Michael Hoogasian

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Mike and Sandy Hoogasian, 27 and 31, 'a perfect love'

They met at Wal-Mart in Seekonk nine years ago. Mike Hoogasian was a gregarious young man with a big smile and easygoing way that earned him the nickname "The Mayor" from his family. He was a merchandiser for Coca-Cola and was at Wal-Mart to stock the shelves with soda.

As always, he said hello to everyone, but the shy and beautiful girl working behind the optometry counter caught his eye. He was 23. She was 19.

"The day he met her, he was like a little schoolboy," said Mike's best friend, Derek N. Knight, of Exeter. "He knew he had found the perfect woman. He sounded like he won the lottery."

Sandy Leocadio didn't say much to Mike, but she left a note on his Coca-Cola car saying she thought he was nice.

"She was quiet and young and drop-dead gorgeous," said Paula A. McLaughlin, Mike's sister, who would later be Sandy's maid of honor. "She came from a strict Portuguese family."

But Sandy also had a tattoo on her arm, a love of heavy-metal music, and a gift for fashion that fueled her professional aspirations.

Sandy had always been trendy. As a girl, she'd slip out of her home in conservative clothes and change into her own stylish creations once she was out of view.

Sandy became a visual merchandiser for Cherry & Webb, and eventually The Gap. When The Gap's fashion sense didn't suit her, Sandy altered it, like the time she slit the legs of her Gap jeans, filled the opening with red material and wore them to a Gap corporate meeting.

McLaughlin said Sandy was "head over heels" for Mike. Their interests were identical. Like her, Mike loved tattoos and '80s metal music. He freely admitted his musical preferences were stuck in a time warp.

Their wedding in 2001 was unforgettable, just the way Sandy wanted it.

Sandy unleashed all of her fashion and creative skills on her wedding. She designed her own dress, a tea-stained gown with a long train. She carried an old bible and a rosary instead of flowers. She designed the jewelry worn by Mike and the wedding party. She also designed her bridesmaids' dresses, which were made of an iridescent bronze raincoat material and topped with jean coats.

The reception took place at the Great Hall, the former Central Congregational Church in Fall River, where Lizzie Borden once attended church and where Aerosmith taped a video -- facts that delighted both Sandy and Mike.

"She wanted her wedding to become famous," McLaughlin said.

Sandy, who still carried photos of her nuptials, hoped to be a wedding planner someday.

Nine years after they met, they often held hands and Sandy still sat on Mike's lap. The couple were inseparable.

The evening of Feb. 20 was shaping up to be a wonderful night, combining everything the couple loved: tattoos, rock 'n' roll, and each other.

At 6 p.m., they dipped into their "tattoo fund" and went to a Warwick shop to get flames etched into Mike's upper arm. It was his birthday gift. He had about nine tattoos, including a profile of Sandy.

At the tattoo parlor, Doors of Perception, they met Jack Russell, the lead singer of Great White who was also getting a tattoo. Mike was flabbergasted to meet one of his teen idols. He called his sister and two close friends from his cell phone.

"He sounded like he was 12 years old," Knight said.

Mike knew all of Great White's songs, even the obscure ones. Russell was impressed, and he put Mike and Sandy's names on the VIP list to his show that night.

McLaughlin said she's grateful they died together.

"We picture them together, like a bright light," she said. "Together forever. A perfect love."

-- Cathleen F. Crowley

source Providence Journal


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