By Suzanne Fox Sevel
First crush to old flame, friendship to fix up, people meet their mates in a variety of ways. But it takes a special pair to see a quality marriage endure over time and through obstacles. In honor of the month devoted to love, chocolates and hearts, SpaceCoast Living takes a look at five remarkable couples who share their unique and heartfelt stories.
A Lifetime of Splendid Sunsets
Drs. Saatiah Jaffry & Farhan Zaidi, 12 years
Dr. Saatiah Jaffry, a nephrologist, with offices in Sebastian and Melbourne, and Dr. Farhan Zaidi, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the B.A.C.K Center in Melbourne, have been happily married for 12 years. Both are originally from Pakistan and theirs is the successful result of parental matchmaking. “It is kind of unusual how we met. Our moms knew each other and they arranged for us to meet during residency. I had just graduated from medical school in Pakistan and was at the University of Connecticut,” she said. Farhan had graduated from SUNY Health Science Center in New York and was doing an internship in internal medicine at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.
In their culture, it is very common for parents to be involved in the marital choices of their children. For Saatiah and Farhan, this wasn’t their first time being set up, but it was the one that felt right from the start.
“My first thought was that he’s really good looking,” she smiled, “When we started talking, he also had a great sense of humor. He was fun and extremely caring,” she said.
“I could see that she was very beautiful. I liked how we got along so well. She was open to talking to me about her plans and hopes. We had similar beliefs about life,” he added.
During their engagement year, Farhan commuted three hours each way to see Saatiah. While she was working on her fellowship in nephrology at the University of Massachusetts in Worchester, he completed his residency at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.
Today they have a son, Faizan who is 9 and a daughter Alina, 6. They moved from New York to Indian Harbor Beach to be closer to his parents.
With children in school, busy practices and volunteer work, both have to juggle their schedules to make time for each other.
“We want to show our children the world, teach them right from wrong and raise them to be good examples of our culture,” Saatiah says. “When you marry in our faith, it is an alliance of families and a lifetime commitment. If there’s a difficulty, you work at it. We’re a team; that’s what makes our bond so strong,” Farhan says.
Living & Loving a Royal Life
Joyce & Herman Cole, 48 Years
Herman Cole, Col. USAF, Ret., and his wife, Joyce Spear, met during a Civil Rights march while they were both attending Tuskegee University. “It was during the mid-‘60s and we were involved in voter registration and racial equality,” she said. “It was the flavor of university life then.”
“She started dating my best friend,” he joked.
“Actually we became very good friends,” Joyce said. “But I fell in love with Herman. One of our first dates was at a college dance. That’s when I noticed Herman had two left feet,” she joked. “His best friend became my dance partner.”
“For me, it was love at first sight,” Herman said. “I looked at her and I was in love!” They discovered they were born on the same day –– January 22, a year apart.
“When he proposed, he said ‘You are my princess and I’m going to make you my queen. I want to show you the world,’” she said.
Now 48 years, two children and five grandchildren later, she looks at their lives together, “I really have lived the life of a queen,” she said. “We’ve been blessed. We lived in England, Japan, Saudi Arabia, California, Georgia, Florida, Ohio… all over the world,” the retired school teacher said.
After they married, both attended graduate school. Herman served in the Air Force and got his master’s degree in architecture and she received her graduate degree in guidance counseling. When their oldest Herman Alexander Cole Jr. III, (Alex), was just 8 months old, Herman went to Vietnam for a year. Their second son, Aaron Christopher (Chris), was born five years later during Herman’s second tour of England. Herman’s distinguished military career included many moves with Joyce teaching school. After a 26-year career in the Air Force, Herman retired and became the director of facility management and a visiting professor of engineering at the University of Dayton, in Ohio. The family settled in Titusville in 1998.
Now both Joyce and Herman are technically retired, but busier than ever with all their volunteer efforts. Herman is currently the chairman of the board at Parrish Medical Center and the Titusville YMCA and Joyce is a member of the Women’s Center, among numerous other nonprofit organizations.
“Marriage is like the seasons. Sometimes we share the warmth of love, other times, love may have a chill in the air, but the real joy springs forth when we see the beauty and feel the love in this partnership called marriage,” Joyce said.
Following Your Heart
William & Pat Chivers, 36 years
William and Pat Chivers first met as toddlers. He was 4 and she was 2. Both parents attended church at Frontenac Baptist at that time. But it wasn’t until high school that William and Pat got to know each other. “I felt lucky she agreed to go out with me; I was sort of a band nerd,” he quips. “She was kind, nice and hilarious. I knew I wanted to spend a lot of time laughing with her. Our first date was a Cocoa High football game,” he said. “That was 40 years ago.”
“We felt like we matched right from the beginning. We just followed our hearts and everything has been good,” explained Pat. “We started dating when I was 15 and he was 17. He taught me to drive,” Pat smiles. Three and a half years later, they were married. “We’ve never had a serious fight or raised our voices at each other,” said William.
William, president of RUSH Construction Inc., a general contractor for the aerospace, defense and healthcare industries, and Pat, an office manager for Gregory Daniel Portrait Artist, have a daughter Mandy, a son-in-law John and two grandchildren, Rylie, 7 and Connor, 6. They’ve been married for 36 years and before William’s foot injury, they were avid ballroom dancers and he appeared in Dancing with Brevard.
“My advice for a long and happy marriage? Faith, family and friends. Look for models of good marriages; see it lived out. Be a positive example to your children,” said William.
“Life has gotten so busy for us with its fast pace, but we always make time for just the two of us,” said William, who volunteers for the Titusville YMCA, Career Source Brevard, and the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. “We love our community and we’ll do whatever we can to make it a better place.”
Back when they were newlyweds, while talking to a couple who had been married over 50 years, the older woman whispered to Pat, “Always butter his bread,” as if conveying the secret to marital bliss. And though Pat and William laughed at the time, this little tradition has endured over the years. A small act of kindness, as simple as buttering your spouse’s bread, spreads a lifetime of good feelings.
The Love Boat
Philip & Molly Smith, 20 years
In the mid ‘90s, the new casino manager for the Big Red Boat cruise lines, Philip Smith, was surprised after his first day on the job that there was a phone message in his hotel room. He had just moved from Scotland and didn’t know anyone. After a round of phone tag, he discovered it was from someone named Molly, a woman who worked in the ship’s sales office.
“When I met him, I just knew,” says Molly Conaway-Smith. “There was something charismatic about his handshake,” said Molly. “Right after meeting him, I ran up and told my girlfriends ‘I just met the man I’m going to marry!’” she recalled.
“No pressure on my part,” Philip joked. “There was something about her. She was bubbly, confident and easy to talk to.”
Both Philip and Molly worked for the same cruise company; she was a sales executive in the office and he a casino manager on the ship. This meant that Philip was often on the ship for days, so their schedules didn’t leave much time for dating. “We used to plan for breakfast dates on Thursdays and Sundays at Perkins,” she said smiling.
“But we really got to know each other during a trip I won to St. Petersburg,” Molly recalled. Over a weekend, the two spent time getting to know one another, talking about their hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes. A year later, they were married at the Strawberry Mansion/Beaujeans.
Today, Molly and Philip are the successful owners of Spa 902, a boutique spa in downtown Melbourne (and also Ocean Reef Spa at the Crown Plaza hotel). They also help busy people plan vacations and cruises. “We decided to put our cruise experience to work to help people find the best vacation deals out there.”
They make plans to spend time together around their hectic schedules, even if it means celebrating New Year’s Eve at 4 a.m. and watching the sunrise.
What Phil loves most about Molly is her humor and attitude. “She wakes up happy. Her cup is always half full. She has a positive spin on life. She tries to find laughter in everything,” Phil said.
“Our secret to success is respect and communication. We don’t have drama. We live in the moment; if there is an issue, we talk it out,” Molly assures.
Good Times: 50 years & Still Singing
George & Louise Goff, 50 years
“I met her the day before Valentine’s Day,” said George. He and his buddy had stopped by Louise’s apartment to talk to her roommate. “I had a boyfriend, actually a fiancé,” Louise said. “I was surprised when George called the next day and asked me out,” she said. “I thought, ‘This guy’s crazy, I just met him.’ But my boyfriend hadn’t called, and it was Valentine’s Day,” she says. “So I told George, ‘Sure.’ A few hours later, this cute guy shows up at my door with a box of chocolates,” she said. And that was that.
Clearly George was smitten with the petite brunette beauty from Newnan, Georgia, who worked at the C&S Bank in Atlanta. George had a report date in two weeks to leave for basic Army training. “He came to visit me every night until he left. We got along great,” she recalled.
And thus began the whirlwind romance of Louise and George. By May of that same year, they were married. Now, 50 years later, the Goffs have three children: Katherine, Paige and Todd, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
After three years in the Army and one deployment in Korea, George took a position at up and coming computer giant, IBM. “I told them if you want me, you’ve got to hire her too,” he said. IBM hired Louise that same year. With George rising through the ranks at IBM, the Goffs moved around for promotions from Georgia, Mississippi and Connecticut to Virginia and North Carolina. Now that both are retired, the Goffs are traveling more and having fun. They moved from Atlanta to Indian Harbor Beach.
Their secret to a long and happy marriage? “You have to be attracted to each other. It’s give and take,” George said.
“After the honeymoon wears off, you’ve got to like the person, be best friends. We try to stay healthy, go to the gym. And we go out a lot,”
“We don’t even fight anymore. We’ve fought every fight there is,” George joked.
“This is paradise,” she said. In their free time, the Goffs love traveling to Europe and visiting their children and grandchildren. Louise and George enjoy gardening, shopping, hunting and singing karaoke.