Mallory Traughber had been out planting trees as a volunteer all morning on the day that she and Jessica Matthews were to have their first date, in February 2018. So when she arrived at the ramen shop, she was ready for a beer.
Ms. Matthews (right),39, was impressed by her date’s volunteerism, and also by her eagerness to just relax and have fun. “I was charmed,” she said.
Ms. Traughber, 32, was similarly intrigued. “I was very smitten with her right away,” she said.
Ms. Traughber is the program director at Living Classroom, an organization in Mountain View, Calif., that provides garden-based science and mathematics education in public schools. She is also a group leader for Friends of the Urban Forest, and leads volunteers in planting trees in San Francisco — the job she was doing on the day the couple first met — and is a volunteer poll worker for the San Francisco Elections Department. She graduated from Indiana University.
Ms. Matthews is a senior director at Gartner, a research and advisory firm. She also performs with Peach Pit Improv, and is a ukulele player and a singer with Jazz Dads. She graduated and received a master’s degree in telecommunications studies from Pennsylvania State University.
After ramen, the two, who were introduced through the dating app Tinder, ambled back to Ms. Matthews’s apartment, where they had another beer on the rooftop. “I didn’t want it to end,” Ms. Traughber said. “I wanted to know everything about her.”
Almost before Ms. Traughber had left Ms. Matthews’s building, she received a text asking if she’d like to hang out again. So the next day, they went to a different ramen place.
“I felt like it was love at first sight for me,” Ms. Matthews said. “Even when I was leaving the first ramen restaurant, I had that thought.”
Then, about four months after they met, in June 2018, Ms. Matthews learned she had metastatic breast cancer.
“Out of nowhere, Stage 4, so, you know, that was totally shocking, obviously,” Ms. Matthews said. “And Mallory just said, ‘We’re going to do this together.’”
Ms. Traughber’s father, a state policeman in Indiana, had had brain cancer, and she had taken a lesson from the 12 years spent watching her mother caring for him. He died in 2004.
“Things got much more serious,” she said. “I felt like we were meant to meet each other when we did so I could be with her through this difficult season of life.”
Last October, the couple set off for one of their beach outings, but Ms. Matthews had planned for more than just cheese, bread, Marcona almonds and San Francisco sourdough.
“The sun was going down,” she said, “and then I asked her to marry me.”
Ms. Matthews’s doctors said that she should be well enough for a May wedding, so the couple planned a Memorial Day weekend event that included events across the city. But when Covid-19 arrived, they canceled all of it.
“We are in a vulnerable position,” Ms. Traughber said.
The two admired the leadership of London N. Breed, the San Francisco mayor, during the coronavirus pandemic, so when the California governor announced that couples would be allowed to marry via videoconference, they emailed the mayor and asked if she would officiate for them.
She agreed, and on June 22, the couple married in the apartment they now share. (Ms. Matthews’s prognosis is looking up, too. “Right now, we are tentatively looking at surgery in the fall and just immunotherapy after that,” she said, “which would be incredible in terms of lowering side effects.”)
“Everything was just so natural with Jess,” said Ms. Traughber, who will take her wife’s surname. “When you’re meeting, you wonder, does this bother me? Do we have the same values and goals in our lives? With Jess, we never had to wonder how we felt.”