ST. PETERSBURG — They had many friends in common, and in fact they met during their first year at the University of Florida, in the library of their dormitory. Her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, and his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, often were paired for social activities.
Over and over, Kyle Kirstein asked her out, and repeatedly, Kristine Putrino resisted.
"Because we were friends," she says, then concedes that she had a crush on him from the start and suspected that if she agreed to a first date they might get a little more serious. As a freshman, she wanted to be more carefree.
"She kept saying no," Kyle says.
They were juniors when her sister, Jennifer, persuaded her to say yes to a movie invitation.
"He was very persistent," Kristine allows.
"It was quite a chase, let me tell you," Kyle says.
The comedy Role Models fit right in with her perception of him as goofy. And her earlier intuition that they would get serious proved to be accurate. Soon, they were a couple, enjoying their time together and sharing serious goals.
Kristine, now 26, earned a bachelor's degree in telecommunications, then a master's in health administration. Kyle, 25, has a bachelor's in business management and took fire and emergency-services training at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.
Any earnest talk of marriage could wait until they were out of school and had stable employment, she with Johns Hopkins University working at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, he as a Hillsborough County firefighter and paramedic in Valrico.
Kristine persuaded Kyle to move to St. Petersburg, her hometown. A year ago, they took a trip to visit her sister, who was working in New York. Kyle, who grew up in tiny Clewiston, had never been to the city before, and Kristine wondered why he wanted to carry a backpack as they spent a day sightseeing.
Jennifer Putrino "set up a picnic in Central Park," Kristine says, "and I was lying in (Kyle's) lap. He pulled out a box and opened it in front of me."
They'd been dating five years, but his proposal was a surprise. "I kept saying, 'Are you serious?' like, a hundred times."
And then yes.
"Kyle is such a good guy," she says. "He is kind of my rock. I'm a high-strung, type-A personality. He can just give me a hug and calm me down."
They married in her home parish, St. Raphael, where Kristine says she had the most emotional moments of the day. During communion, she said, she blinked back tears as she saw the faces of so many people from her childhood: friends, teachers and other mentors; their parents, Joan and Cary Putrino and Sofia and Bobby Kirstein; and both sets of her grandparents. Monsignor Bernard Caverly and the Rev. Kenneth Malley, both of whom have known Kristine since elementary school, officiated.
There was merriment, too. The couple choreographed their first dance for the reception, held in the Glass Conservatory at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, which started as a traditional slow number, then moved to salsa and other, livelier steps. Afterward, they walked over to the Birchwood, then to the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort, where they stayed before a honeymoon trip to St. Lucia.
At home in St. Petersburg, they still enjoy movies. And cooking: "I'm a grill master," Kyle says. And Oliver, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel. And the many other pleasures of a town that they say feels friendly and intimate.