Thursday, October 18, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Mark Cichewicz and Michael Grillo

They met in Detroit's Club Gold Coast on April 28, 1985, and soon they were a couple. Mark Cichewicz was a graphic designer for the Chrysler Corp., and Michael Grillo was a hairdresser. Both Michigan natives, they started coming to Florida to visit Michael's parents, who spent the winters here.

"At first, we would come down in April and then Thanksgiving," Mark said.

They celebrated their 20th anniversary a decade ago by purchasing rings together in a jewelry store at the Suncoast Resort on 34th Street S in St. Petersburg, where they spent many a Sunday afternoon with friends from Michigan and Florida, he said. (The Suncoast closed in 2007.)

Now winter residents themselves, the two men became discouraged last fall after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overturned lower-court rulings in cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The judges' decision denied same-sex marriages in those states.

Arriving in St. Petersburg in early January, Mark and Michael read that a temporary stay against gay marriage in Florida "would not be extended beyond Jan. 5," Mark said, "my father's birthday. My father passed away a year and a half after I met Michael, and he loved Michael from the start. I'm sure he pulled some strings with the man upstairs."

They picked up their marriage license on Jan. 14. Mark, 62, and Michael, 67, are retirees who celebrate their anniversary monthly. "Happy 28th!" they tell each other.

Their wedding took place on the first Wednesday in March, in South Pasadena's Galatea Garden, where they decorated the sea nymph's statue with ribbons in the colors of the rainbow, a symbol of gay pride. Then they and their friends moved to Gulfport's Backfin Blue Cafe for a celebratory dinner.

"It was the most incredible feeling even before we actually got married," Michael said. "We were rediscovering St. Pete, and we started talking with this woman in a gallery because she was so easy to talk to. She hugged us, and ever since that point, it has just gotten better and better.

"We've gotten cards and congratulations from people that I never even expected to send them. People have been so kind and so thoughtful. It's been wonderful."

Their relationship, Michael said, "was great 30 years ago, and it's great 30 years later." Their decision to marry "was the right thing to do for our circumstance, and it was a wonderful opportunity."

Not so long ago, the men said, they received a letter from Chrysler "stating that if we were married, I was entitled to (Mark's) pension benefits," Michael said. "Not that it was a turning point, but it did sweeten the pot, since I had no pension."

And although Chrysler's headquarters are in the couple's birth state, their marriage was not an option there.

"We thank all those who rolled up their sleeves to do the hard work that made marriage equality a reality," Mark said, "and a dream like ours possible."

Comments
Top things to do in Tampa Bay this week: MarineQuest, Dia de los Muertos, Brian Kilmeade and more

Top things to do in Tampa Bay this week: MarineQuest, Dia de los Muertos, Brian Kilmeade and more

Top things to do in Tampa Bay this week: MarineQuest, a Dia de los Muertos celebration and Fox co-host Brian Kilmeade.
Published: 10/17/18
5 things to do under $5 this week: Pops in the Park, Circus McGurkis

5 things to do under $5 this week: Pops in the Park, Circus McGurkis

On our list for Oct. 18-24: Free concerts in the park by the Florida Orchestra, free trolley rides in Ybor and a Native American flute gathering.
Published: 10/17/18

Tell Me About It: Friendís inability to make plans feels like ghosting

Q: A former co-worker/friend moved about an hour away several years ago. We were close, texting, talking multiple times a day. Once she moved, that slowed down to a meal a couple times a year and intermittent texts/calls.Since last year, I have been ...
Published: 10/17/18

Tell Me About It: Momís offer to help with twin newborns is rejected

Q: My son and daughter-in-law are expecting twins, their first children together ó she has older children. My husband and I have enjoyed a warm and happy relationship with them and live nearby.My son is a twin so I am fully aware of the need for extr...
Published: 10/16/18

Tell Me About It: Caring mom takes in sonís friend as part of the family

Q: My sonís best friend since middle school has been living in my guest room for a couple of months now, since his 18th birthday. His home situation has been very unstable for the past few years since his parents split up, and he bounced around their...
Published: 10/15/18
Hillsborough County Fair opens Thursday in Dover with Dollar Day admission

Hillsborough County Fair opens Thursday in Dover with Dollar Day admission

The annual event will include a mix of entertainment, agriculture
Published: 10/13/18
Updated: 10/14/18

Tell Me About It: While he finds his passion, sheís working overtime

"Ken" and I have been married five years, together nine. Ken is an amazing person; heís upbeat, handsome, charming, and thoughtful, but canít seem to stick to a job. He has a masterís in a high-paying technical field that cost his parents a fortune, ...
Published: 10/12/18
Rare okapi calf born at ZooTampa has died

Rare okapi calf born at ZooTampa has died

ZooTampa announced that the endangered okapi calf, born less than 2 months ago, has died of a diabetes-like condition.
Published: 10/11/18
Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Experience everything from kid-friendly events to horrifying haunted houses to spooky art projects this weekend in Tampa Bay.
Published: 10/11/18

Tell Me About It: Friendís fed up with her constant complaining

Q: Iím tearing my hair out over a friend whose life is demonstrably easier than mine in many ways, but who never stops complaining: She doesnít have enough money (her household income is 50 percent larger than mine). She doesnít have enough time (her...
Published: 10/11/18