RACINE, Wis. -- A rainy February day can't wipe the smile off of Cindi Franceschina's face. After all, she's got an important date.
"I post on Facebook every year our date, just because it's been a tradition for so long now," Cindi said.
Feb. 9, 1996. Cindi pulled into the McDonald's just off of Green Bay Road in Racine, Wisconsin to grab lunch, WDJT reported.
"It was Feb. 9, but it was 50 degrees. It was so gorgeous," Cindi recalled.
Usually one to use the drive-thru, Cindi says the line that day was exceptionally long. So, she decided to walk inside to order. So did the man who would eventually become her husband.
"It was different then," said Mark Franceschina, describing the McDonald's. "The counter was longer. There were more registers."
He recalled standing in line waiting to order food and looking to his right to see a beautiful young woman standing next to him.
"She said 'Hi' to me and she smiled and when she smiled, I was like 'Man, wow. She's beautiful,' Mark said, his wife blushing in the background. "I have to talk to her."
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Mark recalls picking up the food he ordered and walking outside to the parking lot around the same time as Cindi.
"She went out ahead of me. I walked across the parking lot and I stopped and looked back at her," Mark said. "She got to her car, stopped and turned back at me. I was like 'Well, it's a done deal. I have got to go after her now. I got to chase her down! Wherever she goes, I'm going to follow her. I don't care if she goes to Chicago, Milwaukee. Wherever she stops, I just have to stop and talk to her."
Mark ended up seeing Cindi parked at a nearby car wash enjoying her meal. She admits, she was a bit startled when he approached her.
"I get out of my car, and he is probably 25 feet away, parked, standing outside of his car and I was a little taken back because I had no idea. I hadn't seen him pull in," Cindi recalled. "I was like 'Oh my gosh, this guy. Serial killer? I don't know. His amazing line, first words ever spoken to me were 'Hi, remember me?'"
Cindi laughed at the memory, smiling at the randomness of it all. The two talked and Mark asked if she'd like to go out sometime. Cindi questioned if he was serious. Mark had no doubt.
"I said 'Well, this has never happened to me before,'" Cindi said. "He said 'Good, I've never done anything like this before.'"
"We exchanged numbers, and she called me that night," Mark laughed. "She couldn't wait."
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That brings us back to Feb. 9, 2023. A cold, rainy day in Racine, much different than the day the two met.
Cindi walked into the same McDonald's to meet her husband for a lunch date, their lunch date; one they've kept every year.
"Every year after that, we just never said anything to each other, we just always showed up, at noon, at this McDonald's," Cindi said. "There were years I was like "Oh, he better show up. If he forgets! But we never have. Without fail, we've both always showed up and had lunch without reminding each other of anything."
The dates have changed over the past 27 years. The couple got married and would sometimes bring their children along for the adventure. When the pandemic hit, and restaurant lobby's closed, they had to improvise.
"We went through the drive-thru and ate in our car," Cindi said. "It's just been really cool."
While their orders have changed over the years, the couple says their love for each other has not changed. In fact, it continues to grow stronger.
"We have more fun all the time," Mark said. "The older we get, the more we laugh, the more we have fun."
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On their 27th anniversary of meeting, McDonald's had a "fun" surprise for the couple. The corporation had 27 roses sent to the location at Green Bay Road, and Steren Management, the owners of the location, decorated a table for the couple with red table cloth, sweet treats, and covered the couple's meal.
The grateful couple hopes their tale can inspire others not to give up on love.
"Commitment works. Relationships work if you work at it," Mark said. "If you put effort into it and choose to make it work."
"Most of our friends are like 'Wow. That's a pretty cool story, met at McDonald's," Cindi laughed. "Some people swipe right. We just went to get fast food."
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