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May 4, 2003

It's a sign of love

From: Kansas City Star, MO - May 4, 2003

Special to The Star

"I think I'm falling in love with you," the caller said.


"What's the matter? Why aren't you saying anything?" the caller asked.

It was strange enough for Stacey McKenzie to hear something so personal said with no emotion, no inflection. It was even stranger hearing it from a woman.

But once she recovered from the initial shock, his voice, channeled through the female relay operator, touched her heart.

Stacey and Chris McKenzie, married almost four years, like to recall that Christmastime telephone conversation. Chris is deaf and uses a relay operator to communicate over the phone. He types in a message and the operator reads it aloud, sometimes without much feeling.

They met at the church across the street from their school, Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Stacey saw Chris and thought he was cute. Then his roommate, David, started signing to him.

"In my mind I thought, 'Oh, he's deaf. I'll never be able to speak to him,' " she said.

Chris began going to church outings with David, whom Stacey already knew, and the three teamed together.

Stacey launched question after question to David, trying to find out more about Chris. So David became the vessel for the couple's words.

David's hands finally grew weary interpreting for the two, Stacey said.

"Enough!" he told them. "Figure it out yourselves," and he walked off.

Their first date without David was dinner and country dancing. Stacey knew only the letters of the alphabet and a few words in sign language.

"I couldn't sign and eat at the same time, and my dinner got cold," Stacey said.

As for dancing, Stacey admitted, "we played a lot of pool that night."

Deafness has never been a barrier for them.

With Stacey interpreting, Chris signed, "It takes some people two to three years to learn sign language. Stacey learned it in three months!"

They live in a house in Stanley, with their 3-year-old daughter, Alyssa Grace. He works for UPS; she for the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired.

Chris' eyes follow Stacey's hands as she signs with graceful eloquence. Soft inflections escape his lips when he signs, "I love you."

Meredith Ann Kopulos is a Kansas City free-lance writer. Do you know of a local "Love Story"? Tell us at .