he had served as a pallbearer in his aunt's funeral.

"I think they thought I was really kind of mysterious," says Brian, who eschews social media.

Brian and Staci's first date was on the day the bar exam results were released.

"I said to him on the date, 'You're lucky because I'm going to be in a really good mood on this date because I just found out I passed the bar,'" says Staci. "I said, 'If this date goes wrong it's all your fault because I am in a great mood.'"

Brian was relieved by this news.

"I think it made me be able to feel a little more relaxed on our first date. She had previously told me she was a law student while we were corresponding and I found that attractive," he says. "I find intelligence attractive and I knew that if she was finishing up law school she must be a smart woman."

They met at a restaurant, and Staci's friend tagged along.

"It was like, 'This is my friend and she's here just to make sure you're not crazy,'" says Staci.

The friend only sat with them for about half an hour, just long enough to make sure Brian seemed like an OK guy. Staci and Brian stayed and had dinner, and then went to another place for frozen yogurt and more talking.

"It was a really great date," says Staci. "We talked for a very long time."

Not long after she and Brian started going out, Staci was offered a job in Washington, D.C. This prompted some earnest conversation about what the future might hold for them.

"I was saying, 'Are we going to be exclusive?' He said, 'Well, there are a couple of other people right now ...'" she says.

Of course, Brian's attitude quickly changed when Staci mentioned that if they weren't going to be exclusive there were a couple of people she might want to see.

"When she put it in those terms, I decided that it was the right time to go ahead and be exclusive," he concedes.

Staci ultimately decided to pass on the D.C. job.

"It was a hard decision because my whole plan was to go to law school and then end up working on the Hill. That was the direction I was going," she says.

Most of their dates consisted of seeing movies, dinners and hours and hours of talking. But in October, about six months after they started dating, they took a trip to Las Vegas for Staci's friend's wedding.

"To be honest, I was really kind of surprised that he would deign to go to Vegas for this wedding," Staci says. "She was my friend from law school and he had met them once or twice but I was kind of surprised that he said, 'Yeah, sure, let's go to Vegas.'"

Brian had a plan, which he put in place when they went for a walk on the Las Vegas Strip.

"I waited until we got down to where those fountains are at the Bellagio with all the lights and the music and that was where I popped the question to her, at the fountain," he says.

They were married on May 26, 2007, at Christ the King Catholic Church in Little Rock.

Staci and Brian have a son, Joshua, 9.

Brian is a conductor for Union Pacific Railroad. Staci, the national executive director of HIPPY USA, is fine with the fact that life hasn't worked out exactly as she planned.

"I just decided," she says, "to embrace the opportunity to fall in love."

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Staci Croom-Raley and Brian Raley met through an online dating service after Staci’s friends insisted she get out and have some fun after sitting for ...

High Profile on 11/05/2017