41 years of happily ever after started with being a Coug pharmacist

Every February, it has become a tradition to feature a pharmacy couple who met during their time at the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. This year we share class of 1982 alumni’s Frank and Monica Cholaj’s love story.

Monica is a third generation WSU pharmacist. Her grandfather is Morris Edward Ewell, class of 1931, and her father is Edward Ewell, class of 1959. Frank and Monica have been donating to the Morris Edward Ewell Family Scholarship for years, and recently decided to establish a new Frank and Monica Cholaj Family Scholarship at the college in recognition of the outstanding education and experiences they had at WSU.

If you would like to donate to the college or start your own scholarship endowment, contact Kelly Sylvester for more information.

How did you meet?

We were classmates at the college beginning in the fall of 1978. While we met through mutual friends within the college who were roommates and friends on campus, we got to know each other even better initially in Doctor Gibson’s pharmacognosy class where we all had to sit alphabetically. It just so happened that the E’s (Ewell) sat directly behind the C’s (Cholaj) so of course the running joke was that Monica would always cheat off me, however, why were her grades always better? Why else would this beautiful and intelligent young woman want to hang out with this red-haired freckled kid from the West side? Over time our friendship blossomed spending time studying and having fun with our classmates and mutual friends.

What was your first date?

After numerous outings as friends at joint get togethers, Frank finally asked Monica to a weekend at Priest Lake. A beautiful winter get away whereby Frank did his best to win Monica’s love with an exciting snow mobile ride. Unfortunately, Frank failed to navigate going over a berm correctly rolling the snowmobile back over Monica (she was okay) and it was love at “first accident.”

Monica and Frank Cholaj on their wedding day on August 28, 1982. The two were married in Spokane at the First Presbyterian Church.

When did you know you wanted to spend your life together?

For Frank it was the culmination of many great times together, sharing numerous varied experiences and a deeply growing friendship that “sealed the deal” when I asked her to marry me over the 1981 Christmas holiday. Fortunately, the most beautiful and smartest woman I had ever met said yes. Monica shared that I made her laugh and was fun to be around and that she knew I had potential!

How long have you been married and what is your secret to making it work?

This August it will be our 42nd wedding anniversary. We believe that showing mutual respect and openly sharing and supporting our goals, dreams, aspirations and interests (and differences) and working on them together were the foundation of our relationship. Overall, laughing a lot and always being there for each other during good times and challenging ones has been essential and key to our success.

We are incredibly blessed with two wonderful daughters (Natalie, a CPA/Controller and UW grad, and Alicia, an HR/sales executive, and 4th generation Coug grad), Ted, a terrific son-in-law, and an amazing soon to be a year-old grandson, Harrison.

Frank and Monica Cholaj hold up the WSU flag in Nice, France for the college’s 2017 wave the flag competition.

What is the best part of having a “pharmacy marriage”?

Being classmates and WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences grads has always provided numerous topics for us share and discuss. Having taken different career paths has also allowed both of us to benefit from understanding different types of potential job opportunities we may wish to pursue. Overall, we enjoyed our many friendships we developed and being able to connect with other grads at the many college and university sporting events over the years.

Now being retired, what are you most looking forward to?

Being retired has provided us greater opportunities to spend time with friends and family, especially with our kids and our grandson. We were always very fortunate to do a great deal of travel over the years and we have plans for much more in the future. We are grateful for the opportunities that the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has offered us and the many blessings we have appreciated over time.