By Mo Moore

Even on their first date, Corcoran High School sweethearts Ben and Josie Burnias of Tulare, seemed destined to share a lifetime of Valentine's Days.

&#8220He had told me that he thought that I was too good for him,” Josie said, &#8220but when I found out that he liked me I canceled the date I had with another guy and asked ‘Benny' to our Mardi Gras backwards dance. He said yes. I felt bad about canceling my date with the other guy, but I thought Benny was so cute and outgoing,” said Josie.

Josie's parents asked that she and Ben double date with her brother and his date, but Ben ended up meeting Josie's whole family, including those visiting from Texas. Nervous about his date, Ben had forgotten to take the tags off his brand new suit and Josie's little sister noticed it and announced it to the entire family. Ben and Josie still enjoy retelling that story.

&#8220It was ironic cause on our first date, I met not only her family, but her extended family that she rarely sees including her favorite aunt and her grandmother,” Ben said. &#8220I got the approval from all of them and I didn't even really know Josie that well at the time. But we just hit it off from that one night.”

From there their affection for each other grew. Even after Ben graduated in 1976 and went to C.O.S. he and Josie kept a close connection. Ben would walk Josie to and from school everyday, leaving his ‘67 Mustang at home. It seemed they were destined for matrimony.

&#8220We were so in love we just knew we were going to be married,” Ben said.

Ben is the owner of B & J Communications specializing in two way radio service and installation. Josie, a Clinical Therapist at the Woodlake Family Resource Center was encouraged by a friend to go back to school after Jennifer's death. She graduated in 2005 with a master's degree in social work from Fresno State University, partially due to the supported of her husband through hours of class time and long term papers.

&#8220I love her so much I want her to do the things she wanted to do to pursue her dreams,” said Ben.

Twenty-nine years, three children and one tragedy later, the couple's marriage remains strong. Ten years ago on their wedding anniversary, the family suffered a major tragedy with the death of Jennifer, but Ben, Josie and their two children, Matthew and Celeste, found the faith to make it through. Now they use that faith to counsel other couples going through crisis and are pillars of faith to so many of their friends and family.

&#8220Through all the arguments, hard times and the death of our daughter, the Lord prompted me to never leave the home to show Josie I was there forever. I never walked out that door to break her confidence. I tell other men to always stay and show her you're for real,” said Ben. &#8220And I'm madly in love with her.”

The couple was tapped by fate again when Josie's name was drawn by Exeter Chamber of Commerce President Tricia Kirksey last week as the winner of the &#8220A Night to Remember” Valentine's Day contest sponsored by the Tulare County Symphony, Plantation Bed & Breakfast, the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, Mamma's Fine Dining and the Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

It all starts on Valentine's Day when Ben and Josie will be treated to an ever so romantic dinner for two at Mamma's in Exeter. They also receive two tickets to the Tulare County Symphony concert on March 3, complete with limo ride to and from the concert. After the concert, the lucky couple will stay a night at the Plantation Bed & Breakfast nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where they'll be treated with southern hospitality and sleep in a room decorated with Gone With the Wind flair.

After 29 years of marriage and many years helping other couples with their marriages, Ben and Josie Burnias are destined for &#8220A Night to Remember.”

Start typing and press Enter to search