Advertisement
  1. Kids & Family

From This Day: 14-year engagement worth the wait

Ken Harfenist and Suzanne Scott’s 14-year engagement happily ended when they wed Dec. 27, 2014, at Avila Golf and Country Club. A health care lawyer, Ken made his case for marriage patiently to Suzanne, a director of volunteer resources, never doubting their time would come.
Published Feb. 13, 2015

TAMPA — Any marriage counselor would opine: Only fools rush in. Take your time, get to know each other.

Still, Ken Harfenist and Suzanne Scott's engagement seemed like a stretch.

On Dec. 27, 2014, the newly wedded couple shared their first dance to Etta James' iconic At Last, with more than a subtle hint of humor. "I love Suzanne dearly and I knew it would work out eventually," said Ken, who proposed on Valentine's Day 2001.

That first dance, like all great performances, was the culmination of lots of solid practice — nearly 14 years as partners. They also had to learn to go with the flow and take their cues from the audience.

Neither seemed to be in search of a dance partner at their introduction. Ken had a date at his side when they met at a hospital Christmas party in December 1999 in Westchester County, New York. Suzanne oversaw the hospital's volunteer program and Ken, a graduate of Stetson University College of Law, acted as hospital counsel.

But a month later, Ken arrived early — and solo — looking for Suzanne at a hospital board member's 80th birthday party. During dinner, their table companions covertly switched seats so they could sit together.

"He was very friendly," Suzanne said, "but I really didn't expect to hear from him."

His impeccable timing the following night still delights her.

"I was on the phone with a guy and he was telling me that he was going back to his ex-girlfriend when call-waiting clicked," she said. "It was Ken asking me to dinner."

Soon, not only their professional lives but their off-duty interests intersected: golf, exercise, travel and love of their dogs. His beagle, Spike, liked to bury Suzanne's things, including her cellphone, and Molly, her Pekingese, followed Ken everywhere.

A decade passed, and more. The couple took no timeouts, never sought "more space," didn't break up and make up.

Nor did they make it official.

"My divorce was still new and my two kids were teenagers when I met Ken," said Suzanne, now 61. "My daughter especially had a hard time."

Ken remained patient.

"I knew that any man Suzanne saw would be in the same position," said Ken, now 72.

Ken shortened his commute, moving to Suzanne's neighborhood in Westchester. They visited her parents in Cape Cod, found Venice utterly romantic and celebrated the weddings of three of their (combined) six children.

In 2007, a major career opportunity brought Ken to join a Tampa law firm. Suzanne arrived two months later, and they shopped for a home, eventually settling into Avila. She is now director of volunteer resources for Morton Plant Mease Hospitals in the BayCare Health System. Ken now represents health care providers at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt.

Ken said his stepdaughter's choice to attend Syracuse University, his alma mater, warmed their relationship. With that college bond, and time, came love and acceptance, he said.

Suzanne's son, Avery, walked the bride down the aisle at the Avila Golf and Country Club. Her daughter Samantha, the maid of honor, turned into an invaluable wedding planner, "helping with everything from finding my dress to flowers and menu for 80 guests," Suzanne said.

Ken's son, Chris, was the best man; grandson Ryan, 5, made an adorable ring bearer. Molly, the 16-year-old Pekingese, nearly stole the show as the "flower dog" in red leash and floral lei.

Readings by Ken's three oldest grandchildren included the lyrics to Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are.

Contact Amy Scherzer at ascherzer@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3332.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. To celebrate the 20th year of Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens is bringing back icons, the characters that matched the theming of each event. That includes, from left, Dr. Livingsdoom, the event's first icon in 2000 who was in the Haunted Jungle Trail, Death Jockey, Trickster, Voodoo Queen and the Butcher. Howl-O-Scream opens Friday. Busch Gardens
    Halloween Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream, Disney’s Not-So-Scary, Scream-A-Geddon and more: A complete guide to spooky fun.
  2. Epcot's IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, a nighttime fireworks production, has been around for 20 years. Walt Disney World
    The nighttime production will be replaced by a new show called Epcot Forever.
  3. A Zombie Bride is one of the characters found in one of Busch Gardens' open-air scare zones at Howl-O-Scream, which opens for its 20th year on Friday.
    Free Museum Day is coming, Howl-O-Scream opens at Busch Gardens, Billy Ray Cyrus plays for the Bucs Beach Bash and Tho Who will be at Amalie Arena.
  4. Tampa theme park Busch Gardens has announced a new hybrid wooden and steel coaster coming in 2020: Iron Gwazi. At more than 200 feet tall, the under-construction ride will become North America's tallest hybrid coaster, and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The parks revealed a slate of new attractions aimed to steady the company’s future.
  5. "Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle," the new light projection show at Universal Orlando, will open this weekend, running on select nights through Nov. 15. Universal Orlando
    Death Eaters, Voldemort and other creepy creatures from the world of Harry Potter star in the nighttime display.
  6. Actors emerge from a simulated farmhouse at the center of the Infected haunted house at Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City in 2015. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can also catch a talk from Dick Vitale at St. Petersburg theater the Palladium.
  7. Art lovers and musicians take their time strumming and strolling on the sidewalk for St. Petersburg's Second Saturday ArtWalk in 2014. Tampa Bay Times
    What else? Cars & Cigars at 81Bay Brewing Co., a showcase of toy trains in Brooksville and ‘Saving Claire’ at the Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center.
  8. From left: Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter, Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors and Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." 20th Century Fox
    The popular ‘Last Podcast on the Left’ and Barry Bostwick from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ are new to A Nightmare on Franklin Street.
  9. A vignette featuring actors that guests will encounter inside the Ghostbusters haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights 2019. ROBERTO GONZALEZ  |  Courtesy of Universal Orlando
    Wait times can get long at Halloween Horror Nights. Here’s how to skip, maximize and prioritize your line time at Universal Studios Orlando’s annual Halloween attraction.
  10. In this June 23 photo, Lizzo arrives at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The rapper will take the stage at Yuengling Center in Tampa on Tuesday. RICHARD SHOTWELL  |  Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
    Lizzo continues her rein over 2019 with a Tampa concert, and the Lightning Fan Fest fuels Bolts fever.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement