Annice Miller Schear has spent most of her life in Ohio growing up in Cleveland, going to the University in Cincinnati, and working as a music teacher. But for five summers, from the time she was 14, she’d attended Kutz Camp in Warwick, N.Y.
Annice Schear and David Benamy
"They’d started up a teacher education program to train Jewish youth to be teachers in synagogues," Annice explains. "I was part of the group chosen to go there from Cleveland. It was an amazing place, all of us living in the same village, studying Judaism, and learning Hebrew, as well singing and dance leading." Although she had to wait until she was two years older to assist at her synagogue, Annice eventually taught music and singing there. "One reason I’m a certified music teacher today is because of Kutz Camp."
Sixteen-year-old David Benamy was also involved in his Teaneck temple youth group and attended the camp. His cabin sat directly across from Annice’s.
"I met him that first week," Annice says, "and I think I fell in love with him right then and there. Even though at that age, I knew nothing about boys, I realized somehow that he was the one."
She and David "camp dated" for a week, but it soon got too intense, and they wisely eased back. Still, a strong bond had been formed. They exchanged phone numbers at the end of summer and kept in touch. During her four subsequent stays at the camp, David would drive up to visit friends and usually saw Annice. But it wasn’t until her last year there, when she was on staff, that he decided to pursue the relationship.
"He’d come up more often," Annice recalls, "and once we were both in college he’d been attending Rutgers when I started at the University of Cincinnati we even flew out to see each other. When it got financially impractical, we’d break up, but always ended up back together."
In 1985, while David was in Ohio to attend her senior sorority formal, Annice told him she was planning to move to New Jersey after graduation.
"I didn’t want her to come there just for me," David explains. "I wanted her to have and chase her own dreams, not be limited to just following me."
So Annice stayed in Ohio, pursuing a career in Jewish education. When she became engaged to another man, David, who was then in law school, remained stoic. "I figured if we were meant to be, it would have happened." Annice, on the other hand, was waiting for David to come forward and declare himself. He didn’t, and so she married and had a daughter, Ilana.
Ten years ago, David married and also had a daughter, Sarah. He had practiced law for a time, and then worked for his ex-wife’s father. (He is currently doing customer support for a medical billing software company.) He and Annice had always remained close by phone, and he’d even performed magic at Ilana’s first birthday party. But it wasn’t until ‘005 Annice had been divorced in ‘001, and David was separated and living with his father in Teaneck that they actually reconnected in person.
"Back in July 1977, when David and I were on a camp day trip to the city," she says, "he helped me pick out my first tallis in a small Judaica shop. When it was time for my daughter’s bat mitzvah, I wanted to take her shopping in New York and also take her to that same store."
David suggested they stay with him and agreed to pick them up.
"We fell in love all over again at Newark airport," Annice says with a throb in her voice, then laughs. "I cried so much my daughter was totally embarrassed." Two days later at a friend’s home, David introduced Annice as "his next wife." Annice quietly reminded him he was still married, but was secretly thrilled.
After his divorce was final earlier this year, he officially asked her to marry him and move to New Jersey. Annice finally had her wish.
The couple will be wed in July at Kutz Camp the day after their 30th camp reunion. "The ceremony will be right between our two cabins," Annice explains.
"It’s all worked out for us," David adds. "Plus our daughters get along very well."
"It’s like a fairy tale," she says. "I’m still on Cloud Nine."
David smiles. "All I’ve ever wanted was for Annice to be happy."