Sunday, April 22, 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 for the week of April 23-29

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of April 23-29

St. Anthony’s Triathlon: World class athletes and Olympians race around St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park on Sunday ($160-$180), while kids and novices race Saturday in the Meek and Mighty. A free kick-off celebration Friday has a concert by country artist...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Published: 04/20/18

Tell Me About It: Family reconsiders taking group trips

Q: Should there be expectations about taking vacations/trips with other family members? We have two issues:(1) We have three kids, including teenagers, and my brother and wife have two kids. The younger is 6. My wife and I find it hard to plan someth...
Published: 04/20/18
On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

On its 20th anniversary, Disney's Animal Kingdom credits conservation with longevity

ORLANDO — When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened 20 years ago, it was light on thrills and heavy on conservation. On April 22, 1998, Earth Day, the Orlando park had a single thrill ride, Countdown to Extinction, and a handful of shows like ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18

Tell Me About It: How to deal with conversation dominators

Q: We have a few relatives, including a sibling, who we don’t see or hear from often, as we are busy or live far away. We meet over a meal or for an hour or so, or at family gatherings requiring a drive, and I am so frustrated that they dominate the ...
Published: 04/19/18
Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

PURE NIRVANA: Foo FightersDave Grohl may be America’s last unquestioned rock god. He’s played with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and Trent Reznor and St. Vincent, and he also leads a pretty decent group — perhaps you’ve heard of them — called...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Plan your weekend: Kenny Chesney, ‘The Producers’ in the park, Mainsail Art Fest, Sugar Sand Fest, Earth Day

Plan your weekend: Kenny Chesney, ‘The Producers’ in the park, Mainsail Art Fest, Sugar Sand Fest, Earth Day

The top things to do April 20 to 22 in Tampa, St. Petersburg and the whole Tampa Bay area.
Published: 04/18/18
The newest trend for Tampa date nights? Indoor ax throwing

The newest trend for Tampa date nights? Indoor ax throwing

Axe Throwing Tampa and Raider Axe Lodge are bringing the axe-throwing trend to the Tampa Bay area.
Published: 04/18/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay: Sugar Sand Festival, Record Store Day, ZooBrews, Beerfest

Top things to do in Tampa Bay: Sugar Sand Festival, Record Store Day, ZooBrews, Beerfest

BEER: ZooBrews and BeerfestAs if we needed any more proof of the craft beer craze, this weekend brings two events with a smorgasbord of samplings. • The newly renamed ZooTampa at Lowry Park is calling ZooBrews a new event that appears to be an awful ...
Published: 04/18/18
5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

1 Field of Dreams: Kick off baseball season with Tampa Bay Rays mascots and a movie that makes every baseball fan cry. Raymond and DJ Kitty will be at Tampa Theatre for photos and you can join in a Take Me Out to the Ballpark sing-along on the Mighty...
Published: 04/18/18