Doug Pavek didn't know that when he chose a fitness instructor for his daughter he also would find a wife.
The 49-year-old U.S. Army colonel, and his 15-year-old tennis-playing daughter, Grace, moved from Tampa to Belleville in September 2011. They heard about trainer Micki Ferreri through a friend.
After Grace's first session at King's Point on March 8 last year, Doug asked how it had gone.
"I told him, 'It was great," said Grace, who attends Air Academy, a virtual high school.
"I asked, 'How was Micki?'" said Doug. "Grace is a pretty good judge of character. She said, 'She's the best person I ever met.'
"There was a pause. She stopped talking. I looked over at her. She was staring straight ahead. She was thinking about something. Then Grace said, "And she's divorced.'"
"I think he was intrigued," said Grace. "When I told him I liked her so much, it kind it drew his attention."
Doug had been married a year to Grace's mother before they divorced. Micki has been divorced since 2002.
"We were both convinced before we met there was no way in the world that we would marry again," said Micki. "Grace is his whole life. I am busy with my guys."
But they did marry on Nov. 17, 2012, in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Air Force Academy chapel.
"Grace is the only one who went out there with us," said Micki. "She was our best person."
Doug and Grace now live in Micki's brick home off Hartman Lane with four of Micki's five sons.
On a recent weekday evening, they gathered around the kitchen counter while Micki steamed broccoli as part of dinner. Doug was in military fatigues. When son James, 14, came in, Micki had him tracking down Parmesan cheese in the refrigerator. Grace leaned on the counter, twisting the cap of a water bottle.
What did she like about Micki?
"Everything. She's nice, fun to be around. You get a good vibe."
To get to know Grace, Micki had asked a lot of questions.
"Here's this girl, 15 years old," said Micki. "She's like in the military. I was trying to share my life experiences as well. I shared that I am divorced, too. I've got five kids."
Grace worried that because her dad dropped her off to train, he wouldn't have a chance to get to know Micki. Then Grace learned Micki had an exercise room at home.
"When training here, Doug would come in and hang out and we got a chance to talk," said Micki.
"It must have been April when I asked her to play golf," said Doug.
But Micki didn't go.
"My mom was in. My family was in," said Micki, 49, who grew up in Waukegan. "I was doing things with the guys and my mom."
"The turning point was my tennis tournament," said Grace. "You came to see me play."
Micki brought three of her sons to watch the match at Dwight Davis Tennis Center in Forest Park
"We ended up going to the Boathouse where we ate and hung out together," she said. "My way to get kids to do something is to take them out to eat."
By late June, Doug and Micki were an item.
"It was really quick," said Micki.
"I thought he was just like a friend," said James.
Grace kept her fingers crossed.
"There wasn't much time to think about it," she said. "I tried to keep it in my head that there wasn't any possibility. This is too good to be true."
Doug proposed to Micki at the end of June at Colorado Springs' Garden of the Gods lodge that sits on a cliff overlooking mountains.
"I didn't give him an answer right away," said Micki. "I wanted an OK from my mom. I wanted a chance to meet his father.
"I was surprised."
So were her sons.
"Then," said Micki, "when Doug set a date -- It was via text message -- all it said was Nov. 17."
"I thought, 'Did I miss something?' I am sitting here, and my oldest son is on the computer. I said, 'Golly, T.J., I wonder if he wants to get married Nov. 17?' T.J. said, 'Yeah, 2015.'"
Did Doug worry about Micki having five sons?
"His response to me was," Micki said, "'I've been in charge of a thousand guys in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can deal with five guys.'"
Micki's sons, T.J., 25; Matthew, 23; Billy, 19; Joseph 16; and James 14, were not sure what to expect.
"They don't know anything about the military," said Micki. "They were in a panic. This Army guy is going to come live with us. It's pretty democratic in the household. I ask opinions. They are thinking, there's a colonel in charge now. Doug's really easy. Very sensitive."
"They are great guys," said Doug. "It's not hard. I am pleasantly surprised."
Grace is getting used to a larger household.
"It is a bit of a culture shock," she said, " just being around all these people."
Micki had Grace take over a second master bedroom.
"The boys tease her, 'How is your bedroom?'" said Micki, "She's easy to live with."
"It's really weird," said Grace. "I used to come to the house to train with you. Now, I live here. I think it's great. It's not just the two of us, and he's really happy and I am really happy because I like Micki."
To think the Paveks almost didn't land in the metro-east. ...
When considering her father's next assignment, Grace wanted to move to Germany, Alaska or "anywhere else" but Illinois. Of five options, the metro-east was No. 5.
"They say things happen when you least expect it," said Doug. "It couldn't be more true."