Written by Christina Keaster
GOD’S TIMIN IS PERFECT. Stuart and Paula McGee can attest to that fact. Paula, a seamstress and artist at Sew Sassy worked only a few steps away from the man she would one day marry—Stuart McGee, owner of Stuart’s Barber Shop. The two businesses are located in historic downtown Russellville.
“I knew there was a connection the first time he saw her,” Cheryl said.
Paula moved from Kansas to Russellville and has resided in the city for 17 years since. She has three children: Amanda, Beth and Benjamin. She worked at Calico Ladies Fabric Store before her current job at Sew Sassy. She is also a doll artist, creating one-of-a-kind dolls that are on display at Stuart’s shop and at Sew Sassy.
Stuart moved to Russellville to be with his parents, George and Joan Ratzlaff, in March of 2007 after he lost everything valuable to him in Southern California. He and his son, Wayne, rode into town on his motorcycle to start fresh in Russellville.
“They told me their son Stuart and grandson Wayne had just arrived in town. They asked us if we wanted eat lunch, so we went after church. That’s when I met Stuart,” said Jan. However, Jan knew Paula before she met Stuart.
“I went downtown to network with businesses and met Paula at Calico Ladies Fabric Store. We chatted, emailed back and forth, and built a friendship.”
Before Stuart was formally introduced to Paula at Sew Sassy, he decided to follow his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “I walked into FOC realizing I had been running from the Lord for too long. Now He (the Lord) has blessed me beyond belief. He has changed my outlook on life and people. That doesn’t mean I don’t mess up still, but I’m not near who I used to be.”
“Not gonna happen,” he said, “I don’t want to be in a relationship.” After continually pursuing the topic with Stuart, he finally gave in to Cheryl’s wish and asked her out.
“Hey, wanna go for a motorcycle ride?” Paula agreed and they planned to go after they got off work that day.
“It was summer time and beautiful, we were having a ball, we didn’t want to come back,” said Paula. They drove to Clinton and ate at a Mexican restaurant. They drove back through bugs hitting Stuart head on. According to Stuart it felt like “being shot with 22s.” Fortunately, Paula was hiding behind him, free of the bugs.
“They say there’s no such thing as love at first sight, and I tend to agree with that, but by the end of the first week I knew I didn’t want her walking out of my life,” Stuart recalled.
They began dating in May 2009. Stuart asked Paula to marry him a few times. The first time they were washing dishes, and he asked her.
“She said no, but with a big smile. I knew then she was going to say yes, it was just a matter of time.” >> The second proposal gave a “maybe” as her answer; Stuart
“We were sitting on the porch swing, and he asked me. I said yes. I thought he was gonna pass out before he asked me.”
Stuart called his parents and son, and Paula called her children to tell them the exciting news.
“My son never approved of any of the women I dated, until Paula. That was a confirmation in itself that she was the one.” The two families began to merge into one, “They all get along,” Paula said.
Unknown to Paula, Jan was creating a Bridal Expo for the community in partnership with a Russellville wedding and special occasion store, Formal Affairs.
“The goal of the expo was to have someone from every aspect of the wedding process. We had a real cake, wedding gowns, decorations, and I thought, why not give a wedding away? I talked to all the vendors and they agreed to do it, but left me in charge of finding the couple to marry at the expo.”
“At the time, I had no idea who I could find. I wanted to find someone who wouldn’t have a wedding otherwise.”
Jan called Stuart one day to talk, and Wayne, Stuart’s son, answered the phone. They chatted for a little while and then Wayne told Jan that his father was getting married. Within a second, Jan knew exactly who would be getting the free wedding.
As the expo began the morning of August 8, 2009, Paula was getting her hair and makeup done.
“I wasn’t nervous, just excited. I felt like a princess,” Paula recalled.
Kate Brugh and Wren Whiteseven were the best friends of Paula and Stuart, and likewise, the maid of honor and best man. Scott McGee, Stuart’s older brother, was the pastor at the ceremony. To Stuart, having his brother there was the second most special part of the wedding.
The most special part was “when she first walked out from back and I saw her in her dress, she took my breath away. At that point I got weak in the knees,” confessed Stuart.
“I liked the whole thing,” said Paula, “I will not forget his eyes, the smile on his face.”
After the ceremony, the couple celebrated with family and friends at Reflections Tea Room, and spent three romantic days in Grove, Okla., for their honeymoon.
“It was exciting for me to see all of the vendors excited about giving,” recalled Jan.
Stuart and Paula agree that their life together has been one joy after another.
“Marriage is a work in progress, but it makes my day to see her every day, I can’t imagine my life without her, I really can’t.”