Our Erin LaRosa In The Hartford Courant

From Sweaty Van Ride, A Spark Grows

Love story: Erin LaRosa Daniel Dziadek Matt Branscombe, BSC Photography (Matt Branscombe, BSC Photography / HANDOUT)

Love story: Erin LaRosa Daniel Dziadek Matt Branscombe, BSC Photography (Matt Branscombe, BSC Photography / HANDOUT)

By: M.A.C. LYNCH Special to The Courant

Erin LaRosa and Daniel Dziadek met each other dripping with sweat, rain and dirt, wearing stale running clothes, and crowded in a van during a running race from Saratoga Springs to Lake Placid, N.Y., in 2012. They were asked to run repeated shifts of the distance race by a mutual friend from the Hartford area, Daniel Gifeisman.

"We were both running low on sleep," Erin says. When she and Dan weren't taking turns running for their team in the middle of the night, "I thought he was hilarious," Erin says. "But I wasn't there to meet people. … I noticed him as attractive, but we were just buddies" on the van.

They alternated driving shifts on the trip back to Hartford, and, "At some point I thought, 'I like this guy,'" Erin says.

"We started messaging each other" at home, Dan says, and within a few days, he invited Erin to Spicy Green Bean in Glastonbury, his favorite restaurant, where he also knows the owner.

"I wasn't sure if it was a date," Erin says, until Dan told the owner it was his first date with Erin, at which point the owner joked about Dan breaking the heart of his previous girlfriend.

Neither Erin, age 33 at the time, nor Dan, 31, is from Hartford or New York. Dan was born in Bielsko-Biala, in southern Poland, and his family moved to Rocky Hill when he was 13. "I was a little overwhelmed because I didn't know English well enough" after studying it for a few months before leaving Poland.

"I was supposed to move at the end of 6th grade, but I came in the middle of 7th grade," Dan says. He did not know how to play basketball, but "I played one year on the team because I was the tallest kid. I had never played before."

After attending Rocky Hill High School, Daniel majored in accounting at Quinnipiac University in Hamden and worked at a nearby pharmacy, which is where he met Gifeisman, "one of my closest friends."

Daniel purchased a condominium in Glastonbury and began working at The Hartford insurance company in investment accounting in 2008. He took up running on local trails with his chocolate Labrador a year before the race in New York.

Erin grew up in Bethel and worked at various restaurants to pay her way through Central Connecticut State University. As a sociology major, Erin couldn't wait to graduate and be done with restaurants, "but, when I graduated, I realized that's what I like doing," she says.

She lived in a multi-family house in Hartford's West End and worked her way up from bartender to manager of The Half Door, an Irish restaurant nearby. She knew Gifeisman through the restaurant business, and had seen Dan Dziadek a few times at The Half Door with Gifeisman, but had not talked to him before the New York race.

Erin had started speed walking in 2009 when she turned 30, but realizing she was going to be late for class one day if she didn't go faster, she began running. In 2011, Erin ran the Hartford Marathon and completed marathons in Bermuda, New Jersey and Chicago within the next year. She squeezed in the New York race the week before she ran Chicago.

Immediately after her Chicago marathon, Erin had a ticket for a trip to Bali in Indonesia. "I was very excited to go by myself on vacation," she says, but after meeting Dan, she found herself wishing he could be with her.

"I was waiting for her to get back," Dan says.

A month after meeting Erin, Dan invited her to join him and his mother for Thanksgiving in Jupiter, Fla.

"I thought is seemed weird" to be invited shortly after meeting each other, Erin says. "I was very nervous to meet his mom," but once they were introduced, "It was great ... his mom was very welcoming. I heard him speak Polish for the first time ever."

The next year, after a dryer fire was started by another tenant in Erin's house, she accepted Dan's invitation to move to Glastonbury. "He was going to cook," says Erin, who figured "I may as well find out" what it would be like to live with him, rather than wait a few years dating and then find out they weren't compatible.

Dan learned how to cook primarily by watching his mother prepare dishes he liked. "I did the same thing with my dad; he told me how he made things" when he visited his father in Poland, he says. His father also ran two restaurants for a few years.

Dan and Erin traveled to his homeland in 2013 and went with his father and younger sister to Croatia for a vacation on the Adriatic Sea.

The following year, Erin became manager at McLadden's Irish Publick House in West Hartford, working five days a week in the restaurant, including evenings. A few months later, she moved up to the human resources office with McLadden Restaurant Group in East Windsor, where she combines her sociology education and restaurant management experience to screen and hire staff. "HR was my favorite part," of the business. "For customers, if you don't have the right people serving, that's it. I'm passionate about the people in the restaurant."

By September 2014, "Everything was just fitting. I thought, 'This is it!' I bought a ring," says Dan, who had been married briefly after college. "I tried to do a trip out of town" to Newport to propose, but with Erin's promotions it was impossible for her to get away for a weekend.

Dan hooked the ring on the dog's collar and asked Erin to put the dog on his leash for a walk. Erin suspected something was up when he said that, and when she saw the ring, Daniel asked her to marry him.

They were married on October 30, 2015, at The Society Room in Hartford, with Erin's younger sister and two closest college friends as her bridesmaids, and Dan's first American friend from middle school, Gifeisman, and a close college friend as his groomsmen. Their friends from the restaurant and accounting businesses added music, flowers, photography and masks to their celebration on the eve of Halloween.

Erin and Dan were planning to return to Croatia for their honeymoon this summer, but in January his Labrador was diagnosed with cancer, and in May they learned Erin was expecting their first child. That has limited their travel to New England and New York, but didn't stop them from tent-camping on Cape Cod recently. They plan to postpone their honeymoon until next summer, when they will bring the first grandchild in Dan's family to Poland. In the meantime, they are training a new puppy, preparing a room for their baby, and learning from each other's strengths.

Dan is as orderly with everything in their three-bedroom condo as he is with numbers at work. Erin is more casual. "I love it. I'm wired," Dan says.

Dan's attentiveness has its benefits, says Erin, who at the time of this interview, noted that she had no gas in her car. "He encourages me to pay more attention to details," such as her gas gauge, and she helps him to relax.

"With you, things just go right," Dan says. "She knows how to defuse any situation."

"He's handsome Dan. He's very charming," Erin says, and inside, "He's a good person. … He never makes fun of anyone. … I never wanted to have a child with any other person," before Dan, Erin says. They are happily embarking on this new journey — becoming parents.

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