“I’m giving up on finding Mr. Right. I’m just going to focus on my career,” decided Zimmermann, who was going back to school for a degree in elementary education.“Why don’t you try dating single dads?” her friend suggested. But Zimmermann was skeptical; she had gone out with a single father once and had gotten the impression he was more interested in finding a new mom for his children than a compatible life partner.
Still, when she got a message from a man named Bill Iott the next week and read that he had two sons, she recalled her friend’s words. What do I have to lose? she thought.
Iott, an Army medic, had married at 21, but after five years and two sons, the marriage crumbled as he began a second deployment to Iraq. In 2008 he was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and decided to try online dating. But the process was frustrating — it felt as if all the women he met wanted him to “rescue them from their lives.”
Zimmermann sounded independent in her profile and had written that she wasn’t into playing games. “I was like, ‘Okay, good, somebody who’s on the same page I am,’ ” he recalls.
When Iott called, Zimmermann broke her own rule against long phone conversations before a first date and chatted with him for two hours. Normally she insisted on meeting just for coffee, but before they hung up she agreed to go to lunch.
A few days later, Zimmermann spotted a cute guy she thought might be Iott as she rode the escalator out of the Gallery Place Metro station. “Please let that be my date,” she thought. He was.
After lunch at Ruby Tuesday they walked around the monuments. For hours, they sat on a bench at the World War II Memorial, talking about their shared love of history and the importance of family. By the time he walked her to the Metro, it was 10 p.m.; he called an hour later to make sure she got home safely.
That night, Zimmermann told her friend she had butterflies in her stomach.
She and Iott began seeing each other a few times a week. Although she is hyper-organized and he’s laid back, the two found themselves matched in their candor, values and their Catholic faith. “And he always makes me laugh,” Zimmermann says.
At Thanksgiving, Iott’s two sons, Dominick and Tyler, came in from Michigan, where they live for much of the year with their mother. Zimmermann, now 29, was apprehensive about their first meeting, but when she stuck out her hand to greet 3-year-old Tyler, he immediately jumped into her arms.
“We all really clicked,” she says. “They were a great family unit. And I wanted to be part of it. We just had a lot of fun together.”
In spring 2010, Iott, now 30, began thinking about marriage and asked Zimmermann to move in with him. “I just couldn’t see my life without her,” he says. “When I thought about my future, she was a part of it.”
That Columbus Day weekend, on a beach in Florida, he told Zimmermann he was saving up for a ring. But at 5 a.m. on the day he got back to work, Iott got orders that he was being assigned to Korea. “I think we need to move the engagement up a bit,” he said.
In October — after consecutive laundry mishaps, one that soaked his cellphone and another that left two uniforms dotted with ink stains — Iott asked Zimmermann to help him look through his pants pockets before he threw in a load. There, she found an engagement ring.
The two quickly planned a courthouse wedding so that the Army would recognize their union and consider sending Zimmermann with Iott.
They wed privately in December, but when he shipped out in March, arrangements were not made for her to go along. “It was the worst day of our lives,” she says. “I just cried the whole time.”
This summer, he returned for a month-long leave. And on Aug. 6, they exchanged vows at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria. Iott stood at the altar with his hands on his sons’ shoulders as Zimmermann walked to meet them. That evening, they held a vintage-themed reception at the Army Navy Country Club, where a 1943 map of the world was hung in the cocktail room and Western Union telegrams were used for place cards.
Iott returned to Korea at the end of the month, and Zimmermann continues to look for teaching jobs there so she’ll be able to join him. “Bill is my home,” she says. “Wherever Bill is, that is my home.”
As for those prayers she recited for years: “They’ve definitely come true,” she says.