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Love at the landfill

Inuvik couple proclaim love for each other and the environment

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Apr 19/02) - An Inuvik couple have discovered that true love can be found in the most unlikely places.

Inuvik recycling Society's Barbara Armstrong and the owner-operator of AB Salvage, Albert Bernhardt met at Inuvik's dump on Valentine's Day 2001. The two were married one year and 10 days later.

The romance amid the refuse began when Barbara was introduced to Albert through the local Scout troop.

"They were the ones who introduced me to Albert, bless their hearts," Barbara says.

It was not exactly love at first sight, with the couple working side-by-side at the Inuvik landfill, but as the recycling program was blossomed, so did their relationship.

"We worked together for six months before the light bulb even came on," Barbara recalls.

Albert agreed it was a long time before he even began to think of Barbara as anything more than a co-worker.

The shared responsibility in the greening of Inuvik built the common bond between them, but Albert says the conversation has grown to much more than just talking trash.

"We were always out together -- every day was a date," Albert said.

"There were days we talked about things and got real close, but other days it was all garbage."

"She knows a lot about contaminants and a lot about recycling -- I guess I got recycled in the process," he joked.

One day the two had travelled to the Yukon on a work-related project and while Albert was getting a haircut, the barber made a comment about Barbara being his "sweetheart."

"I was far from his sweetheart at the time but the name stuck," Barbara recalls with a smile.

It wasn't long after that, Albert made his move.

"We'd been working together for months and one day he noticed I was a woman," Barbara remembers. "We were sitting in the truck and he asked if he could kiss me."

Somewhat put aback, she asked her new suitor what brought this on all-of-a-sudden.

"I didn't know when or where," Albert said. "She was a willing partner to do anything I wanted to do ... we just have so much in common."

As both had both been previously married and a little gun shy, neither were too concerned with finding a new romance.

"Albert was alone for 11 years and I was for 18 years -- we were both interested in our careers, we weren't looking for anybody."

After the fateful first kiss, Barbara felt she had to pull back a bit and evaluate the situation.

"It was a shock and I went into complete denial, because I have a job and a role as a recycling co-ordinator and I didn't think I could do him justice, by being his girlfriend too," she said. "And Albert didn't want me to be his girlfriend; he wanted me to be his wife -- there was no middle ground."

Barbara decided the pair wouldn't date, because she didn't want to get too attached knowing that when her contract ended, she might soon be leaving the North.

When her contract expired she'd decided to stay on as a volunteer and marry her partner in green.

The couple decided they would perform the ceremony on neutral territory -- in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as Bev had planned to meet her children there anyway.

"When we talked about getting married we didn't know where," Barb said. "If we got married here, my entire other life wouldn't be involved in the celebration."

They didn't want any hurt feelings and, because Albert is a very religious man, they decided the Mexico marriage would work well. Barbara's daughter was maid of honour and her son was Albert's best man.

They plan to host a reception for their Inuvik friends and family.