Rosemary Brinson and Mark Siipola, began their lives on opposite sides of the country, she in Kenansville, N.C., and he in Rio Dell, California. But a mutual love of the Wolfpack brought them together as NC State students in the late 1970s.
The Siipolas, who have been married for 33 years, met through mutual friends while she was studying political science and he was pursuing a master’s degree in marine science and coastal engineering. According to Rosemary, they became fast friends.
“He packed everything up and drove his 1930 Model A pickup truck all the way from California,” she says. “He was so interesting, just a California hippie guy, and our friend group kind of adopted him.”
Their time at NC State was full of typical college activities — shows at the university theater, concerts around campus — but I was an especially exciting period for Mark. After attending a community college and living at home in California, NC State provided him with the quintessential college experience.
“It was a real eye opener,” he says, “and we made friends for life.”
Their fondest memories come from quiet, routine moments with friends. A favorite spot was the basement of Withers Hall, where Rosemary and Mark and their friends would spend time with Victor Cavaroc, a geology professor.
“Dr. Cavaroc had this Pachinko machine, a Japanese gambling game. We would sit in there and play with it and talk and laugh,” says Rosemary. “That’s what I remember most.”
Life took the Siipolas all over the United States following their graduation in 1977. Rosemary worked on Capitol Hill for Coldwell Banker while pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Virginia. Mark moved back to California and worked in roofing until he joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering and moved to Miami Beach.
They married in 1982 and moved around with Mark’s career, ending up in Washington state after the Mount St. Helens eruption. There, Mark worked on the environment in the aftermath, focusing on sediment retention and the Spirit Lake overflow, while Rosemary worked for a local college and as a city planner for Portland, Oregon.
They finally settled in Cowlitz County, Washington, situated on the Columbia River, where they remain today. After 34 years with the Corps of Engineers, Mark retired in May of 2012 and Rosemary “semi-retired” from the Metropolitan Planning Organization in August 2013. They enjoy the outdoors, clam-digging at the coast and spending time with their three daughters, Kaisa, Olivia and Cora.
Even after a life of adventure and all these years, they still remain true to the Pack. They keep in touch with former professors and always look for ways to memorialize their time as students. They love bringing their children through campus every time they visit Raleigh, and last Christmas, Rosemary bought Mark a Pachinko machine, homage to those hours of fun spent in Withers Hall.
“I wear my Bell Tower alumni pin with pride,” says Rosemary. “It’s been incredible to watch the university grow, even from afar. We are forever so proud to be NC State students.”
The Alumni Association is hosting a reception this weekend for couples that fell in love at NC State. Registration for the State Mates Reception is closed.