Saturday, April 21, 2018
Features and More

Couple find faith in each other, and something bigger

TAMPA

The first time Janice and Jerry got married, it happened it in their back yard. She sang him the song Time After Time. They picked a Unitarian minister.

Janice had always celebrated Jewish holidays, but she felt a little disconnected from her faith. Jerry was Catholic once, but he stopped believing when he was 13. Religion didn't factor into that wedding in 1984. What did factor was their connection, fiery and palpable from the start.

Janice was 30 when they met a few years earlier. She was twice-divorced with a young child, intent on shucking the disappointment and gloom of her failed marriages. She decided to go to a New Year's Eve party. She wore a white pantsuit and navy blouse. She was beautiful, with a young face and salt and pepper hair, elegance in a room of raggedy sweaters and jeans.

Jerry noticed her immediately and felt breathless. He was 24 with a broken pickup truck and one pair of gym shoes to his name. But he was undeniably cute. At midnight, every unattached woman in the place lined up to give Jerry a kiss.

Janice got in line.

"Couldn't I have one of those?" she asked.

They moved in together, got married and had a baby. Jerry stayed home with the kids while Janice visited Israel with her parents. She experienced the reverence there, the people of faith speaking Hebrew, the deference to the Sabbath so strong even city buses stopped running. It was hard to explain the shift she felt. But she wanted more.

"We have to check out the synagogue," she told Jerry back home.

Jerry was always a scholar, a history buff, a big reader. The idea of learning about the Jewish faith in a synagogue was interesting, and he wanted his wife to be happy. The family started going. They joined their last names and became Jerry Nepon-Sixt and Janice Nepon-Sixt.

They raised their kids in the Jewish faith. Jerry taught Jewish Sunday school for seven years. In 1990, the family moved from Iowa to Tampa and found a young, growing temple in Congregation Beth Am. They felt a click there, and they gave much of their time.

Jerry was so committed, some people at the temple didn't know he wasn't really Jewish. His rabbi did, though. He told Jerry that once he was truly Jewish, he would just know. He would feel it. He wouldn't have to think about it. Things happened as the rabbi said. Someone on an airplane asked Jerry if he was Jewish. He said yes.

He began the official process. He went through the required steps, the classes, the training, the dedications. This year, he converted.

"Now you can be married under the chuppah," he told his wife.

Janice started planning. She arranged the band, the caterer, the clothes. They took the required marriage counseling from their rabbi. How would they be different the day after their wedding, the rabbi asked. They were 60 and 55 now. How would they improve on the 28 years they had already had?

On Aug. 12, they signed the ketubah. They walked down the aisle at Congregation Beth Am together. She circled him three times, he circled her three times, and they circled once together. Janice and Jerry drank from the same cup of wine. They exchanged bands. They received seven blessings, and Jerry broke a glass under his foot.

After the ceremony, Jerry stared at Janice. They felt the same but different, and they gripped each other. When they emerged for the reception, the band leader introduced them by their Hebrew names.

Jerry and Janice danced to Time After Time.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.

Comments
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18
In Bhutan, gross national happiness more important than GDP

In Bhutan, gross national happiness more important than GDP

Associated PressLAYA, BhutanPrayer flags whip in the wind, flying across steep valleys and roads. Buddhist temples, stupa shrines and majestic fortresses called zhongs dot the landscape. Giant water-powered prayer wheels spin from tumbling falls. Far...
Published: 04/20/18
The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Florida Orchestra puts another exclamation point on its 50th season with Verdi’s Requiem, this weekend’s concert series, a major presentation of an iconic work. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem debuted in 1874 but took on a new layer of signif...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

ORLANDO — When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened 20 years ago, it was light on thrills and heavy on conservation. On April 22, 1998, Earth Day, the Orlando park had a single thrill ride, Countdown to Extinction, and a handful of shows like ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
On 4/20, a Tampa distillery is releasing hemp-infused Touch Vodka

On 4/20, a Tampa distillery is releasing hemp-infused Touch Vodka

TAMPA — Appropriately enough, a local distillery is releasing a hemp vodka on Friday, 4/20.After more than a year of planning and research, Fat Dog Spirits — the parent company of Touch Vodka — is releasing its new Nirvana vodka.Served in 750-millile...
Published: 04/19/18
Graze all day at Armature Works

Graze all day at Armature Works

TAMPA HEIGHTS— Graze 1910 upholds the comfortable and relaxing, yet elegant setting of Armature Works with its "comfort food" offerings and dedication to serving breakfast all day."It’s the way I eat. I graze all day," said owner Raymond "Ray" Menend...
Published: 04/19/18
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18
Persall: Upon retirement, a look back at a star-quality career

Persall: Upon retirement, a look back at a star-quality career

Do you see what I did there? The comma and extra "E" in my byline? One last pun, just for fun. It’s the end, fin in French, and something unfortunately ruder in Swedish. Time to retire, nearly 25 years to the day after starting work as the T...
Published: 04/19/18
Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

ST. PETERSBURG — In the coming season, Freefall Theatre is rolling out a world premiere, a different take on Christmas, a sharp comedy and a recent work by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage. The theme for the 2018-2019 season, "A Brighter Tomorrow," color...
Published: 04/19/18
Bar review: London Heights British Pub in Tampa

Bar review: London Heights British Pub in Tampa

As a person who has no intention of ever going into the bar business, I spend a good amount of time thinking about what makes bar concepts work. I think about themes, branding, menus, location and myriad other factors that ultimately play into a bar’...
Published: 04/19/18