By: Suzanne Fox Sevel
Happy couples can be drawn together by fate, friendship, a car ride, a glance across a crowded dance floor, or because each one thought the other was cute. Whether it is love at first sight or a friendship that blossoms into something more, great couples have more than one thing in common. SpaceCoast Living takes a look at five captivating couples with unique stories about what makes for a lasting relationship.
And while this month, couples all over the country are celebrating a day devoted to heart-shaped chocolates, cards, candles and commercial bliss, we are spotlighting couples whose extraordinary love for each other is both heartwarming and refreshing.
King of Hearts: Dr. Maxwell & Doris King
As a philanthropist, educator, visionary, founder and past president of the former Brevard Community College and founder/namesake of The King Center for the Performing Arts, Dr. King has changed the lives of millions of people over the years, but his own life changed the day he met his wife, Doris.
After fulfilling his ROTC requirement in the army as a second lieutenant in Fort Hood, Texas, a young Maxwell King first met the love of his life, Doris Warren at a big dance at the officer’s club. “She was on a blind date with another fellow,” Max says. “I lured her away for a dance,” he remembers of the beautiful and smart redhead, a Baylor-Hardin University graduate who worked at the blood bank.
“He talked the whole time we danced about his family. I was touched because family was very important to him as it was important to me,” Doris explains. Shortly after meeting the handsome officer, they dated and eventually married in 1953. Today, the Kings have five children, 12 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. They enjoy taking walks together, going to shows, traveling, staying active in the community through charitable work, and watching “NCIS.”
It’s no secret that common values of family, education, the community and public service are top priorities for the Kings. At the the Rockledge Club, where Maxwell still plays golf, the two joke together exuding a unique camaraderie that belies having spent more than six decades together.
“Times have changed, but we took our marriage vows seriously,” Doris says. “We have a good life together.” As a family they have traveled the world including Europe, China, the Yangtze River, Luxembourg, the Northern Coast of South America, and more. And while some of their adventure travel may have slowed down somewhat in recent years, it is their family time that they cherish these days. “Our children, their children, they all have great senses of humor,” Doris says. Gatherings with the King family (siblings, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc.) are such fun. There’s always a lot of laughter.”
Light Up my Life: Phil & Jocelyn
What’s their secret to success in marriage and in business?
“We met in college,” Phil Bronson says of how he first met Jocelyn while attending Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
“He was sitting in a car full of girls and he asked me out.” Jocelyn says. “He took me to the Sandbar. He wanted to show me the governor’s mansion. We got stuck in the governor’s driveway!” Jocelyn recalls, laughing. “And then there was the time he ran over my foot with his T-Bird.”
“It was a test,” Phil retorts with a grin.
“He was in a fraternity and a lot of fun,” Jocelyn admits.
Fifty years, two children (Craig and Paige), five grand-children and a knee operation later, they still know how to make each
Phil and Jocelyn married in 1963 and moved to Alaska where Phil was an intelligence officer for the Air Force. In Alaska, they both acquired a thirst for adventure and learned how to snow ski and fly planes. After moving to Brevard in 1969, they started the House of Lights and Home Accents, the area’s premiere supplier of lighting, ceiling fans and home décor. Jocelyn manages the artistic end of the business while Phil handles the financial end.
The Bronsons work together every day and go to lunch together every day (where they rarely talk about work.) They spend their free time traveling, boating and visiting the Florida Keys where they have a condo. “We enjoy each other. We swim, play, ski, dive and visit the grandchildren. We are extremely compatible,” Jocelyn says.
“If you can pass anything down to your children and your grandchildren, it is a strong set of values and integrity. If your children grow up with those, you’ve done pretty well,” Phil says.
Love at First Sight: Deborah & Dave Tomczak
Happily married for 35 years, Dave and Deborah Tomczak have a remarkable, sustaining and successful relationship that all started with a phone number on a cocktail napkin. Now with two grown daughters, Nicole and Jessica, and two grandchildren, that initial spark – as well as the original cocktail napkin – is still there.
The couple met in Leesburg, where both their families were located. “I thought she was gorgeous and couldn’t believe she hadn’t been snatched up already. I knew I’d have to go above and beyond to wow her,” Dave says.
“He really wined and dined me,” after giving him her phone number that night, Deborah says. Until she graduated, he’d drive to Gainesville every weekend while she attended the University of Florida and Dave was in Leesburg earning his PGA Tour card credentials. “It was love at first sight. I knew he was ‘the one,’” Deborah says. Early on in the relationship, they knew they shared common beliefs and an appreciation for family.
Dave, general manager of the Duran Golf Club and one of the Duda’s first golf course developers, and Deborah, a former advertising executive and now a multimillion-dollar producing realtor at Viera Realty, both relocated to Brevard from Orlando in 2005.
They both credit their strong marriage to their shared Catholic faith, love of family and belief in giving back to the community. Both are busy professionals and members of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. They support one another’s careers and charitable interests.
“We enjoy spending time together,” Deborah says. “We love traveling as well as staying here in Melbourne. We go to the beach, art shows, dinners out and we visit friends and family. We make time for things we share even if it’s just staying in for pizza night.”
“She is one of the most loving and giving people I’ve ever met,” Dave emphasizes. “She’s always making sure everyone is taken care of. Plus she’s cute!”
“He’s my rock. He’s patient and a good listener,” Deborah says.
Big Fish, Li’l Fish: Robin & Rhoda Fisher
Robin Fisher, Brevard County commissioner for District 1 and State Farm Agency owner, was a defensive lineman for the Florida Gators when he first met Rhoda, who was attending Rollins College and dating a college baseball player at the time.
They initially met at the ABC Revolving Bar and became fast friends. Rhoda admits that they didn’t start dating one another until years later, but they kept in touch and spoke often. Eventually that friendship grew into something more. Robin was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1982 and played linebacker for the Arizona Wranglers and Chicago Blitz of the United States Football League before starting his insurance and political career.
“I thought she was very cute. I’m lucky,” Robin says proudly. “What I love about her is her heart; it’s as good as gold. She’s the kindest person I know. She always has my back.”
“He was a big guy,” Rhoda says of her first impression. “He’s always been a true friend; generous and caring. He loves my two families (Filipino and American). We laugh at each other’s jokes.”
Together the Fishers have raised two children, Cary and Cory. They devote much of their free time to volunteering. They’re big supporters of the Titusville community, the YMCA, Junior Achievement and were nominated for Citizens of the Year.
Rhoda plays tennis and helps organize fundraising events such as the YMCA golf and tennis tournaments and family socials. The Fisher family has spent time traveling to Vienna, Germany, Monte Carlo, London and the Canadian Rockies, but one of their favorite places to visit is their cabin by Lake Lure in North Carolina. “We’re always creating family memories there,” Rhoda says.
From Melbourne to Melbourne, with Love: Sasha and Russell
Sasha and Russell Morrison have been married for 16 years, but they actually met two years before their first conversation. It was a typical Australian love story: Boy sells snowboard. Girl works in used ski equipment store. Girl is intrigued by boy’s quirky ad for the snowboard (gently used by a little old lady going to church.) The boy, Russell, sporting closely cropped bleach punk hair, drives across town and becomes smitten by the cute girl at the shop. Phone numbers are exchanged; the two start dating and realize they are practically neighbors. Thus began their romance.
The first time Sasha visited Russell’s apartment, she noticed a photograph he had snapped of her sitting on the ski lift with a girl friend two years earlier. “Hey, that’s me,” she said of a random photo of smiling faces at a ski resort. It seems that the two were destined to meet, just not at that time.
Now two children and two continents later, this Melbourne, Australian couple who happen to live in Melbourne, Florida, have what it takes to make a happy marriage. “It can be humbling when things don’t go the way you planned. During those times, I try to recreate the joy in my heart I felt on my wedding day,” explains Russell, a photogrammetric engineer for Geodetic Systems.
“Acknowledge the other person’s differences but retain your individuality. And hug often,” emphasizes Sasha, who spends her time raising their children, Ignatius and Imelia and volunteering at Indian Harbour Montessori.
The Morrisons firmly believe in traditions and a shared faith that comes from being Russian Orthodox, a Christian religion that is steeped in traditions and symbolism. Ever the sports family, they enjoy doing activities together such as sailing, kayaking, snow skiing, snowboarding, swimming and skateboarding.
“I’m trying to build happy childhood memories for our children,” says Russell.
They travel, read and listen to music and when schedules permit, try to get back to Australia each year to visit family, friends and extended family. “I still have that snowboard Russell sold me,” Sasha beams. “And we still have the original photo of me on that first ski lift in Australia.”