Move over Jonah. Make room for a gemstone inside the belly of that fabulous fish.
Remember the Biblical story of Jonah, the man who fled when God asked him to go to Ninevah?
Thank heavens Lori Peterson Gangle didn’t do that when God beckoned her to Alaska in 2004.
Lori, a reading specialist with Grand Forks Public Schools, said “yes,” to a family excursion with her parents, aunts and uncles. It turned out to be a life-changing experience for her.
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of Lori’s favorite verses and if ever God’s promise of “For I know the plans I have for you,” rained down on two individuals, it’s in Lori meeting Larry Gangle, an Oregon State biologist with a specialty in fisheries. That summer, Larry was a deckhand on the Ashtikan, a charter fishing boat out of Homer, Alaska.
Theirs is a wonderful Valentine story of love and faith. Wait ‘til you read how a Pacific halibut helped Larry propose a year later.
Lori’s mother, Lela Peterson, was to go fishing on the Ashtikan that day but decided to whale watch instead. Lori went in Lela’s place and met First Mate Larry who talked of such things as fishing safety and catching halibut and silver salmon.
Larry was amazed at how “easy it was to talk to Lori,” he says. “We had a great conversation and I wasn’t paying attention to the fishing like I should have been. Whenever she went to the galley, I’d beeline down there.”
As the afternoon wore on Larry thought, “Gee, I like her, but I was nervous because her dad was there.”
Never the aggressive kind, Larry found himself asking Lori to dinner. They talked for hours and closed down Captain Pattie’s restaurant. “I was captivated by her,” he says.
The next night, Larry entertained Lori with original poetry. “I had a feeling she was going to be someone very important in my life,” he says.
On the morning of the third day, Lori’s family caravan left Homer for other parts of Alaska. Thus began Lori’s and Larry’s letter writing and phone calling.
“She was the bright light of every day,” Larry says. “I’d come home from work and we’d talk.”
Larry came to North Dakota that fall, and Lori went to Oregon for Christmas. They walked Oregon streams, crabbed and clammed by moonlight and, “she passed the clam test,” Larry said. He saw firsthand that Lori wasn’t a high maintenance girl who wasn’t afraid of getting dirty.
In the summer of 2005, Lori went back to Alaska to work as a “boat washer,” and to spend time with Larry. “I was blessed to stay with Pastor Denny and Sue Neels (parents of a friend from college) who graciously welcomed me into their home,” she says.
By that time, Larry had made up his mind. “She was the one I wanted to spend my life with,” he says. He ordered her engagement ring in Soldatna, Alaska.
Larry waited until Lori was on the plane heading his way before calling her dad, the late Wayne Peterson, to ask for her hand.
“You have my blessing,” Larry remembers his future father-in-law saying.
Larry chose July 4, 2005 to pop the question and he and Lori went fishing. She caught a Pacific halibut and as he began filleting, he said, “We’ve been finding interesting things in their bellies – clam shells, octopus beaks.”
As Larry cut into Lori’s fish, he paused, asking her to fetch something for him. When she stepped away, he slipped a Ziploc bag that held her ring and a poem inside the fish.
Upon Lori’s return, Larry flipped the fish over and with a puzzled look on his face asked, “What’s this?” He pulled out the “ring in a bag,” got down on his knees in the very spot they’d met the previous summer and handed her the following poem:
Dearest Miss Lori, You are my heart and my soul, whenever we’re apart, I feel unwhole. This much I know, I need you in my life. Please make me complete, will you be my wife? Your Rhyming Deckhand.”
Lori said, “Yes,” after Larry assured her that their love would be forever.
“Making important decisions has always been hard for me,” she says, “but God gave me peace. I never had any doubts.”
Lori and Larry were married in Immanuel Lutheran Church, Grand Forks, in June 2006, by the same pastor Lori had stayed with in Alaska in 2005.
Along with the happiness Lori experienced in her love for Larry, there was sadness. Her father, Wayne Peterson, had cancer.
“When Dad was sick, there was a time I was mad at God,” Lori says. “I got Larry, but He was taking dad.” Now Lori looks back with a different perspective. “I think God provided Larry to help me get through Dad’s death,” she says. “Dad taught me how to pick a good man.”
Larry says if it wasn’t for his faith, “I’d be in a very different place. Lori and her family have been instrumental in bringing me back (to God). When I met Lori, I was praying, ‘God, let me find peace and send me where you want me to go.’ He put me in the right place at the right time.”
God’s next plan was for Larry to be Grand Forks. Because of Lori’s very rewarding work with children, “it would be selfish of me to make her come out to Oregon,” he says. Larry received his commercial license and started a new career in truck driving.
“It meant a lot to me for him to make the decision to come to North Dakota,” Lori says. “I have a big family and Larry was craving family.”
So it was that in 2004, neither Lori or Larry were looking for a mate. “It was totally plopped in our laps,” Lori says, “it’s something that God had planned.”
“It had to be,” Larry adds. “I’m no Casanova. Lori wasn’t even going to go to Alaska and then her getting on the boat? There had to be some divine intervention involved.”
Lori and Larry now have two beautiful children, Annika, 7, and Jon, 6, who are in second grade and kindergarten at Riverside Christian School, East Grand Forks.
In August 2017, Larry arranged for the couple to renew their wedding vows before Pastor Denny Neels. Interestingly enough, the Neels now live near Niagara, N.D.
Today Lori and Larry celebrate their 12th February 14th together. Forever – that’s how long she’ll be his Valentine.