Love Is in the Airwaves

(Provided)

Marc Steiner & Valerie Williams

  • First Date: Fall 2000
  • Wedding Date: Aug. 12, 2010
  • Venue: Their home in Sparks, Md.
  • Favorite Activity: Taking walks in the country, sharing ideas, laughing

She knew his voice from the radio, so when he walked into her Bolton Hill office for a project meeting, she had already envisioned what he would look like.

She was wrong.

“He didn’t look anything like I thought,” Valerie Williams says. Specifically, she didn’t expect Marc Steiner — whose deep, booming voice carried public radio shows spanning two decades and three channels — to be a “short Jewish guy.”

The 1995 meeting for a pilot project based on Bill Moyers’ “Genesis” series proved to be the genesis of Steiner and Williams’ own story.

The relationship began with “five years of friendship,” Steiner says. “Well, flirting and friendship.” Williams corrects him: “He flirted. I played coy.” The two discovered they had friends in common and even shared the same mentor.

In the fall of 2000, feelings and circumstances aligned to create a spark in their friendship, and Steiner asked Williams on a date.

The location? Popeyes. “OK,” Steiner says laughing. “It was late. It was the only place open,” after he’d officially asked her out. Their “real” first date was at a nice restaurant in Fells Point. “We talked about how weird it was to go on a date because we’re such good friends,” Williams remembers. The date was a step forward in their relationship but not a huge leap for Steiner: “I was taken with [Williams] fromthe beginning,” he remembers.

The romantic relationship clicked just as easily as the friendship had. The two moved to their home in Sparks in 2006. Then, on Valentine’s Day 2009, Steiner says he “got down on my knees” in their dining room and asked Williams to marry him. Williams remembers her family was happy to hear the news: “My father said: ‘I know Marc loves you because he took you with all your cats.’”

“We knew we’d have to have either a tiny, tiny wedding or a huge one,” Williams said. Steiner’s daughter, Maisie, spent summers with the couple, and since they wanted to have the wedding during her stay, they decided “kind of spur of the moment” they would have it at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2010.

The wedding was nondenominational but had a “Jewish flavor,” according to Steiner. Anthony McCarthy, a minister and former WYPR colleague of Steiner’s who is now director of communications for Mayor Catherine Pugh, officiated the ceremony.

The wedding happened at sunrise, with a breakfast reception at Soup’r Natural in Hereford. The couple took a honeymoon but “not immediately,” says Steiner. Instead, they planned a “great adventure” for the family: a trip to Iceland.

After seven years of marriage, Steiner says they laugh together “all the time” and genuinely enjoy one another’s company, an important trait for a couple that lives and works together. Steiner and Williams run the Center for Emerging Media, a nonprofit Steiner founded in 2000 during his time at WJHU. Steiner is president and CEO; Williams is executive director.

Williams says she loves that Steiner is “easy to get along with. He never holds a grudge. Ever. He’s the most forgiving person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s a good example.” Steiner loves Williams’ “compassion for all living things: animals and nature, and people too! She goes out of her way. She’s always helping people.” Steiner also loves her “wisdom, humor and her fierceness.”

“It helps when the basis of a relationship is friendship,” Williams says. Steiner adds: “We laugh a lot together.”

Just as they did at their first meeting, and throughout every phase of their relationship, Steiner says he and Williams are still “talking, laughing and sharing ideas.”

Erica Rimlinger is a local freelance writer.

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