By Suzanne Fox Sevel
What makes for a great couple? Whether you found your first love in high school or met the love of your life when your eyes locked across a crowded room — love happens often when you least expect it. Magnificent marriages may not look the same, but they do have many things in common. In honor of Valentine’s Day this month, SpaceCoast Living takes a look at four amazing couples who share their stories about what it takes to make a marriage endure.
Dr. Robert Young and Laura Young have been married for 10 years, but have known each other for 20. They both went to high school at St. Edwards Episcopal Academy in Vero Beach. “Our first date was the Homecoming Dance. I was 16 and that day was his 17th birthday,” says Laura.
“There was something about her. She was intelligent and beautiful, inside and out,” says Robert. When trying to win her heart, he would sneak ice cream into her locker before first period in school. “He’s always been very romantic like that,” she says. “I knew pretty soon that he was ‘the one.’ He was smart, handsome and fun to be around,” says Laura.
The Youngs later attended college and graduate school at the University of Florida. She went to the Levin College of Law and he attended UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine. They married in 2005. Laura is now a real estate attorney for Dean Mead and Robert is a veterinarian at the Animal Medical Clinic in Melbourne.
The Importance of Family
The Youngs’ lives have changed significantly since those days in high school, though their love for one another has remained constant. Now as parents to Juliana, 6, and Embree, 4, their priorities are different. “Much of our social life is centered around our daughters. They are the greatest blessings in our lives,” says Laura. We’re always doing things with the family, running, playing outside or boating,” says Laura.
The secret to marital happiness, according to Robert, is “good communication, a shared faith, strong values and passion. Both of our parents are examples of what good marriages look like. My grandparents were married for over 60 years,” Robert says.
Laura and Robert are active in the community. Laura is on the board for Junior Achievement and volunteers for LEAD Brevard. Robert is a member of the Melbourne Rotary Club.
“Sometimes it seems like we met a lifetime ago back in high school, but it was really just a moment in time,” says Robert.
Love Keeps Getting Better
Barbara and Gordon met in a bowling alley in Grand Island, New York in November 1963. “Not that either of us were big bowlers at the time, but it was a small town and that was the only place to go,” explains Barbara. “We just clicked,” says Gordon of his interest in the stunning brunette. “We talked and played pool until late in the night,” she says.
Love Conquers All
Gordon had just retired from his Navy career as an aviation fuel expert after a severe injury to his legs changed his life drastically. Now a double amputee, he was not going to be defined by a disability. Instead, he relied on his strengths and knowledge of mechanics. He went on to study watchmaking and jewelry. Life got even better the day he met Barbara.
Barbara remembers being smitten by the blonde, blue-eyed Gordon. “He looked just like Paul Newman in those days,” she smiles. “He also had a really positive attitude which is hard not to love,” she smiles.
“One of our first dates was an auto show,” Gordon recalls. Gordon knew he wanted to marry Barbara early on. He pointed to a luxurious car on display. “That’s the kind of car we’ll have when we’re married,” he said confidently. As time went on, his prediction came true. They were engaged in February and married in October of 1965. He also opened a shop on Grand Island.
Sweetness Runs in the Family
The Bucknams moved to Indialantic in 1971. Barbara studied journalism at BCC (now Eastern Florida State College) and Rollins College and went to the Gemological Institute of America. She worked in the fine jewelry industry while Gordon continued as a watchmaker and jeweler. The Bucknams have two daughters, Michelle and Teri, and three grandchildren; all of who have remarkable careers, from a world-renowned sugar artist and chocolatier (Sidney) to an animation artist (A.J.) and a pastry chef (Jackie).
Together the Bucknams enjoy boating, traveling, going on cruises and remodeling their house. They’ve been around the world and especially loved Iceland, Australia, Italy and the Greek Islands. They cherish spending time with their family and making memories together.
Every day is an Adventure: Love in Bloom
Theresa and Kevin Riley, owners of Rockledge Gardens, have been married for 36 years. Rockledge Gardens is Brevard’s largest outdoor nursery and garden center.
High School Sweethearts
Theresa met Kevin when they were at Rockledge High School. Kevin’s beautiful smile and big bushy ‘70s hair caught Theresa’s attention. She convinced her dad, Harry Witte, the founder of Rockledge Gardens, to hire Kevin. Harry put the 11th grader to work pulling weeds.
“Kevin’s great personality and smile was a magnet to people. He loves life,” Theresa says.
“I was drawn to Theresa because she’s a natural and a free-spirit. Plus, she genuinely cares about people,” he says. “We had a double date once at the beach where we made sand sculptures out of ourselves,” she recalls.
Both attended college at Florida State University. His degree is in mass communications and her’s is in social work. They both minored in horticulture. They married the year they graduated in 1979.
Making Life Better with Plants
Today, the co-owners of Rockledge Gardens have three grown children and one grandchild. Recently, they added a hydroponic vegetable farm and a Farmers Market. All of their children have worked or still work in the business.
Theresa handles the farm and writes the weekly newsletter, while Kevin is in charge of financial management, garden displays and other creative projects. She’s the heart of the business and Kevin is a number cruncher and marketer. “We face challenges together. It helps that we communicate well and we respect one another’s opinions,” says Kevin.
What is their secret to a happy and lasting relationship? “Live every day to the fullest. Don’t take anything for granted. Be kind and have fun together. Take time to focus on a person’s strengths rather than their flaws,” Theresa says. “Do the dishes. That goes a long way,” Kevin adds with a smile.
A Whole Heap of Meant to Be’s
“We met across a crowded room in 1984,” says Debbie of her husband Rance. “I saw him and thought ‘Oh no, he’s going to be trouble,’” giggles Debbie. She was a chef for a tour catering company called Flying Saucers. Rance, an audio engineer working with Stevie Wonder in England, was captivated by the British beauty and was determined to befriend her.
“I was definitely interested in her. I lusted after her,” he smiles brightly.
Debbie finally agreed to go to dinner with him in Austria. He took her out for sushi, but she didn’t like raw fish. “Who eats sushi in Vienna?” she quipped. But later they had coffee and long conversations. “I still wasn’t convinced, but the next day, he came over with a picnic basket and invited me to the Alps. He won me over,” she says.
Just Meant To Be
“It was a coincidence that we met working in Europe and we both lived in Florida,” says Rance who is from Fort Worth, Texas while Debbie is from Cardiff, South Wales. This was one of many serendipitous moments. They had crossed paths at the same shows, in the same cities years before they actually met. “There were a whole heap of meant to be’s” Rance says.
Rance, who works with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as well as other artists, and who just won the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from Parnelli, married Debbie four years later.
Life’s Greatest Reward
When not on tour, Rance is the audio engineer for the King Center. Debbie, an entrepreneur (past owner of the Party Outlets chain,) is a realtor for Dale Sorenson Real Estate. They have one daughter, Corina, and one granddaughter, Olivia Jane. “Having our daughter has been life’s greatest reward,” says Rance.
“No matter what I’ve wanted to do, Rance encourages me and tells me I can succeed. He always believes in me. This, I treasure,” she smiles brightly.
“We don’t really argue. We are there for each other. We allow one another to be individuals,” Rance says. A nickname he had for her in the 80s, “Precious Petal,” is one he still uses today.
The two enjoy traveling and boating together. Both are actively involved in the community and Debbie is on the board of directors of the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, the British American Chamber of Commerce and Coastal Poodle Rescue.