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Passing acquaintances no longer

TAMPA — Ed Duarte and Adrienne Garcia had only a passing acquaintance as students at Jefferson High, Class of 1965. That is to say, they might have nodded when passing each other in the hallways. • Still, "everybody knew everybody in the Latin community," says Garcia. "Even if you didn't have any classes together." • Eddie the "band nerd" and Adrienne the "math geek" reacquainted at their 40th reunion four years ago. Gradually, they realized, the more they reminisced about the past, the more they were planning their future. • "We feel so blessed to find each other at this point in our lives," she said.

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In 1965, the Sound of Music ruled the box office; the Beatles and Elvis Presley topped the charts. In Tampa Heights, Jefferson High seniors ate burgers at the Dragonette and flocked to the Letter Carriers Hall to dance to local stars, the Rockers.

While Duarte played trumpet in the Fighting Dragon band, 5-foot-tall Garcia was the "Gidget" of the class, bouncing between student government, Civinettes and National Honor Society. Named "Most Representative" in the class, she represents these days as a Ybor City Museum Society board member and as past-president of the University of Florida Alumni Association and Planned Parenthood of West Central Florida.

"Adrienne was in all the advanced classes,'' teases Duarte. He, on the other hand, enrolled in barber school while still attending Jefferson, planning to work his way through college cutting hair.

Things didn't quite work out that way. "I started out at St. Petersburg College and haven't finished yet,'' he jokes.

By his early 20s, he was running his own barbershop, the Roman Room on N Nebraska Avenue near Fowler Avenue.

Garcia, now 61, earned a bachelor's degree at the University of South Florida, then a master's and doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Florida. Since her first marriage ended in divorce in 1981, Garcia has directed funding and development for the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute and Tampa Bay History Center.

In 2002, she became executive director of the Hillsborough Community College Foundation.

Duarte, 62, works at Carrollwood Barber Shop on Lake Carroll Way and Hair Sensations on Kennedy Boulevard. Ever the entrepreneur, Duarte said he has sold wholesale hair products, jewelry, real estate, mortgages and landscaping. He bought, renovated, rented and sold houses over the years. Like Garcia, he is divorced.

It was a customer, Shirley Arcuri, wife of their classmate Joe Arcuri, who thought he and Garcia made a good match.

"Every time I cut her hair, she would say, 'Did you call her?' '' Duarte said. She would ask the same when she saw Garcia.

They both thought of Shirley as they found their name tags at the reunion at the Sheraton Sand Key in July 2005.

They connected that night, chatting about mutual friends, past and present, from growing up in Ybor City and West Tampa.

"Our reunions are almost like a family gathering,'' he said.

Duarte asked for Garcia's phone number. "Ask Shirley," she said.

Soon they were dating like high school sweethearts, dancing to the "oldies," joining classmates for coffee at La Tropicana and drinks at Iavarone's.

"Eventually I noticed Ed would start his sentences with 'When we get married' and 'After we're married,' " Garcia said.

"Finally I realized that was his way of asking me to marry him."

Fellow UF grad Chief Judge Manuel Menendez first appeared in an orange and blue Gator bathrobe to officiate Aug. 23 at her South Tampa condo. Then the prank-player changed into his judicial robe for the ceremony witnessed by Duarte's son, Jon, daughter Jenae and son-in-law Ken Newton and grandson, James, plus the bride's parents, Mary and Mario Garcia. Later, 65 others joined them for a luncheon at the Westin Tampa Bay.

The newlyweds are keeping a lid on their honeymoon, only revealing they plan to visit Spain in the fall.

"We have to keep that quiet,'' Duarte says with a smile, "because everybody wants to come with us."

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

Passing acquaintances no longer 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:35am]
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