Sunday, April 22, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: J. Harrison and Mick Mosher

They took the day off to attend the funeral of one of J.'s clients. Afterward, with several more free hours left, and three days after it became legal for them to marry in Florida, they headed to the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa to apply for a marriage license.

They wore black T-shirts with white lettering that read: "Engaged for 30 years." People cheered and gave them high-fives.

Inside the clerk of court's office, a woman told them it was the last day the requisite three-day waiting period would be waived for couples who had not taken a state-approved preparatory course.

"You've waited long enough," she told J. Harrison and Mick Mosher. They completed outdated paperwork that had entries only for husband and wife.

"Do you ...?" the woman asked. "I do," the men said in turn. And, just like that, they were husbands.

"We did kiss at the desk, after it was all over," J. said. "We did have a few tears rolling down our faces."

They had not planned to elope.

"It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing," J., 59, remembered. He owns a hair salon in their home in Tampa's Carrollwood community.

"I had a client who passed away, a very loyal client. Mick knew her also, and he took the day off, and I said, 'That would be the perfect day to get the marriage license.' "

Mick, 54, is an award-winning special-education teacher at Walker Middle Magnet School, an International Baccalaureate school in Odessa.

A mutual friend introduced the men on Dec. 3, 1984, in Binghamton, N.Y.

"About a year and a half later," J. remembers, "we helped his parents move to Lake Wales. I flew home, and it was 84 degrees when I left. Mick picked me up at the airport. It's, like, 30 degrees and raining snow. I said, 'I'm moving to Florida. You want to go with me?' We moved the next August, when our lease was over … Mick and myself and our dog, Daffodil, a basset hound.

"We rented a townhouse. We had a blow-up air mattress and the seats from our van as furniture. We were good customers of Goodwill and Salvation Army at the time.

"We just hit it off, and we've been together ever since. It's been good. We rarely argue. We're each other's best friends. I still can't wait till he gets home from work."

"It's been a very good ride," Mick said. "We've both enjoyed it. For better or worse, we're in it together."

Through their three decades together, they said, they didn't know whether they would ever be able to marry legally.

"It feels right," Mick said. "We've earned it. I introduce him as my husband. It feels so nice to be able to say that instead of 'partner,' or 'significant other.' I hate 'significant other.' "

"We feel like newlyweds," J. said. "We feel closer. We say, 'Come here, husband.' We're just thrilled about it."

With the civil ceremony accomplished, they plan a party and another wedding with family and friends on their 31st anniversary.

"After 30 years," J. said, "we need to have an event."

Contact Mary Jane Park at (727) 893-8267 or mjpark@tampabay.com.

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