NEW TAMPA — Some women write books about disastrous dates. Some hex their ex in stand-up comedy. Nancy Wall uses her insights in a matchmaking business she started after meeting Jerry Wishik at a dreaded singles party. She claims 10 marriages among her clients — including her own.
Wall tried every which way to get out of going to the annual singles Hanukkah party. But her friend accepted no excuses.
She kept repeating my own advice, says Wall. "Go, go. You never know who could be there."
Wall, divorced three years at the time, was taking a break from Internet and speed dating or networking nights.
"I had a great life, great career, great kids," said Wall. "I didn't need to be defined by a relationship."
Wishik was on the other end of the learning curve. The December 2004 holiday gathering was his first — and as it turns out, his last — stroll onto the singles scene.
"I was ready to leave within 10 minutes,'' he said. "But then they started cooking the latkes so I sat down."
Near the exit.
Praying for more people to come.
"The crowd could only improve," said Wishik, 56, an internist who was separated after more than 20 years of marriage. His life revolved around his children and his Brandon walk-in clinic. .
And then Wall arrived, he said, "wearing a sexy leopard jacket." She noted the newcomer as well.
"People form an impression in 15 seconds,'' said Wall, 46.
How does she know that? Assessing strengths and motivating changes is Wall's job as an IBM career development trainer. She holds a master's of business administration and a doctorate in adult education.
Wishik called a few days later, on his way to buy a TV for his daughter. Would she like to come shopping with him?
"So our first date was walking around Circuit City,'' she said. Wall said she observed his methodical research, so different than her impulsive buying method.
Over the next five years, the couple juggled work, parenting and homeowner chores. She continued living in Hunter's Green and he in Temple Terrace as his divorce was finalized. Coordinating the schedules of two busy adults and five children — he has three; she has two — was an unending challenge.
"We share a deep appreciation for each other's time,'' Wishik said.
Something else he admired about his girlfriend: her relationship radar.
"Nancy has passion for those married and between marriages,'' he said. One of Wall's favorite hobbies, "fixing up" friends, inspired her to start the Tampa Jewish Singles Parent Network in 2002, which offered legal and financial advice.
By 2006, she was a certified life coach. A year later, she broadened her services to open Tampa Bay MatchMakers, certified by the Matchmaking Institute in New York.
On the fourth anniversary of their meeting, Wishik whisked Wall away to retrace their history, minus the Hanukkah party.
First stop: Circuit City. Then dinner at Capital Grille, then to the riverbank behind the performing arts center where the New York natives had enjoyed Broadway shows. Huddling under an umbrella, Wishik asked, "Would the girl from Flushing, Queens find it in her heart to marry the boy from the Bronx?"
Tears and raindrops glistened on her cheeks like the diamond on her finger.
• • •
Even for a master multitasker like Wall, planning back-to-back bat mitzvah and wedding celebrations was ambitious. But the idea of a double celebration made so much sense for out-of-town friends and family, upon approval from 12-year-old Lauren Wall, of course.
"No one is more capable than Nancy," Wishik said, "but it got pretty crazy."
May 1 belonged to Lauren, who helped lead religious services at Temple Ohev Shalom in Tampa Palms, followed by lunch and dancing all afternoon.
A few hours later, the families regrouped for an Italian-themed wedding rehearsal dinner. Sunday morning, the bridal party rehearsed at Saddlebrook Resort, ate lunch and returned for the ceremony at sunset.
The next day, the exhausted newlyweds flew to Paris.
"We slept through the first 24 hours of our honeymoon,'' Wishik said.
Heart Beat is a summer series that features recent intriguing stories of love and marriage. Amy Scherzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 226-3332.