The votes are in and Petaluma’s Cutest Couple is….Steven and Jennifer Cozza.
The Cozzas’ story has a distinct Sonoma County flavor. Steven, a Petaluma native, was a professional cyclist when he met Jennifer during a 2008 race in Missouri where Jen was working as a podium hostess.
“We connected from the very beginning and fell for each other very hard,” says Jennifer, 31.
But despite the chemistry, the relationship was long distance for a full year as Steve competed professionally in Europe and Jennifer worked in Atlanta.
Then Steven, now 27, convinced Jen to come visit him in Girona, Spain, where he was training. There, she says, she fell in love with both the man and the country and moved to Spain to be with Steve.
Steven had developed food sensitivities (he would later he diagnosed with colitis), a formidable challenge for an endurance athlete who spent a 30 hours a week training. The couple lived in Spain for two years before returning to Petaluma in 2011.
“Life threw us many curve balls, but we learned how to support each other through all the difficulties,” says Jen.
Since retiring in early 2012, Steve Cozza now works in real estate, while Jen is a copywriter for a North Bay company. Steve has also started a nonprofit called Race for Kids Fan Club, which raises money for children with life threatening illnesses or disabilities as well those from underprivileged backgrounds.
The couple married in November 2012 and are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives. The key ingredient in their relationship?
“We are others biggest support systems and biggest fans,” says Jen. “We want to fulfill each other’s dreams.
The runners up in Petaluma Patch’s Cutest Couple contest are Megan Van Hoorebeke and Dan Ancheta, both 28, and who have been together for five years.
The couple worked for the same bank when they met in a training class.
“He asked me out three times and I kept saying 'no',” recalls Megan. “I was focusing on my career and didn’t want to mix business and personal life.
But in the end, Megan was finally won over by Dan’s tenacity.
“He got all my jokes and that was impressive,” says Megan. “He was just too great to continue saying ‘no’ to.”
The couple work for the Bank of Marin (he in Petaluma, she in Sonoma) and are very involved in community service projects, including the Petaluma Sunrise Rotary, COTS, Redwood Food Bank and the animal shelter.
“We are on the same team,” says Megan. “We put each other first, so that way we’re both the priority.”
Congratulations to both couples and Happy Valentines Day!