Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Shane Brown
PORTALES – Thanks to the efforts of their 25-year-old daughter, Shawna, who had not seen her father since she was an infant, Andrew and Martha Fotopulos were married last year in the Student Academic Services Building at Eastern New Mexico University. They had first met and dated 28 years before.
The story begins in 1974 when Martha was a 15-year-old waitress at a Hobbs truck stop and some of Andrew's friends from Clovis urged him to stop by and meet the cute young waitress while he was in Hobbs putting up drywall.
Martha lied and told Andrew, 19, that she was 17. She thought he was a bit arrogant, so she also lied and told him that he had to ask her mother's permission to go out with her. Both she and her mother were flabbergasted when he agreed.
One of Martha's fond memories of those early years was when Andrew treated Martha, her mother, her mother's boyfriend and another friend to a Johnny Cash concert in Eastern's Greyhound Arena. "My mother was so excited, she was the one acting just like a little kid," Martha remembers.
After dating for two years, Martha became pregnant. "Andrew wanted to get married," Martha says, "but I thought we were too young." Soon, they drifted apart.
"When our daughter was about two years old, I married someone else," Martha explains. "The weird thing was that on the wedding day, when the preacher asked if anyone objected to the wedding, my daughter jumped out of her grandmother's lap and started to cry."
Martha started a new life and a new family, which included three more kids, in the small East Texas town of Hallsville. She and her "Andrew look-alike" husband were married for 23 years. Then, Shauna—24 at the timeand working in Longview, Texas – decided to find her long-lost dad. She began searching on the Internet.
Martha started a new life and a new family, which included three more kids, in the small East Texas town of Hallsville. She and her "Andrew look-alike" husband were married for 23 years. Then, Shauna—24 at the timeand working in Longview, Texas – decided to find her long-lost dad. She began searching on the Internet
"What's funny is when she found him, she didn't tell me at first because she thought that I would get mad," Martha explains. Martha admits that she had actually tracked down Andrew a couple of times herself over the years, but had never contacted him because he was involved in relationships. Andrew had also made several trips to Hobbs trying to find Martha. He knew her maiden name was Gushwa, but didn't know her married name, or that she had moved to Texas.
One of those relationships led to marriage and the birth of a son. In 1989, at the age of 11, the son died tragically in a cave-in while playing in a sand dune at Oasis State Park. Andrew was fishing nearby, and tried desperately to save his son after his son's friend came running for help.
After tracking her father down, Shauna – who has a daughter – came to Portales several times to see Andrew, who was working on a sociology degree at ENMU.
Shawna even met Andrew's side of the family, but never told Martha. "Until then, Andrew had no idea he had a granddaughter, and now he has another one due in a few weeks," Martha notes proudly.
Eventually, Shawna told her mother about Andrew because she hoped her parents would get back together. She knew that Martha's marriage to her oil-field husband was not working.
Although not computer literate, Martha finally agreed to go to Shawna's house and "chat" with Andrew over the Internet. "I was honest and told him that I was shaking," Martha admits.
"He said that he was, too."
Martha and Shawna soon drove to Portales to meet Andrew, who was now divorced and not involved. Andrew had sent Martha a dozen roses, and she brought three in water to present back to him.
"All it took was one look," Martha gushes. "We were still so in love." Within the next 24 hours, they were planning their wedding.
After her divorce became final, Andrew and Martha were married by Judge Fred Arnold in Eastern's Student Academic Services Building on Dec. 29, 2001. "Thanks to Nico Cameron, Betty King-Lowry, Betty Johnson and Tara Grant of Eastern's TRIO College Success program, the wedding was beautiful," Martha beams.
Although Andrew is pursuing a master's degree in social work at New Mexico Highlands University, and Martha—who just received her GED in May--is a beginning freshman sociology major at ENMU, they still make plenty of time each for each other.
To make the picture even more perfect, Martha's son, Jerry, is now a freshman at Eastern and, "purely by coincidence," is taking three classes with her. Martha made three "A"s and one "B" her first semester, but admits that she "was scared because I didn't know how I would fit in being so much older than the other freshmen. But,everyone has been great to me."
Martha says that she does not totally regret the years that she and Andrew spent apart. "We both grew from those experiences, and are better for it. We can handle things now that we might not have survived before.
Martha reflects wistfully, "I guess Shawna knew all along that I was meant to be with Andrew. She tried to tell me