Thursday, July 19, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Alexander MacKinnon and Sandra Cross

TAMPA — As the owner of five construction equipment dealerships, Alexander "Sandy" MacKinnon set specific goals to attain success in business, a practice he carried over in times of bereavement.

He suggested Sandra "Sandy" Cross do the same to help cope with her own loss.

Before long, the two "Sandys" realized they shared more than a name; they shared a vision of a future together.

Their connection goes back some 20 years, as Brandon neighbors active in Rotary Club, the chamber of commerce, church and school. They were part of a civic-minded group of young couples who celebrated together in good times and supported each other during family crises.

In 1998, MacKinnon lost his wife of 32 years, his high school sweetheart Ardie, to cancer. "It was a time of re-evaluation," he said, "to get a grasp on my life. If you just get in the car and drive, you're going to end up at the wrong destination."

The transportation analogy is apt, since it was working on Hillsborough County traffic issues that drew MacKinnon to Commissioner Dottie Berger, whom he married in 2001.

Their friends Sandra and Glen Cross supported Dottie's election and her advocacy work for abused and neglected children. As president of Shimberg Cross Co., Glen developed thousands of homes in the communities of Temple Terrace, Town 'N Country, Carrollwood and Fishhawk. Sandra handled sales and marketing for many of the properties.

The friends rallied to her when Glen lost his life in a tragic accident in Banner Elk, N.C., in July 2012. A truck hauling two cars down Beech Mountain lost its brakes. One of the vehicles disengaged, hurtling into Glen's Jeep.

Then, 15 months later, those friends were among many at MacKinnon's side again, when Dottie succumbed to cancer.

Sandra had returned from a wedding in France in time to visit Dottie, her longtime friend, once more. MacKinnon gave her an envelope full of inspirational quotes and some questions he encouraged her to think about.

He texted Sandra weeks later, asking her to lunch, asking if his notes had been helpful.

"I shared some of my difficulties," Sandra said, "and he mainly just listened. Eventually he opened up … Having known and loved each others' spouses, it was a great comfort for both of us."

Late one afternoon, cruising on MacKinnon's boat behind his Davis Islands home, the couple eyed the fleeting sunset and dared to contemplate the future.

"When you're older and you've lost and you find love again, there is such a deep appreciation for every day," Sandra said. "It's unmeasurable."

MacKinnon counted his blessings. "She's pretty and vivacious," he said. "We'd always liked each other, and I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life single.

"Dottie knew that. She gave me a hall pass, if you will. She said, 'You shouldn't be alone, you're not that kind of person.' "

MacKinnon's surprise Christmas Eve proposal on the beach in St. Augustine made the holiday even more joyous. Sandra sparkled like the diamond ring he had designed for her.

"We are both indeed very fortunate," said MacKinnon, reciting one of the sayings he carries around on 3-by-5 cards: "Someone to love again, something to look forward to and someone to share it with.

"We are both sure that Glen and Dottie would bless our marriage and wish us the best."

They chose Jan. 30 to marry at St. John's Episcopal Church in South Tampa for a convenient reason. "We were already booked on a business trip to Puerto Rico the next day," said Sandra, "an instant honeymoon."

Sandra's daughter was her maid of honor; MacKinnon's youngest brother served as best man. His three adult children gave readings; stepdaughter Shannon, Dottie's daughter, was there, as were all but four of their combined 20 grandchildren.

A steel drummer and a magician entertained at the reception at their home. Friends sent a coconut wedding cake from the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, S.C. The newlyweds found beds for 15 house guests staying for the night.

On her wedding day, Sandra awoke at 4 a.m. filled with thoughts of the events of the past few years.

"Tears came and my heart raced as I remembered the tragedies and loss of our loved ones. Suddenly, seemingly from across the room, a sense of calm and peace rushed over and through me.

"I felt it reaffirmed what we already knew, that all is well."

Contact Amy Scherzer at or (813) 226-3332.

Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

The strawberry-laden and deep-fried wonders of Plant City’s Florida Strawberry Festival will be featured on two episodes of the TV series Carnival Eats, the first on July 29.The Cooking Channel series features host Noah Cappe as he marvels at the "ga...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Tell Me About It: Family put off by another big wedding

Q: I’m engaged to a wonderful man, "Jim," and we’re planning our wedding. We just booked a gorgeous inn and I am going to wear a stunning full-length white dress. We’ll also be having a sit-down dinner with band and dancing for the reception.I’m in m...
Published: 07/18/18
First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

Visitors to Universal Studios in Orlando on Monday night got to witness the premiere of the new high-tech, dancing-fountain, cinematic show to end the day in the park in what the show’s creator called "a kiss goodnight." It’s full of ima...
Published: 07/17/18

Tell Me About It: Stepmom expects gift will become an issue

Q: My husband’s daughter just announced she and her boyfriend are getting married, and we are very happy for them. They are planning a wedding that we consider over the top. The cost will likely exceed her annual salary.My husband has been blunt abou...
Published: 07/17/18

Tell Me About It: The grieving process differs for everyone

Q: My parents died in an accident a year and a half ago. I grieve for them every day and still find it difficult to talk about them without tears. I see a grief counselor and have been screened by my doctor for depression, and both said what I was fe...
Published: 07/16/18

Tell Me About It: Wife’s beefs with family are indefensible

Q: My wife occasionally picks fights with members of my family of origin, especially my sister. What am I supposed to do about that? The general guidance is that protecting my spouse from my family of origin is my responsibility, but it was my wife t...
Published: 07/15/18
Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus talks longevity, the road and picking the perfect opener

Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus talks longevity, the road and picking the perfect opener

There was a time, believe it or not, when Rascal Flatts was considered cutting-edge country. Okay, "cutting-edge" might be pushing it — the trio’s wholesome, harmony-laden style was never all that controversial. Still, when you survey the pop- and R&...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/18/18
8 things to do this weekend: Sam Smith, SharkCon, Extreme Mud Wars, deal at Chihuly

8 things to do this weekend: Sam Smith, SharkCon, Extreme Mud Wars, deal at Chihuly

Concert Sam Smith and Cam: On Friday, Sam Smith (Stay With Me) is coming to Tampa with opening act Cam, whose latest country single Diane is one of Nashville’s most rollicking of the past year. Smith is the headliner but both acts are worth ca...
Published: 07/13/18

Tell Me About It: Decision to adopt must be her own

Q: I’m a 45-year-old single woman who is financially secure and a self-described introvert. I am happy being single, have a decent job, own a home, and have created a good life for myself. I badly want to adopt or foster a child on my own and I have ...
Updated one month ago
Play encouraged at Florida Orchestra’s Instrument Petting Zoo

Play encouraged at Florida Orchestra’s Instrument Petting Zoo

ZEPHYRHILLS — Enticing kids to become avid page turners is part of the Pasco County’s "Libraries Rock" summer reading program. There’s always a fun element to bring them in, that this year comes with a musical theme.For Blake Pole, 9, an afternoon tr...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/16/18