Like many past holidays, Melissa and Takeem Champion will have to spend this Valentine’s Day apart. But after almost 13 years of marriage, the couple still “manages to make it work and show love to one another.”
Takeem, a member of the Air Force since 1999, is currently serving overseas, with Melissa and their two daughters, ages 7 and 12, living in North Woodmere.
Five Towns Patch readers have named the couple the site’s first-ever “Cutest Couple.” They will receive a prize package worth more than $500 donated by several local businesses.
“I am happy to have won and I truly appreciate all my friends and family for voting for us,” Melissa said. “I am very proud to say that despite many challenges, we are glad to have made it this far.”
Melissa, 33, who grew up in Far Rockaway, and Takeem, an Inwood native and Lawrence High School graduate, met about 15 years ago when the former worked at a clothing store in the Bay Harbour Mall in Lawrence. They married two years later.
Over the years, the Champion family has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey and Okinawa, Japan.
“The challenges of a military spouse are very plentiful, especially [with] kids,” Melissa said. “There is the loneliness, the depression, constantly missing my husband, having to deal with everything in his absence such as bills, the house, the kids. And when my husband is deployed everything tends to go wrong: car trouble, the kids acting up, and we had Hurricane Sandy to deal with where we lost power for almost two weeks.”
Still, she added, “We love Air Force life and we will be moving across the country in June.”
The couple’s Valentine’s Day tradition is to spend time with their daughters, exchanging gifts and eating a home-cooked meal or take out to avoid long lines at restaurants.
“This year, I will be taking my older daughter to a mother/daughter spin class in the evening then coming home and make dinner together with both of my daughters,” Melissa said.
Takeem was last home during Christmas, when he surprised Melissa. The family now awaits his return again.
“I love him,” Melissa wrote in her contest entry. “He is my soul mate and my own personal hero!”