A Life of Service

By Debbie Lagestee     •     Photos by Megan Ann Images

First dates. Those two little words can bring a flood of emotions. Amazing first dates become the last first date which can lead to finding a soul mate and a life of happiness. Then there are horrible first dates that can’t end soon enough. Their only longevity is the number of times the story is told about how bad the date was. Evan and Melaina Murray had the “best worst first date ever,” as Melaina recalls. They met in 2013 through Tinder, the dating app. They were both admittedly apprehensive about the process. It was a terrible first date, filled with awkwardness. Rather than throw in the towel and move on, Melaina gave Evan another chance, “He made up for the awkwardness because he was funny.” Evan must’ve gotten it right from that point because they dated for 5 years before they married in October 2018 at the Daniel Island Club.

Photo by Philip Casey Photo

Melaina is a South Carolina native. Her family has resided in Berkeley and Charleston counties dating back to the late 1700s. She graduated from Hanahan High School in 2013. While in high school, she traveled several times internationally, visiting England on 4 occasions, Wales, France, Greece, and Turkey. She attended the College of Charleston on a full scholarship all 4 years, where she received a B.S. in International Business and double minors in European Studies and German. Melaina’s travels abroad as a high school student were her inspiration in choosing her major. She returned to Europe during college to explore Germany and the Czech Republic. Since 2018, she has worked with a defense contract business development consulting firm as the Strategizer Bunny. She manages the proposal division and marketing team. Additionally, she works hand-in-hand with the account managers and company executives to ensure optimal return on investment for their clients.

Evan was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. While exploring options for college, he thought he wanted to attend the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY, until he saw a flier for the Citadel. It was a decision-changing moment for him. Evan followed his heart and moved to Charleston to attend the Citadel. He graduated from the Citadel (Sierra Company). He was commissioned as an Artillery Officer in 2014, where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, NC, and the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea. Evan completed his service commitment in 2020 and joined Melaina’s grandmother, Sally Castengera, as a Realtor at Daniel Island Real Estate. She was the first Realtor on the island 25 years ago. Evan welcomed the opportunity to learn from her experience.

Military members make a valiant choice to serve their country. With that choice, their family members make sacrifices along the way. Evan and Melaina experienced this in May 2019. They were living in Fort Sill, OK, where Evan was stationed. The Army gave Evan a choice to remain in Fort Sill for another 2 years or go to South Korea for 18 months. Neither Evan nor Melaina wanted to stay in OK. Yet, Melaina’s career path was better suited for her to remain stateside. Together they made the difficult decision, Evan would go to South Korea, and Melaina would move back to Charleston to be closer to family. Neither could’ve predicted a pandemic would strike, and they would only see each other once while he was in South Korea. Talking on the phone and FaceTime was a struggle with a 13-hour time difference. They bought their home in Bolton’s Landing during the second development phase. Melaina specifically chose the neighborhood based on living in West Ashley for years during her college days. She enjoys the close proximity to shopping. Evan finally joined Melaina in their home in October 2020. They love the liveliness of the neighborhood with kids playing outside in the yard, people walking, and kind neighbors always willing to help others, especially with pet-sitting.

Evan and Melaina welcomed their precious baby girl, Sterling Wyndham, into their family on February 21, 2022. Melaina and Sterling both have middle names derived from their maternal great-grandmother’s maiden name. Sterling was born 5 weeks premature, but she is excelling despite her small size. Her favorite game is fetch the pacifier, and she has mastered the technique. Melaina says, “I enjoy more than ever that we are close to family. My grandma lives only 8 minutes away, providing our infant daughter the best daycare experience possible.” Evan and Melaina love being new parents and are excited to see which activities she will show an interest in when she gets older. The Murrays have two 8-year-old domestic shorthair cats named Niko and Cleo. Melaina and Evan initially fostered them but failed and adopted them.

Evan and Melaina’s dedication to service did not end when Evan completed his time with the Army. They now focus their service efforts on the local community. Evan is a new member ambassador for the Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce. He was invited to this position due to his affiliation with the Citadel. In addition, he was recently voted in as the Fundraising Chair for the Rotary Club of Daniel Island. As the Fundraising Chair, he will assume the role of ‘Head Duck’ (person in charge) for the Annual Charleston Duck Race, which raises an average of $200k for 5 local charities every year. It’s a fantastic race with 30,000 rubber ducks tossed into the Wando River. Evan is also involved in the Community Service committee for the Cainhoy region, which delivers meals to underserved families for Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and throughout the summer for kids who depend on school meals. Both Evan and Melaina are members of the Preservation Society of Charleston. Melaina is very passionate about preserving her hometown and spreading awareness of preservation efforts throughout the Charleston metro area. She works with the Board of Architectural Review to maintain the city’s historical character. Furthermore, through her position at work, Melaina is in charge of choosing local charities to donate a percentage of their revenue.

Each year Melaina and Evan take a vacation to a new destination. They are not ones to revisit the same place multiple times, except for the Outer Banks, where they spend time with Evan’s family annually. They honeymooned in St. Lucia, traveled to Aruba and Orlando, and visited several historical cities along the east coast. Europe tops their list of places to see. Melaina one day hopes to show Evan the places she’s been and to tour new cities together. For now, little Sterling is a bit of a homebody, so their trip overseas will have to wait a little longer. They live life by the philosophy of the Expedia commercial, “Will we regret the things we didn’t buy or the places we didn’t go?”

Melaina and Evan have learned that not everything in life comes instantly. Their first date was not what either of them hoped it would be, but with a second chance, it was everything they had hoped for. Years later, as they wait for the golden opportunity to travel the world, they will savor their time at home with their baby girl and continue serving the community they dearly love!

This article was featured in the September 2022 issue of Carolina Bay Neighbors magazine.


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