Minda and Eric Bittle
Minda and Eric Bittle met in their sophomore year Spanish class in room 86 (in the English building) and have now been married for 22 years. “We became best friends,” Minda explained. They hung out in the same friend group; Minda watched Eric play football every Friday and they would hang out with all of their friends at the Rusty’s on Milpas afterwards. They would go to all of the dances and games together, and the occasional Montecito party. However, Minda and Eric did not date until after their SBHS graduation in 1993. Minda explained that they kept in touch after high school and hung out when they could. “There were never any romantic feelings or anything like that!” Minda assured. But, during Fiesta of 1999 they were hanging out downtown and ran into Eric’s brother and as a joke Minda said to him, “One day I am going to marry your older brother.”
“We laughed and it was funny,” Minda explained, but, “The next morning Eric called me and we began talking more.” In November of 1999, they officially began dating, and 6 weeks later Minda and Eric got engaged. Minda said, “It was pretty much immediate for both of us that we liked each other so much as people, that once we realized that we liked each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, it was kind of just like, ‘Okay, wow, here we are. We’re, you know, mid- 20s. And what are we waiting for?’ Neither one of us thought we were going to find anyone better. He’s my best friend. I’m his best friend. We still see each other as teenagers and because that’s how we knew each other; I still get giddy when I get to see him.”
Minda and Eric are both fourth generation Dons and their two children, Charlie and Maria Bittle, are both Dons as well. “We have a common love of SBHS,” Minda explained, “He coaches football, and I go to every football game, and I sit in the stands, and I watch him coach. And you know, when Charlie was playing football, we were there…I love this school. I don’t think there’s a better place for our kids to go. When our kids were in 10th grade, I remember both of us saying, ‘Oh, who’s your Spanish class, because you’re gonna marry that person!’ You never know who you’ve met and what the future will be with them. Especially at SBHS, I think common ground being a Don is awesome. Being a Don is a really cool thing. There’s a lot of pride in it.”
Nina and Mark Unzueta
Nina and Mark Unzueta were officially introduced during an SBHS pep rally in 1991 and have been together ever since. In 1992, in Mark’s sophomore year and Nina’s junior year, Mark was spending the night at a friend’s house and he called her up on the phone (with the encouragement of his friend) and asked Nina to the homecoming dance of 1992. Nina said with a laugh, “I couldn’t resist Mark’s charm and we started dating!” Nina and Mark explained that they started their homecoming night at Nina’s family’s house where they exchanged the corsage and their families officially met, “My dad filmed the whole thing, which is hilarious,” Nina said. After this, they went out to dinner at Black Angus in Ventura with Nina’s best friend and her date, and then they went to the homecoming dance, which was held in the Santa Barbara City College cafeteria.
As they began dating, Nina would go to Mark’s varsity football games, “He would always know where I was in the crowd, I don’t know how,” and would often walk to lunch or skip class to get Tino’s or to hang out at Alice Keck park and look at the turtles. In Nina’s senior year and Mark’s junior year, they got pregnant with their daughter, who is now married to her high school sweetheart as well. Nine years after they met, Mark and Nina got married. Mark explained, “Nina wanted to get married in the year 2000.” 23 years later, Mark and Nina have been helping the SBHS football team ever since they moved back from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara in 2014. Mark is now a coach and Nina volunteers as a team coordinator and “team mom.” Mark and Nina both agreed that having met at SBHS has strengthened their relationship in a lot of ways because of the shared history and love for Santa Barbara High School.
Image Credit: Minda Bittle and Nina Unzueta