I was recently asked to write down my thoughts on how local Sanford couples have made their relationships work. It made me reflect on my own marriage of 26 years, 4 months, 13 days, and some hours to my husband, Brian. Initial conclusion: I really have no clue. We dated for over 4 years, so that means he’s put up with me for about 30 trips around the sun. We’ve been through everything from me managing to lock both sets of keys in the car on a camping trip where we were miles from nowhere to the Valentine’s Day he came home with no gift.
Seriously, no gift on Valentine’s Day from the guy who painted me a watercolor Winnie-the-Pooh the first year we were together when he was a poor college student. I like getting stuff, no matter what it is. He thinks we have too much stuff. And he thinks about important things way more than I do, like where the car keys are at all times. Opposites can’t attract that much. Perhaps he just really fell for the person he thought would annoy him the most for the rest of his life.
With sincere curiosity and a great excuse to pry the relationships of others, I set out ask a few questions to get some answers from four very lovely couples here in Sanford.
Tom Abbott and Leon Konieczny were long time Lake Mary residents who decided to design and build a house in the Sanford Historic District. You read that correctly. They built a house together and they are still together. Intriguing, isn’t it? The way they met eight years ago is also intriguing. Online. They chatted for a while and Tom came over and, according to Leon, they’ve been chatting for real ever since. And dining out-they love to visit Sanford’s great restaurants. They also love riding bikes around Sanford-to all our great restaurants. They especially love to promote Sanford-while eating at Sanford’s best restaurants.
Married in a quiet ceremony two years ago, Tom and Leon are among the most compatible couples I’ve ever met. They’ve quickly become a beloved pair in Sanford and enjoy attending nearly every event our small town has to offer. They also enjoy their home filled with Tom’s artwork and in the kitchen, Leon’s famous pierogis. But even these two don’t always agree. There was the matter of the tiled kitchen backsplash Leon felt unnecessary when they were building their house and the bar stools Tom thought would clutter the space around the kitchen island. “We had to figure those things out, “said Tom, “but we just get along and it’s easy.”
And rest assured, their house has both a beautiful backsplash and bar stools Leon moves out of the way so Tom can vacuum.
I asked Tom what he thought the secret to a good relationship is and he said he needed a day to think about it. It’s been more than 48 hours and I’m still waiting.
I recently had the pleasure of spending the evening with Lisa and Johnny Holder. Lisa is the City of Sanford’s Communications Officer and Johnny is an instructor and mentor at Full Sail University. They are both busy with their jobs, but find as much time to spend together as possible. They married almost three years ago in Sanford’s Touhy Park after meeting through match.com in 2013. Yes, another success for the internet. Johnny had not filled in all of the questions the service had asked, but Lisa liked his picture and they agreed to meet and got along really well. They were both devoted single parents, not really expecting to find their perfect “match.” In fact, Johnny had never tried an online dating service before. Their upbringing was similar, both in small towns in New York. Though Lisa is Jewish and Johnny Catholic, they found their faith foundation was something they had in common.
They did, however, discover a couple of differences early in their relationship on a trip for the wedding of Lisa’s brother. “We were going across this bridge and I looked over and the gas gauge was on empty,” says Lisa. Johnny insisted he knew how far his car could go on empty, but this bridge was the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which soars 430 feet into the air at its highest and spans a little over 4 miles over Tampa Bay. According to Lisa, it has no convenient gas stations on the end where they exited. Johnny broke in and said, “She’s the one who recharges her phone when it’s still at 98%.” Johnny likes to be a little more on the edge.
When Lisa stayed by Johnny’s side during a serious health scare, he knew he’d found the right lady. “It didn’t scare her away,” laughed Johnny. It wasn’t that he needed someone to take care of him, but having her close by during a crisis pretty much sealed the deal for Johnny. As we talked, their kindness and compassion for everyone was obvious as was the joy in their voices when they spoke about each other. When I asked them what they thought makes relationships work, they both agreed – it takes work. Maybe so, but the Holders sure make it look easy.
Anne McNamara and Brad Plummer knew each other long before they became a couple. In 1994 Brad owned a landscaping business and was a bartender at a Lake Mary establishment where Anne and her then-husband frequented. Anne divorced and a few years later ran into Brad again. This time, he was in the mortgage business and bartending at another restaurant. He passed Anne a note with his phone number, not wanting to appear too forward. Anne’s just not the kind of girl to call a fella, so a few weeks went by. She and her daughter, Katie, were in the restaurant again and Brad inquired why Anne had not called him. Katie immediately picked up a cocktail napkin and wrote down her mom’s phone number.
Yep, Katie did it. And thirteen years later, Brad and Anne are the proprietors of one of Sanford’s hottest restaurants, The District Eatery, Tap & Barrel located on West 2nd Street. They worked together with local artisans, creating a restaurant which showcases the existing architecture of Sanford’s Historic District. “We were kind of looking at this old house in the District,” said Anne. But there was also a great place to open a restaurant which was a long-time dream of Brad’s. Instead of buying the house, they spent many months renovating a space to accommodate the perfect gathering spot. Anne had the vision and Brad made it happen. Of course, it required a lot of elbow grease from both of them, but their relationship stays strong. Their secret to a long-term relationship is easy. They just get along.
Even though they might have different ideas, Brad says they’ve had very few disagreements over the years. He never had children of his own and considers himself so fortunate to have Anne’s son and daughter in his life. Her son is Chef Extraordinaire at The District and Brad recently walked Katie down the aisle at her wedding to another local restaurateur, Paul Williams. The grandchildren are a delight to everyone.
On a side note, that old house they didn’t buy is where Brian and I now live. And it’s within easy walking distance to see Brad and Anne at their restaurant.
The fourth couple who graciously agreed to speak to me about their story was Steve and Margie Chusmir. Their relationship is over thirty years strong. Steve sums up their success succinctly, as is his way: “You just have to love each other.” Steve always says just the right thing.
In 1984, Margie was working in the little crafting shop she owned in Ft. Lauderdale when Steve, a police officer at the time, walked in and asked if she had been the one who called about a recent theft. She took one look at him and said that it was not her but if she’d known he would respond, she would have. Everyone in the store turned and stared as Steve left. He returned later in the day to ask her out. They agreed on a date. Steve came in a few days before and hand painted a mug to show her his “crafty” side. Margie acknowledges she was impressed, but the mug was really ugly (It has since gone missing, but I’d really love to see it). Steve had dated quite a bit and admits he would sometimes run into others he had asked out previously when in Margie’s company. Steve once had to “hide behind his napkin” in a restaurant because he’d dated one of the waitresses.
Awkward moments aside, Steve and Margie married in 1986 and chose to make Sanford their home twenty years ago. They enjoy the community and have become very involved in seeing it grow. Margie and Steve work diligently with local organization showcasing Sanford. They share a love of preservation and often tour other cities to see what makes them successful. While Steve doesn’t go into as much detail as Margie when it comes to decorating and antiques, he enjoys looking.
And he tells her how beautiful she is every single day.
My quest is over for now and I have gained some wonderful insights into love and relationships. Making a relationship work has no clear rules from what I’ve gleaned, so now I don’t feel so overwhelmed. Maybe Brian and I aren’t that opposite. I mean, the very year after not getting me a gift, we adopted a dog on Valentine’s Day which may get him off the hook for the next century. Maybe it takes thinking of “we” a lot more than thinking of “me.”
Or maybe it’s like comedian George Burns once said:
“Love is like a backache. You can’t see it on x-ray, but you know it’s there.”