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From This Day: a match made in miles

Erin Katz and Andrew Winegar met in the last row of a plane when she told a flight attendant, “I’m his girlfriend.” She wanted in on the free drinks he was offered for doing something nice for a fellow passenger.

Claudia Kronenberg Photography

Erin Katz and Andrew Winegar met in the last row of a plane when she told a flight attendant, “I’m his girlfriend.” She wanted in on the free drinks he was offered for doing something nice for a fellow passenger.

LARGO — Who had the worst seat on the plane was hardly debatable.

Largo urologist Erin Katz was in the last row, "but at least I got the aisle," she said, chuckling that even out of the office she can't escape a queue to the loo.

IT architect Andrew Winegar had to climb over the brunet to get to his seat — the tortuous middle of the last row. Still rattled from a road rage incident on the way to the airport, he was just relieved to get any seat at all on that flight to Phoenix.

Erin was en route to a medical conference there. Andrew was returning home from a consulting job in Tallahassee. They might not have exchanged a single word that January 2008 if he hadn't relinquished his overhead bin space to an elderly passenger.

"The flight attendant told me, 'That was a gentlemanly thing to do,' '' said Andrew, "so drinks were on her."

Deep into a book when the cart rolled up, he ordered Tanqueray and 7-Up, adding that it was to be complimentary.

"Mine, too," Erin chirped. "I'm his girlfriend."

What the heck? Andrew didn't know whether to admonish or admire such chutzpah.

The next three hours flew by, fueled by multiple drinks and inappropriate jokes that drew glares from other passengers.

"We got pretty rowdy and loud — lots of crude bathroom jokes," Winegar said. The Navy vet found much humor in Katz's career choice. Only 2 percent of urologists are female.

Guess who won the friendly wager over which gender would visit the john the most?

"I knew it would be the men," said Erin, 43, daughter of a trauma surgeon. Her multispecialty medical practice is a 10-minute drive from her Sand Key condo.

Winegar, now 38, son of an oil man, was born in Holland and grew up in Saudi Arabia and California.

All those free drinks must have contributed to how they parted that day. Giddy as a couple of kids, they grabbed hands, bypassed the moving sidewalk and skipped the length of the concourse, arriving at baggage claim, breathless, laughing — and greeted by significant others.

Their email friendship began within days.

"Not romantic, just friendly and funny," Andrew said.

Neither expected to stay in touch, but they were glad to have each other's ear when their other relationships ended.

"Then out of the blue, Erin asked me to meet her in Chicago for a weekend," Andrew said. "That was our first date, and we enjoyed not having to do typical date stuff."

After that, it was Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, meeting when they could, speaking, emailing and texting when they couldn't.

In August 2009, Erin converted her guest room into a home office for Andrew. He moved in on New Year's Eve, in time to start 2010 sipping Dom Perignon on her condo balcony.

"We knew there would be a learning curve. Up until then, we were always on vacation," said Erin, calling herself Type A and Andrew "Type B wanting to be a Type A."

Exactly three years after moving to Florida, Andrew popped another bottle of Champagne — and the Question — at a Sarasota bed and breakfast on New Year's Eve 2012.

Bending down to pick up the cellphone he pretended to drop on the stroke of midnight, Andrew returned to an upright position with something more sparkling than Champagne. He slipped a diamond on Erin's finger and asked her to marry him. Erin kept the cork memento.

The couple married Oct. 13, their lucky number, at the 5-star Wauwinet, an inn in Nantucket they had visited before. The groom's parents flew in from Kuwait and much of the bride's family from Canada. The reception was a four-course food tasting, all prepared with local ingredients, starting with freshly picked cranberry cocktails.

Busy work schedules postponed a honeymoon in Italy until later this month.

But rest assured, the newlyweds booked seats in the front of the plane, nowhere near the restroom.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at ascherzer@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3332.

From This Day: a match made in miles 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 5:39pm]

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