Miss Min­nesota had 70 dates be­fore meet­ing Pol­ish im­mi­grant

New Straits Times - - WORLD - Dance. for their first

DOTTIE Can­non, 35, had a free life­time mem­ber­ship to af­ter agree­ing to be fea­tured in a com­pany com­mer­cial in 2012. Two years and 70 dates later, she was still search­ing.

“Noth­ing re­ally hor­ri­ble ever hap­pened on those 70 dates,” said Can­non, who was crowned Miss Min­nesota in 2006, al­though she was start­ing to sense why a life­time mem­ber­ship might be nec­es­sary.

“Some guys were just sad. Some had bad man­ners.”

Can­non wound up with the Miss Con­ge­nial­ity sash that year in the Miss USA pageant (The ti­tle went to Tara Con­ner of Ken­tucky).

In 2011, six years af­ter earn­ing a de­gree in mar­ket­ing from the Univer­sity of St Thomas in St Paul, Can­non moved to Man­hat­tan here to look for work, re­tir­ing her pageant dresses.

For Pol­ish im­mi­grant Konrad Bie­niek, 36, who moved from Queens to Man­hat­tan the same year as Can­non and hav­ing just signed up for a month-long trial in 2014, Can­non was Match date No. 2.

When they met for a drink at the Ace Ho­tel in the Flat­iron district in April, she sensed he was dif­fer­ent, al­though the meet­ing was far from per­fect.

“Most of our con­ver­sa­tion cen­tred around the fact that he knew some­one from Min­nesota, who worked at Tar­get,” said Can­non, who her­self had a stint at Tar­get head­quar­ters in Min­neapo­lis.

“I went to din­ner with friends later, and they asked how the date went,” she said.

“I was like, it went fine, but to be hon­est, it felt like he was more in­ter­ested in talk­ing about his friend than get­ting to know me.”

She didn’t rule out a sec­ond date. But Bie­niek, a web-user ex­pe­ri­ence de­signer with an economics de­gree from the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut, said she might as well have.

“She cut out early and said she was go­ing to be busy the next few weeks be­cause her birth­day was com­ing up, and her par­ents were com­ing to visit,” he said.

But he couldn’t get her off his mind.

“She was very pretty, which I knew from see­ing her pic­ture, but she was also taller than I thought,” said Bie­niek, who at 1.77m, is only 7cm taller.

Can­non, who is the di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources at Calvin Klein, ad­mits to an abun­dance of ex­tro­ver­sion. For Bie­niek, that kind of friend­li­ness was thrilling, if en­tirely for­eign.

His mother hoped he would stick with lo­cal Pol­ish girls. But, he said, “I wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­one with a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity.”

Can­non fit­ted that pro­file. Grow­ing up in Ea­gan, Min­nesota, she was co­cooned in sweet­ness and trust. Her par­ents, Melodee and Harry, still live in the house they bought in 1981, where Can­non and her younger brother, Sa­muel, were raised.

When Bie­niek called Can­non for a sec­ond date in April 2014, they met for tea at the now­closed Cof­fee Bean and Tea Leaf in the Meat­pack­ing District, and the con­ver­sa­tion shifted to their wildly dif­fer­ent back­grounds.

Bie­niek walked Can­non back to her SoHo apart­ment, but they weren’t done talk­ing when they reached her door. Within weeks, they closed their Match ac­counts. Within months, they were plan­ning a va­ca­tion to Italy.

In Au­gust 2016, Can­non moved into Bie­niek’s apart­ment, where they still live with their res­cue dog, Hugo. But if com­mit­ting to each other was easy, iron­ing out how they wanted the fu­ture to look was less so.

Since 2015, when she took a vol­un­teer trip to Le­sotho, Africa, with her church group, Can­non wanted to adopt a child from that coun­try. Bie­niek was not so sure.

“We had a dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion. I think it could have ended our re­la­tion­ship,” Can­non said.

“Where I come from, peo­ple don’t re­ally think that way about help­ing some­one they don’t know,” Bie­niek said.

“They’re more fo­cused on fam­ily and com­mu­nity. Be­cause when you’re strug­gling, it’s harder to think about ex­ter­nal things.”

But since meet­ing Can­non, he said, “I’ve grown. I’ve changed my opin­ion on a lot of things.”

Among the qual­i­ties he loves about Can­non is her open­ness.

Her ease among strangers was on dis­play in Jan­uary last year, when the cou­ple was in Hawaii.

“We were walk­ing down a side­walk, and a man fell into the street,” Bie­niek said.

“Can­non was the first per­son to run across and get him up and tell some­body to call 911. She just took over. I was so impressed. I as­pire to be some­one like that.”

He had ex­pressed his as­pi­ra­tion to be the hus­band of some­one like that to Can­non’s fa­ther.

A few months be­fore, Bie­niek took Harry aside and told him his plan to pro­pose in Hawaii.

On Jan 29, at sun­set on a Hawaii beach, Bie­niek dropped to one knee and pre­sented the oval­shaped di­a­mond. It was so sur­pris­ing she could not be­lieve what she was hear­ing.

“I’m par­tially deaf in my left ear, and the wind was blow­ing. I couldn’t hear him.”

Once she pieced to­gether what he was ask­ing, she said yes.

“Then we got in the car and that’s when it hit me. I started cry­ing. Bie­niek is not re­ally the ro­man­tic type. I was ex­pect­ing us to get en­gaged a few months down the road, while we were at home in our pa­ja­mas with spaghetti on the floor.”

On Oct 6 at La Colina, a 1930s Spanish guest­house in New Hamp­ton here, more than a hand­ful of the 90 guests at Can­non and Bie­niek’s wed­ding cried, too.

Bie­niek in lace cap-sleeve dress with a high neck­line bought at Kle­in­feld’s and a sim­ple veil, walked with her fa­ther down a makeshift aisle on the guest­house’s rus­tic up­stairs ve­randa.

Bie­niek wore a navy blue suit with a black bow tie.

The Rev­erend Werner Ramirez, the cou­ple’s min­is­ter, led the cer­e­mony, which in­cluded Bie­niek’s hand­writ­ten vows, in which he promised to learn and grow with Can­non for the rest of his life.

Then, Can­non had a sur­prise for ev­ery­one. Her maid of hon­our, Kim­berly Pear­son, handed her a sheaf of pa­pers. Fight­ing tears and ask­ing guests to bear with her, she read, in shaky Pol­ish, her own vows.

Af­ter­ward, she trans­lated for English speak­ers: “My heart, my Bie­niek,” she be­gan.

“You are my rock, my solid foun­da­tion that doesn’t wa­ver. I’m glad we have come to this mo­ment. I love you. This is our jour­ney.”

Be­fore danc­ing and din­ner, Monika Bie­niek praised her new sis­ter-in-law for daz­zling the crowd with her vows.

A nine-piece band, Chevy Che­vis, wel­comed Can­non and Bie­niek to the re­cep­tion tent with Bey­once’s Crazy in Love — then quickly switched gears to Louis Arm­strong’s Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On


New­ly­weds Dottie Can­non and Konrad Bie­niek on the re­cep­tion dance floor in New Hamp­ton, New York, re­cently.

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