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Seven Years Later, They Picked Up Where They Left Off | tnewst.com Press "Enter" to skip to content

Seven Years Later, They Picked Up Where They Left Off

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Raisa Marie Lopez-Rhoden and Ndubuisi Ugoeze Richard Okereke met at a Halloween party in 2008, when she was dressed as a schoolgirl and he a pirate. They became friends.

In August 2009, they went on their first date, to an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

“It was the first time we both got to sit down and really talk and focus on each other’s interests,” said Ms. Lopez-Rhoden, 30, a product marketing manager at Instagram in New York. “We shut down the restaurant that night.”

Ms. Lopez-Rhoden described Mr. Okereke as “a person who was disciplined, determined and focused.”

“The one thing about him that really struck me early in our relationship was that he was someone who always kept his word,” she added.

Mr. Okereke, 33, an investment analyst at the hedge fund company D.E. Shaw Group in Manhattan, said Ms. Lopez-Rhoden was “someone who had a quiet confidence about her.”

“She was very beautiful, and very intellectually stimulating,” said Mr. Okereke, who graduated from Harvard, where he also earned a law degree and an M.B.A. Ms. Lopez-Rhoden graduated from Wellesley College and received an M.B.A. from Columbia.

“She was also very easy to talk to,” he added. “It seemed as if every conversation I had with her put me at ease.”

In the summer of 2009, Ms. Lopez-Rhoden invited Mr. Okereke to come with her on a family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. She thought it was probably too big of an ask, but in fact, he said he would, and as always, he kept his word.

“He crashed our family vacation,” said Ms. Lopez-Rhoden, laughing. “My family just adored him, and when the vacation ended, our journey as life partners began.”

Their journey was difficult at first. Soon after they began dating, they embarked on a long-distance relationship that involved three cities and two countries over a period of seven and a half years.

During that time, Mr. Okereke studied economics at University College London, and received three degrees from Harvard. Ms. Lopez-Rhoden took a job in Chicago.

“There was a lot of Skype and Google chatting going on at all hours of the day and night,” Mr. Okereke said.

In January 2018, Ms. Lopez-Rhoden and Mr. Okereke were finally both living and working again in New York.

“It was like a wonderful reunion,” Ms. Lopez-Rhoden said. “We went back to doing what we always did together, which was to have a ton of fun, and to simply appreciate each other’s company.”

Asked to describe their relationship in one word, Ms. Lopez-Rhoden and Mr. Okereke said simultaneously: “resilient.”

Mr. Okereke proposed to Ms. Lopez-Rhoden in April 2019 at the LongHouse Reserve, a garden with sculptures and outdoor art in East Hampton, N.Y. They would be married at this same spot.

On Sept. 18, Sangu Delle, a Universal Life minister, officiated before 190 people. The guests included the bride’s New York-based parents, Sharon Y. Lopez, the chief executive of the event production and communications firm Purple Giraffe Productions, and William C. Rhoden, formerly a Sports of the Times columnist with The New York Times and now a writer at large for ESPN’s the Undefeated website.

Also present were the groom’s mother, Dr. Uduak Okereke, a dentist in Boston, and Alex Okereke, his father, a former civil and structural engineer in Boston; he is also king of Okpala, a village of 100,000 in Nigeria, where he grew up.

“Our story proves that long-distance relationships do not have to become difficult situations,” the groom reflected. “It comes down to how you handle every situation, and looking back, I think we did a pretty good job of that — we persevered.”


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