Sharing The Spotlight
Posted on May 29, 2006
Six notable local couples share what keeps their marriages strong
Sharon Ito, “News10 Good Morning” anchor, and George Warren, News10 reporter
News 10’s lovebirds tied the knot aboard the Tahoe Queen, a Lake Tahoe paddle-wheeler, on June 27, 1998. “I don’t know if it was just because we were older, but both Sharon and I felt like we didn’t want to get into this hysteria of wedding planning because we’ve seen how stressful it can be,” George says. Sharon recalls, “It was a beautiful sunset cruise on the lake. What’s funny is, so many of us who have grown up in Northern California had never taken a boat cruise on Lake Tahoe.”
Kids: Samantha, 4.
What it’s like to share the workplace: “It’s kind of like ships passing in the night,” George says.
Greatest thing about your marriage: “Our daughter,” Sharon says.
Your secret to a successful marriage: “We try to do nice things for each other,” George says. “My little ritual is grinding coffee for Sharon so that all she has to do is push the button and have her coffee at 3 in the morning.” Sharon says, “And I make his favorite salad every single night, with the same old ingredients: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, Greek olives and feta cheese.”
How you spend ‘couple time’: “Our time together, the three of us, is so precious that we do things together as a family,” Sharon says. “The things we do are so, so simple. On our family vacation, we went to Yosemite and stopped at the beach, and Samantha built sand castles for an hour. And we love to just sit in the back yard and barbecue.”
What it’s like getting married and having a child later in life: (George was in his early 40s, Sharon in her late 30s, when they were married.) “We have a very mature relationship, I think. Not the kind you have in your early 20s. We may have skipped all that crisis stuff—fighting over money and wanting to go out drinking with your friends,” George says. “But raising a child later in life is a challenge—physically.”
Ron and Terri Gilliland, owners of Lucca Restaurant & Bar
The Gillilands’ marriage coughed, rather than roared, to life after their wedding was postponed twice because of life circumstances—first Terri’s mother’s illness, then a shake-up at work. The third time was the charm, and on May 27, 1995, Ron and Terri were married in a friend’s back yard in Granite Bay. The wedding was as simple as a perfect red, ripe tomato. “My first wedding,” Terri says, “I was being pulled in all directions doing what everyone else wanted us to do. So this one, Ron and I thought, we are doing it completely our way—which was small and intimate, just very good friends. My sons gave me away.”
Kids: Terri has two sons in their 20s from her previous marriage.
How you met: “We met in the business. I was in the process of getting separated and divorced, and we both ended up at this restaurant in Stockton,” Terri says.
What caught your eye: “Over the course of a very short time, we saw in each other a mirror. We are so much alike,” Terri says.
Did they tell you it would never last? “I’m sure there were some of our employees who went, ‘Are you guys nuts?’” Ron says.
What it’s like being married and working together: Says Terri, “We’re both very strong-minded, very independent and we’re both a little stubborn. The difficult part is, we never get away from work. We’ll find ourselves on our Sundays off having coffee in the morning, and instead of reading the paper, we start discussing the restaurant.”
Greatest thing about your marriage: “To me, it’s the companionship,” Terri says. “Ron is my best friend. If I had to choose anyone in the world to spend my time with, it would undoubtedly, hands down, be my husband.”
Your secret to a successful marriage: “You have to take time out for yourselves,” Ron says. “In this industry, you work a lot, work long hours, and I think you have to step back and take off for a quick night to Tahoe or a quick trip to San Francisco.”
How you spend ‘couple time’: “Ron is kind of a homebody and I’m one of those people who has universal claustrophobia; I can’t stay in one place very long,” Terri says. “But he graciously takes me to San Francisco and Napa and places like that. Ron would be just as happy staying home and watching the NASCAR races.”
Hardest time you’ve endured as a couple: “Losing my mom to breast cancer. That was brutal,” says Terri, whose mother was diagnosed as Terri and Ron were planning their wedding.
How your marriage has changed over the years: “We have really mellowed out over time,” Terri says. “Some of the things we thought were so important 10 years ago are really not that important.”
How you handle your differences: “We are both huge communicators. I think that’s been one of the successful aspects of our marriage. We’ll be up 24 hours talking about it rather than pushing it under the rug and letting it fester,” Terri says.
Who does what around the house: Says Terri, “I’m lucky my husband and boys are perfectly capable of washing their own clothes. And Ron is a far better cook than I am.”
Rob Fong, attorney and Sacramento City Councilman; and Shirlee Tully Fong, former marketing director for Comcast Central California, now on “family sabbatical”
Rob and Shirlee, a former professional ballerina, exchanged vows in Shirlee’s hometown of Birmingham, Ala. on April 13, 1991—exactly 51 weeks after their first meeting. “I was already shopping for a ring probably within a month of meeting her,” says Rob, who likes to joke that he had no choice: His mother fell in love with Shirlee before he did. The Fongs’ wedding, sandwiched between rounds of parties, was a splashy, formal Southern affair with 500 guests and a ceremony reminiscent of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s. “I was the first daughter to get married,” Shirlee explains. “At this point—I was 30—my parents had been to a lot of weddings. They felt there was no way to keep it small; they have so many friends.”
Must’ve been all that Southern hospitality—even Murphy’s Law felt welcome.
“On the day of the wedding,” says Shirlee, “my sister, who was the maid of honor, had returned her rental car to the airport with Rob’s ring locked inside the glove compartment.”
Kids: Rebecca, 10, and Christian, 5.
How you met: “Shirlee and her roommate came to a ballroom dancing class I was teaching,” Rob says.
Greatest thing about your marriage: “We have the best kids,” Rob says. “I love being a dad, and Shirlee’s such a great mom.”
How you spend ‘couple time’: Shirlee says, “Frankly, we’re not very good at it because of Rob’s schedule. Because Rob is out so much—and I was, too, until very recently—we just always enjoy nesting at home with the kids.”
Your secret to a happy marriage: “I think it’s important that people have the capacity to grow and allow growth in their spouse,” Rob says. “Marriage is not a snapshot; it’s a film, and you have to allow it to play out.”
Hardest time you’ve endured as a couple: Rob says, “My career choices have definitely injected a lot of demands on Shirlee and the kids. I have a tough schedule—it’s evenings, it’s weekends, always helping other people outside our family. I’m sure Shirlee’s feeling like it would be nice to have a husband and father at home.”
Most romantic thing you’ve ever done: “When we had our first child together. I remember waking up the next morning and he sent me flowers,” Shirlee says.
Who does what around the house: Rob says, “We have nontraditional roles around the house. I’m the one who goes grocery shopping and does the cooking. Shirlee’s the one you’d see up on the roof with a tool belt on.”
Mort Friedman, philanthropist, developer and attorney;and Marcy Friedman, arts patron—
The Friedmans are gearing up to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at the end of this year. They met while attending college at Stanford and were married on Dec. 20, 1955, in Hawaii, Marcy’s home state. From the start, the tiki gods were smiling. “They have a custom in Hawaii that says a happy marriage depends on the amount of rain you have on your wedding day. The more it rains, the better it is. It rained 12 inches the day we were married,” Mort says.
Kids: The Friedmans have three grown sons and eight grandchildren.
Mark Friedman, the oldest son, is a prominent Sacramento real estate developer.How you met: “He was in a phone booth [in the San Francisco airport] and he stuck his head out of the booth and said, ‘Hey, you! You go to Stanford, don’t you?’” Marcy says.
What caught your eye: Marcy says, “He was awfully cute, with a wide-open smile and sparkly eyes. I even kept a picture of him [taken] with an old girlfriend because he was so cute!”
Your secret to a happy marriage: “We never go to bed without kissing each other good night,” Mort says.
How you spend ‘couple time’: “When we have time on the weekends, we bat a tennis ball around,” Marcy says. “Mort doesn’t like me to say, ‘play tennis.’”
“She won’t keep score!” Mort says.
How you handle your differences: Marcy says, “We disagree on politics and people and everything else. And we yell at each other. But we know when to stop the words because we know how to fight fairly.”
Hardest time you’ve endured as a couple: “I went through breast cancer [in 1992] and he was amazing; you’d think he had it. He was so supportive and caring,” Marcy says.
How your marriage has changed over nearly half a century: Says Marcy, “Love changes. You start out madly, wildly, passionately in love, and it just gets deeper and deeper—to the point where one of us is an extension of the other.”
Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, artistic directors of The Sacramento Ballet
This dynamic duo of dance has two wedding anniversaries to celebrate. While touring Italy with Rudolf Nureyev as members of the Boston Ballet, the couple were married first on June 12, 1982, at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, one of Europe’s largest opera houses. Officiated by the mayor of Palermo, the hastily arranged ceremony was performed entirely in Italian (“We didn’t understand a word of it,” Ron says), with only the couple’s dancer friends in attendance. “Then we got back to America, and Carinne’s mother was a little upset that we didn’t wait for her to get to Italy. So we got married again in Boston (on Oct. 23, 1982),” Ron says. “I highly recommend this: Elope first so that it’s all about you and your new wife, and then come back and get married again for the family. That way there’s no pressure.”
Kids: Chris, 21, and Alexandra, 17.
How you met: “Carinne and I were both dancers with the Boston Ballet. I’m 15 years older than she is, but we were very good friends right from the beginning,” Ron says.
How he proposed: “Being dancers at the time, we were very poor, so I couldn’t afford a ring,” Ron says. “I went to a cigar store and got her a very fancy band.”
Greatest thing about your marriage: “It continues to develop and grow,” Ron says. Carinne adds, “The greatest thing is being able to share everything. It really is wonderful to share the same vocation in life, which is our family and our work.”
What it’s like working together: Says Ron, “There’s a quote by a famous theatrical couple, and I can’t remember who it is, that is both amusing and true. Somebody once said to them, ‘It must be awfully difficult working together. Have you ever considered divorce?’ They replied, ‘Divorce? Never. Murder? Often.’”
Your secret to a successful marriage: “Brutal honesty,” Carinne says.
How you handle your differences: “I think marriage is the art of compromise,” Ron says. “If it’s important to her, OK, I’ll do it.”
How you spend ‘couple time’: “Working,” Carinne says. “We have very little kick back time. But we love to travel.”
Most difficult time you’ve endured as a couple: “It was my first year here in Sacramento (1987),” Ron says. “Carinne was pregnant with our daughter [Back East] and I came out [to Sacramento] by myself. She was alone raising the kids.”
Most romantic thing you’ve ever done: “The birth of our two children, being in the room together, was amazing,” Carinne says. “It was certainly life-altering in the intensity of our relationship.”
John Poswall, attorney/author/community activist; and Peg Tomlinson-Poswall, Sacramento magazine Dining Diva, former restaurant owner/caterer
John and Peg were married on June 5, 1999, at Toad Hall, their 50-acre estate in Placer County. Their wedding was as colorful as the couple themselves, with a pre-ceremony costumed fun run, a mariachi band and a re-creation of a Monty Python movie scene involving inflatable sea creatures (only because no one could find an inflatable cow). Among the guests were Sacramento news legend Stan Atkinson, chef Kurt Spataro (who provided guitar accompaniment for a wedding song), and well-known chef and Mexican cookbook author Diana Kennedy. John promised Peg he would marry her forever. “And I,” Peg says, “promised John I’d be a more patient gardener, to always put the family first, and that the kitchen would always be open.”
Kids: John has two children in their 30s from a previous marriage and two grandchildren. Peg has a 32-year-old daughter.
How you met: “We’ve known each other for so long. We’ve been friends since 1988 or 1989. He was in my restaurant all the time,” Peg says.
First date: “We went out after work,” John says. “She had her dirty apron on and we went to a movie, I think.”
The proposal: John says, “She always said if it weren’t for me she’d be old and poor and eating dog food. So I brought in a bag of dog food . . . and then I had a box with the ring in it. So she had a choice: She could marry me or have a life of eating dog food.”
Greatest thing about your marriage: “It’s just knowing that no matter what happens, I can talk to him,” Peg says.
Your secret to a successful marriage: “We have a two-day rule. We can never be apart for more than two days,” John says.
How you spend ‘couple time’: “Every morning, we read the paper together. And every day, we go for a ride in the golf cart all around the property,” Peg says.
Most romantic thing you’ve ever done: “I told John for Valentine’s Day not to get me a gift. I wanted a love letter. He wrote one for me,” Peg says.
How marriage has changed you: Peg says, “It made me thinner. I’ve lost 25 pounds since we’ve been together. I’m just a lot happier and calmer. Marriage to John is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”