Natural progression

Natural progression

Not every married couple has the good fortune to meet as teenagers, but when Opal Schooley was 15 and Tony Lechmanski was 16, the two were introduced on the Downtown Mall by Opal’s sister. “The day we met he told me he was going to marry me,” said Opal. “I thought he was joking.” At the time Tony might have been being playful, but his teenage self had intuited something about his romantic future. “I was taken by her. She was really sweet and so pretty.” 

Opal Schooley and Tony Lechmanski
May 30, 2009
Photo by Alanna Wiggins

The two quickly became the closest of friends. Eleven years later they were married in the gardens of Montpelier while the Frankenstein tattoo quivered on Opal’s arm. The three-year courtship was short when considering they’d known each other for over a decade, but for a long time neither Tony nor Opal wanted to take a risk. “On my end I was scared to take a chance on that,” said Tony. “I would rather stay best friends than lose my girlfriend and my best friend….But I finally realized it was so much harder on the both of us not to be together.”

Opal Schooley is given credit for “Assistance & squid costume” in the Shentai Carnival lineup. The much beloved nanny is also identified by the leather luchadora mask she wears when selling merch for the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW). Meanwhile Tony plays guitar both for The 40 Boys and for Bella Morte, a goth rock band that has been notoriously touring the world since 1996.

Opal accomplished the majority of the wedding planning while Tony was on the road. He returned to Charlottesville two weeks before the big day. “He would call and tell me what city he was in and how the [Bella Morte] show was and I would tell him about our wedding plans,” said Opal. The wedding guest list, as one might imagine, was heavily tattooed. All Tony’s bandmates attended in addition to Opal’s arm wrestling peers. “It was exactly what we wanted,” she said.

Although both Tony and Opal describe their relationship as too natural and inevitable to have turning points, Tony vividly remembers two significant eras in their friendship. Years ago when he worked in the underground club of Tokyo Rose, Opal was the only nonemployee allowed to join him behind the bar. “She had a stool [beside me] so we could make fun of bad bands together,” said Tony.

Then about five years ago as they were walking across Rio Road, a van crossed the median and hit Opal, fracturing her pelvis and her shoulder. Tony rode in the ambulance with her, but he wasn’t allowed in the emergency room. When he could finally see her, the first thing she said to him was, “I’m so glad you didn’t get hit.” “I was floored by that,” said Tony.

He slept beside her bed, cleaned her wounds, and made sure she got to her doctors’ appointments until she recovered from the accident. No one was surprised when the two finally got engaged, least of all their friends and family, who unanimously responded, “It’s about time.” As Tony says of his marriage to his best friend, “There was no other direction to go in than where we are now.”