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Portland couple destined to be together because of where they grew up: 'It was meant to be'

Two Lincoln High School graduates discovered love later in life, but if the houses they grew up in were any indication, they were destined to be together.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Sally Tapanen and David Ferriday share a lot of history. Both went to Lincoln High School in the mid-80s. Both got married to other people, then divorced before finding love again. And both were raised on the same foundation —literally. 

The Portland couple grew up in a pair of old identical houses, built six-miles apart.

"They had the same footprint, the same outside," said Sally. "It's just so funny that we ended up together, like it was so meant to be."

Sally grew up in the house built in Northeast Portland's Irvington neighborhood and took two TriMet busses to school each day. It was during that daily commute that she first noticed her house had a twin. For a time, TriMet printed photos of old, historic houses on their bus passes. 

While Sally was waiting for her bus one day, she noticed the house printed on her own bus pass seemed familiar.

"I'm looking and thinking, that house looks an awful lot like my house!" she said. “And then I looked at my house going, huh!"

Credit: Sally

The house on the bus pass was "The Bennes House" in Southwest Portland near Washington Park. David and his family lived there. Architect John Bennes designed the house and lived there first, in 1911. A year later, Bennes built the identical house that Sally grew up in. He also designed the iconic Hollywood Theater in Northeast Portland.

"He was quite the architect," said David, who is also an architect. David's parents were architects as well and were thrilled to learn of the twin houses, after hearing from Sally's parents. The families arranged to tour one another's homes although at the time, David and Sally ran in different circles.

"I knew of him," said Sally. "I always thought he was handsome."

But that was about it — until 25 years later. In 2010, David and Sally met again during a chance reunion dinner organized by mutual friends.

"At the end of the night somebody said, 'let's all toast to being a single parent!'" recalled Sally. "I raised my glass and David's like, 'what?!' he didn't realize I was single."

Credit: David Ferriday

After that, one date is all it took.

"I looked at him, he looked at me, it was like, ok, we're done," said Sally.

"Yeah," added David. "We both knew."

While most couples don't bring up their past, Sally and David couldn't wait to compare notes about their childhood homes and their identical quirks.

"We'd talk about which family member was in what room," said David.

"We had the same bedroom growing up," said Sally.

"There was this big old furnace in the basement," said David.

"And when you turned it on it went clank, clank, clank!" said Sally.

In 2015, the couple got married, excited to build their own home together. They didn't plan for what happened next.

"A year after we got married, David came down with stage 3 cancer," said Sally.

It was colon cancer. David had just turned 50 and hadn't wanted to get screened.

"Basically you know, I'll deal with it later, it'll go away," recalled David. "Luckily Sally was like, 'you gotta get this’…she was my rock.”

At first, doctors thought the cancer had spread to David's liver, leading them to a grim prognosis.

"For about two weeks, I thought I had just a few years to live," said David.

Sally was devastated.

"I just thought it was so unfair because I'd finally found my person," said Sally. "I was like, there's no way you're taking my person away from me."

Not long after the initial prognosis, doctors learned the cancer had not spread to David's liver as they had originally feared. They felt he had a fighting chance, and fight he did through a year of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Today, David is cancer-free.

"This is all just bonus, you know?" said David, fighting back tears. "It gets emotional, you've made peace with that being the end of your life so yeah, it changes your attitude."

As Sally and David look back on their history, they marvel at what they’ve learned.

Credit: Sally

"It doesn't matter what house you're in," said Sally. "It's what you do inside your house that makes it your home."

And they consider their lives' blueprints and how they each tried to follow them, only to be redirected by life itself.

"You know, you can plan your life," said David. "But so much of it is luck."

This story is part of our new series, Pacific Storyland. From the ordinary to the extraordinary, we'll bring you the most heartwarming and inspiring stories from where you live. Know someone you'd like to see featured? Let us know! Email us at pacificstoryland@kgw.com or text your story ideas to 503-226-5088.

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