Happily ever after isn’t just for fairy tales. Just ask these Space Coast couples who’ve shared decades of love and togetherness long after they first said, “I do.”
Dr. Cedric and Katia Chenet
Childhood friendship grows into a lifetime commitment
They’ve known each other almost all their lives
“My first memories of Cedric are him playing with my brothers, they were best friends. He would come to our house and borrow my bike to ride with my brothers.”
“We were ‘friends without benefits,’ ”says Cedric. “We were always really good friends. I think that’s part of the reason our marriage has been so successful.”
Until they left Haiti to attend college “we would all go out together as a group of friends, but it was always supervised, it was a very different world,” says Katia.
The couple began dating while in college, Cedric in Virginia and Katie in Mexico.
“It was a little awkward at first, bringing up the idea of dating her with her brother who had been my best friend for so long. But he was all for it. He said we had so much in common, dating her made sense.”
“We had a long distance relationship for three years,” says Katia. Cedric joined the Air Force in 1982 and two years later they married. “We were in South Carolina when we married, away from our families. I think that strengthened our relationship right from the beginning. We learned to be our own family.”
Katia, who studied to be an architect/urban planner, relinquished her plans for a career to support Cedric’s. The Air Force sent him all over the world while she raised their three sons. His last post at Patrick Air Force Base led the couple to settle in the Viera/Suntree area. “Katia supported me through it all. It was tough at times but you do what you have to do.” Throughout the years there have been challenges. Hurricane Andrew took their Homestead, FL home in 1992 and eleven days after the couple signed a contract to build Cedric’s Viera office, terrorists attacked the United States and Cedric’s retirement from the military was postponed for a year.
“I couldn’t have done this without her,” he says of launching his dental practice. “She is so detail oriented and I’m notoriously unorganized. She helped design the building, she manages my staff and is my patient advocate.”
What makes their marriage a success?
“We have similar backgrounds and similar values, not to mention we share so many of the same experiences,” says Katia. “My grandmother told me once, if you want to be happy, marry someone who is like you.” Cedric adds, “you need to be both friends and lovers. We have discussions, not fights, The last time we drove to North Carolina, a ten hour trip, we never once turned on the radio, we talked the whole time. You don’t always have to see things the same way, but you have to be accepting of how the other person feels.”
Married 26 years
Jeff and Katie Shuman
A vacation romance grows into something more
Traveling to Mexico on vacation with a girlfriend, Katie Shuman first spotted the man who would become her husband. “I thought what a cute, all American looking guy. And I thought his friend would be perfect for my friend.” When all four ended up at the same resort, their friends immediately got together. “Three months later they kind of fizzled out,” says Katie. “But they did walk down the aisle together as attendants at our wedding.”
After surreptitiously arranging to sit next to her on their flight back to California, Jeff proceeded to court Katie. “He remembered all of the things we talked about, all of the things I said I liked to do.”
Thirteen months after their dream wedding at the exclusive Hotel Bel-Air, daughter Amanda Kate (Kate), was born. Jeff had just been transferred to New York while Katie went from working as an occupational therapist to being a stay at-home mom.
“We were reduced to one income and as a seventh generation Californian leaving my lifelong home,” says Katie “it was quite a culture shock.”
Three and half years later they moved again, this time to Atlanta with Kate and 3 week old Ashley. Then it was back to California before the family settled in Maryland, where their children grew up. “This was the 22nd time Jeff had moved in his life,” says Katie. “We made the decision to stay there for the children. We made some sacrifices to they could grow up in Maryland and graduate from high school.”
Before they married, Jeff and Katie discussed many aspects of their future.
“When we got married we knew it was for life, we knew we were going to make this work,” says Katie, who was raised Catholic but agreed with Jeff their children would be raised in the Jewish faith. “When I spoke with my father about it,” says Katie, “he told me, as long as God is there, that’s all that matters.”
“Our faith is very important to both of us,” says Jeff. “ We agreed our children should be exposed to many religions.” At Ashley’s bat mitzvah, Katie’s conversion to Judaism was also celebrated.
About their move to Brevard County in 2005 says Jeff, who is a senior vice president at Harris Corporation, “we’ve been welcomed here. Coming here was tough, being here is easy.”
From the earliest days of their relationship “we’ve been each other’s best friend,” says Jeff. “We would move to a place where we didn’t know anyone, but we’ve always had each other. Katie’s support has played a wonderful role in my career. This really is a partnership.”
“We balance each other,” says Katie. “ I fall in love with him again and again; just when I think I can’t love him any more than I already do, I fall in love with him even more.”
Married 27 years
Mike and Suzanne McBride
“Trust, respect and fun…it’s got to be fun.”
They’ve been together for three decades, during which time Mike and Suzanne McBride have worked together at four different places including their current partnership in McBride Marketing Group. “We work hard and play hard,” says Mike while Suzanne adds “but we leave work at work. When we walk in the door at home, work is behind us.”
Mike may be the boss at work, but Suzanne rules the roost at home. The parents of two daughters, Suzanne makes sure she leaves work to be home when Lyndsey comes home from Satellite High School (daughter Kaleigh is a junior at the University of Florida). “I had the best mother in the world until Suzanne became a mother,” says Mike. “Our girls are pure gold today because of her.” Suzanne maintains “motherhood made me a better person, because it made everything less about me and all about them.”
Mike says “I know I’m lucky to have her; she is a genuinely good person. Suzanne has inner strength and character that has always wowed me, especially when times were tough.” When Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 Mike used the couple’s connections in the medical community to “navigate the best path toward her recovery.” “He followed my lead on what I needed,” says Suzanne who made a full recovery.” “You have to make every second together count,” says Mike, “whether it’s sweating over yard work or wakeboarding or helping a community cause.”
The couple, both graduates of FSU, share many interests. “We love a lot of the same things,” says Mike, “but we love the ways we are different too. We have never said anything to hurt one another – not in the heat of the moment, not ever.” “You’re going to have your ups and downs, but there always needs to be respect,” says Suzanne, who admits to “compromising on the little things. I think that’s why a lot of relationships today don’t work, there’s no compromise.”
Mike admits “we’re not perfect people, but we’re perfect for each other. Ninety-nine percent of the time we made all the right moves. Couples tend to get complacent once the honeymoon is over. Fortunately I expect our honeymoon to go on for another thirty years. Then we’ll see.”
Married 31 years
Nelson and Karen Green
After all these years they still hold hands
When Karen and Nelson married more than three decades ago she became an instant mom. Nelson’s youngest son Zack was four, Josh was five and Chris was eight. “They were very accepting of me,” says Karen, “they made it easy.”
The couple moved to the Space Coast from Georgia in 1979 and opened their Flooring America store during what Nelson calls, “an economic downturn. At first
our motivation was to keep the store open so we could put food on the table. Later it became about leaving a legacy.”
Sinking every penny they had into the business, “I look back on it now and it almost doesn’t seem real,” says Karen. “When we first opened the store we were working 60 hours a week, if we didn’t work together we never would have seen each other.”
Working together, “we did different things, so during the day we weren’t stepping on each other’s toes,” says Nelson. “It was great to have her around to get her advice on things, and when we went home at the end of the day we had something to talk about.”
“Even though we didn’t have a lot of money back then, we could always go to the beach and sit on the pier,” Karen recalls. “Our first house didn’t have air conditioning so we would go to the movies to cool off. It makes you appreciate what you have later on in life.”
When she first met Nelson, “I thought he was the funniest man I’d ever met, and I also thought he was pretty cute. Every year it’s gotten easier and easier for us to be together. We’re both very much the optimists and have always had a similar outlook on life.”
“I’m a lucky man,” says Nelson. “I married my best friend. You have to marry someone who makes you laugh, who supports what you do and always has your back. I’m still crazy about her.”
Their dream of leaving a legacy was fulfilled when Zack and Chris joined the family business. Karen has retired and stays busy being grandmother to her seven grandchildren. “I still get excited when Nelson comes home. We try and have lunch together every day. I always know when he leaves the store he’s coming straight home to me.”