Sunday, June 17, 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
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

With over 40 years between the birth of my two daughters, I am two different fathers

Still shaken by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination six days earlier, I sat in the hospital waiting room mindlessly thumbing through a May 1968 Rolling Stone while my wife, Fran, gave birth to our daughter Elle. As was customary, when everyone had been fre...
Published: 06/15/18
Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

Puerto Vallarta is a dreamy Mexican getaway within reach

LOREN ELLIOTT • Times CorrespondentPUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICOThe third-floor balcony attached to our rented apartment served as a peaceful refuge above Puerto Vallarta’s bustling central district streets. Below us, taxis honked, people crowded bus ...
Published: 06/15/18
How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

How Tampa's Cole and Marmalade got famous, beat cancer and helped save more cats

Here's how to make your cat famous on the internet, according to the owners of some famous felines.
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

A gliding, wraith-like figure of a Dementor from the Harry Potter films enters Central Park, and the exteriors of the surrounding buildings immediately are covered in a layer of ice, a sign of their power to drain happiness out of the air around them...
Published: 06/14/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Frito and Cheeto: How rescued seahorses found webcam fame

Smile for the camera, Frito. The world is watching, and you have a story to tell. The tiny seahorse came to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Sunday with fishing line wrapped around her neck. By Wednesday, she became the CMA’s newest internet ...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
He loves his Dad Shoes ... in all their lame, comfortable glory

He loves his Dad Shoes ... in all their lame, comfortable glory

Think of your father, and the first pair of shoes that come to mind. Grass-stained golf cleats. Crusty old mudders on the deck. Fraying, decaying Birkenstocks. Burgundy leather loafers, the slip-on kind, softened and flattened by the weight of so ma...
Published: 06/13/18