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Go-getters meet their match online

Obstetrician-gynecologist Suzanne Roberts married Stetson law student Sterling Clemons.

Photo from Phillip Lloyd

Obstetrician-gynecologist Suzanne Roberts married Stetson law student Sterling Clemons.

PALMA CEIA

Dr. Suzanne Roberts clicked on yet another Match.com profile: Sterling Clemons. Financial analyst. Corporate strategist. Skydiver? Pictures showed him parachuting in business clothes. Happy Man Looking for a Happy Woman!, read his tagline. He looks like fun, Suzy thought, wondering if this guy would be another letdown. She promised herself this was the last of her online manhunts. Meanwhile in Atlanta, Sterling went on the Web site for the first time since he had signed up three months earlier. Someone named Suzy had just responded to his profile, and he was intrigued.

• • •

There wasn't much time for dating when Suzy attended Johns Hopkins University, and even less in medical school at the University of Cincinnati and during a four-year obstetrics and gynecology residency at the university hospital.

Socializing was a bit easier after she joined a Tampa practice in 1999. She dated a golfer, a pharmaceutical rep, a teacher and a sportswriter, among others, men she met online and on blind dates.

No one proved to be the partner the dynamic doctor sought. Thinking Orlando might offer more possibilities, Suzy joined a busy medical group in Kissimmee, near her parents' home in Orlando.

"I loved it, but I had no life," she said, recalling delivering about 100 babies a month, "plus being on call every third night and every third weekend at three hospitals."

When the noncompete restriction in her Tampa contract expired, Suzy bought a home in Palma Ceia and became the sixth partner in Carrollwood OB/GYN. She was smart, sexy, successful. Where was her counterpart? She submitted her last online profile.

"I changed most of my search criteria, got very specific" — love me, love my dog stuff, she says — "and widened my range to within 500 miles of Tampa," she said. "And Sterling popped up."

Bachelor's degree from Morehouse College; master's degree in business economics from Georgia State. Loves northern Italian food, Louis Armstrong's version of 'Honeysuckle Rose' and wants to learn salsa dancing. Ideal mate would be a savvy, soulful, reflective, organized nonconformist. A well-read person who devours knowledge as if it were a homemade Sunday dinner.

Sterling ended a promising career on Wall Street and a long live-in relationship in New York in 2003.

He moved back to Georgia — "New York wasn't big enough for both of us,'' he says — and worked for the Invesco global mutual fund, analyzing mergers and acquisitions.

He had neither the time nor inclination to date for many months.

At his colleagues' recommendation, Sterling crafted his wish list for Match.com and uploaded pictures from a skydiving foray with his ski club. Then he forgot about it.

Three months later, in July 2005, when the renewal bill arrived, Sterling returned to the site for the first time. Suzy had just messaged him.

His reply launched an exchange of e-mails and eventually phone numbers. By September, Sterling was on a plane to Tampa. Their first weekend together was everything they longed for.

"We went to dinner at SideBerns and everyone else just disappeared," he said. "I only saw her."

"We barely touched the food,'' she added. "When he left on Sunday, we knew."

The couple, both now 38, nurtured the relationship, flying between Tampa and Atlanta every other week for nearly two years. They spoke daily, which wasn't always easy because he refused to own a cell phone.

"We fell asleep talking on the phone most nights," he said.

On a visit to Atlanta in the spring of 2007, Sterling took Suzy ring shopping.

"I thought we were just looking,'' she said, "so I screamed when he put down a deposit."

Sterling never mentioned the ring again, even as he enrolled in Stetson University law school and moved into an apartment in St. Petersburg that summer. He expects to specialize in estate planning with an investment component.

Just before classes started, they squeezed in a getaway to Montego Bay. Diamond shopping was the last thing Suzy expected to do in Jamaica, but there was Sterling bargaining with the jeweler, checking prices on his laptop, asking about having money wired.

"I was like, Hey, what happened to my setting?" she said. Don't worry about it was all he said.

Sterling revealed the ruse at dinner that night, slipping the ring they had selected months before onto her finger and telling her how much she meant to him. Suzy erupted in tears and kisses.

Dr. Roberts and lawyer-to-be Clemons married May 31 at the Marriott Waterside and honeymooned for two weeks in Italy.

Search complete.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at scherzer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3332.

Go-getters meet their match online 08/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:08pm]
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