5 Tulsa couples share their love stories

It's “How I Met Your Mother,” Tulsa-style.



The day-to-day of being married isn’t always filled to the brim with romance and rainbows. Woven within every couple’s origin story is not only the “how,” but also the “why.” Five couples took a moment from their busy lives to talk about how they met and what they love about each other.

 

Jill Croka and Adam Murphy: Creatively coupled

Almost like an online dating commercial, Jill Croka’s first date through EHarmony turned out to be her last. That’s because she met Adam Murphy.

After talking online, they decided to meet for happy hour. “I was already there waiting,” Adam says. “You know the way you remember it in your head is probably different than it actually happened. But when she walked in, the light shined behind her, the wind was blowing through her hair, and music started playing.”

Over cocktails, they covered everything, from politics to art. The fateful meeting would lead to many more dates and memories. Two years later, it led to a run-in with a grizzly bear.

The couple decided to celebrate their second year of dating with an epic camping trip outside Aspen, Colorado.

“I had done a lot of hiking and backpacking where there are grizzlies, so I knew a lot about bear protocol,” Jill says. “Adam was used to the ‘hippie bears’ in California and wasn’t taking the ‘real bears’ seriously. I was sending PDFs on bear protocol, and he was kind of blowing me off.”

Adam acquiesced and stocked a bear bag with a marine horn and heavy-duty pepper spray. They spent a long first day hiking and decided to set up camp overlooking a beautiful pass. Exhausted, they crawled into their tent and quickly passed out. Until...

“I was awakened by huge feet stomping and the loudest exhale I’ve ever heard,” Jill says. “I elbowed Adam and mouthed the words, ‘There’s a bear.’ Adam banged metal Nalgene bottles together, blared the marine horn and kept yelling, ‘Go bear, go!’”

After circling the tent for a few minutes, the bear finally trotted away. “So, what she’s trying to say is, I saved our lives,” Adam laughs.

“And that was our last camping trip,” Jill adds. “But we survived, and it’s funny because it was our first time to hike and camp together.”

About a year later, they decided to take on a real challenge: marriage and starting a family.

Their son, Brooks, was born in September 2012. “I think ever since we got married and we had Brooks, everything has kicked into high gear for us, both professionally and personally,” says Adam, a photographer with his own studio, Studio 75.

“Being a working mom has been harder than I thought it would be,” says Jill, an interior design who owns her own showroom, Jill Croka Designs. “It’s nice to have a partner that understands both and doesn’t expect me to pull it all off.”

“Even though she does,” Adam adds.

The couple still believes travel is an important way for them to stay connected. But, these days, those adventures end within the safety of four walls, and not a tent.

What do you love about him?

He’s usually always positive and typically not stressed. And he’s a wonderful dad to Brooks.

What do you love about her?

I know that I can come to her with any issue. The thing I struggled with the most, which is the thing I appreciate the most, is her letting me know the truth. When she starts the conversation with, “Can I tell you something?” I know knowledge is about to be dropped.

 

Seana and Eric Flossic: Animal attraction

Prior to landing a job at the Tulsa Zoo with its new African penguin exhibit in 2002, Seana Davidson had finished an internship in Hawaii and spent time at the New England Aquarium as a volunteer and temporary penguin keeper.

Eric Flossic, still relatively new in his position as a rhino and hoofstock keeper at the Tulsa Zoo, was originally from Massachusetts. This East Coast connection led to a vibrant conversation in the break room.

“So, Eric realizes I’m from Connecticut and says something like, ‘Oh, you must be a Red Sox fan.’ My immediate response was, ‘Oh, dear God, what? No way! I grew up a Yankees fan!’” This friendly rivalry and affinity for sports sparked a friendship that would slowly turn into something more.

After about four years of dating, Eric decided to propose with the help from the song “Grow Old with You” — they are big fans of the movie “The Wedding Singer.” They celebrated with coworkers and friends at a Halloween party right after the proposal. They would later dance to the song at their wedding.

The two have always been travel buddies, and their first big trip was a surprise orchestrated by Eric. “He wrapped a picture frame with a map of Hawaii in it, plotting with little dots all the places we would be seeing,” Seana says.

They have traveled all over the country for sporting events and have been to Africa twice — once for their honeymoon, and once for work (Eric with giraffes and
Seana with penguins).

Fast-forward to the present, and the couple are now parents to two children, 8-year-old Peyton and 5-year-old Reed. For sports fans, those names may sound familiar.

“Since we love sports, we made a bet that if the Colts reached the Super Bowl the year our daughter was born, she would be named Peyton,” says Eric, a huge Colts fan. Their son was named for Ed Reed, a Miami Hurricane who played the Super Bowl that same year. Seana is a University of Miami graduate.

Aside from sports, they are both fans of the animals in their care at the zoo. And they both understand the less attractive side effects of working closely with animals. “We’ll be eating dinner still in zoo clothes, and not just anyone would be OK with that,” Eric says.

“You can come home reeking of who knows what, and it doesn’t matter,” Seana says. “My car stinks like fish, his car stinks like a dusty barn. But, that’s just to be expected.”

What do you love about him?

Then, it was the shared interests. (Except for baseball — I can always root against the Red Sox, though!) Even now, I think he’s still very handsome and such a fabulous dad.

What do you love about her?

Then, I was really attracted to the passion she had for her field, and how she was so dedicated. Now, seeing how great she is with the kids adds a new level of attraction.

 

Ashley and Michael Philippsen: An everlasting dance

The first time Ashley D. Harris laid eyes on Michael Philippsen was in 2006 on a bus in Georgetown, where the two were part of an internship program through the Fund for American Studies, the Institute for Philanthropy and Volunteer Service.

“I noticed him reading his Bible, which was unheard of for anyone I’d encountered in my age group that summer,” Ashley says. As she was taking note of him, Michael had already seen Ashley well before they got on that bus.

“I remember a few weeks before the program started, I was looking through the directory, and her photo was the one I was most drawn to,” Michael says. “I would’ve never guessed that she would eventually be my wife.”

After the summer internship, they returned to their respective undergraduate institutions — Ashley to the University of Oklahoma, and Michael to Indiana University. Ashley moved to Houston through Teach for America in 2007, and TFA brought Michael to Tulsa in 2009. They spoke off and on, but they had each gone on to separate lives and careers.

“He came back on my radar in the fall of 2011,” Ashley remembers. She sent him a selfie from the OU vs. Texas game, a modern exchange that sparked an old-
fashioned one: the pair began exchanging hand-written letters. She was touched by his thoughtfulness and attention to the little things, and soon she decided to “visit a track teammate” in Tulsa — a flimsy excuse, as she really just wanted to see Michael.

“It was my third year as a teacher in the classroom, and she came in while we were doing a lab,” Michael says. “I was so nervous. I hadn’t seen her in years.”

Luckily, Michael quashed his nervousness enough to ask Ashley to be his girlfriend. The only problem? They still lived in different cities. “After going back and forth on who would move where so we could date in the same city, I was hired to work for Teach For America in Tulsa,” Ashley says. After five years of living in different states, Michael and Ashley were now living two blocks from each other in downtown lofts.

From there, the romance progressed. If a perfect song came on the radio, Michael would often pull the car over, and the two would turn a parking lot into a private dance floor. They hung out with friends, and downtown Tulsa was their playground.

In March 2013, Michael knew it was time to take it to the next level. First, he drove four hours after work to Texarkana, Texas, Ashley’s hometown, just so he could ask Ashley’s father for her hand in marriage. With her father’s blessing, Michael then planned the perfect proposal. He took Ashely to Silver Falls, Oregon, where her favorite movie, “Twilight,” was shot. He proposed, and they slow danced behind a waterfall.

Now, Ashley is the executive director at Met Cares Foundation, and Michael is assistant principal at Carver Middle School. They were married in October 2013 and welcomed a son, Andrew Lawrence, in 2015. Parenting has presented new joys and challenges, but Ashley and Michael have only grown fonder of one another. And even though there are fewer impromptu parking lot slow dances, the couple can still be found having a dance party at home with their son.

What do you love about him?

I can be as silly or serious as I want, and I don’t feel criticized or forced to be anyone but myself. I like how he’s supportive. I like to get involved and take up causes, and he’s always in my corner. I look up to him for how he is with our son and am proud of him with teaching and how he connects with his students.

What do you love about her?

I have many memories of moments when Andrew has been in full-throttle toddler mode, and I see her take these deep breaths. I can tell she is calming herself, and I find that really sexy.  Seeing the strength of her character and spirit, and just seeing her take that breath is cool to me.

 

Daniela Buson and Marcello Angelini: Principals of love

Two young ballet dancers arrived at the Maggio Danza in Florence, Italy, in 1979. Both 17 years old, they were the youngest dancers in the company.

“That’s when we first met. We started fighting from day one,” Marcello Angelini says. “And we haven’t stopped yet, have we?” he asks Daniela Buson, with a wink.

The “fights” were innocent enough. Marcello was a dashing young dancer with many girlfriends who enjoyed life; Daniela, a focused dancer who was taking her career seriously. “All the girls paid attention to him, and I was so focused on my work,” Daniela says. “I wanted to become a ballerina and had no time for romance.”

After about eight months, Marcello asked Daniela out for lunch. She agreed, but only because she assumed he would forget about their date, since he was focused on his other girlfriends. “I thought, ‘I will just tell him yes to get him away and out of my face, and I will be in peace,’” Daniela says. “But he did not forget.”

For nearly four decades since, the two have been inseparable. They continued to train and build their careers all over the world. Although rare in the profession, Marcello and Daniela have worked together as principal dancers in numerous productions and companies.

In the studio, Daniela was the task master, but both were perfectionists. “In all the companies we worked with, there was only one other couple that danced together,” Marcello says. “You need to have the chemistry for stage, and you have to grow your careers at the same pace, have the same amount of talent and versatility, same physicality. Most of the time, one will stop to go in a different direction.”

The couple married in 1988. In 1995, Marcello accepted the position as artistic director for the Tulsa Ballet, and in 1998, the couple welcomed twin sons,
Alessandro and Valentino. For the past several years, Daniela has served as assistant artistic director of Tulsa Ballet, and her role has grown every more vital as the company has grown. After all this time, Marcello and Daniela are just as passionate about each other and ballet as they were in 1979.

What do you love about him?

He has all the best parts that I am missing in myself. He can see farther into in the future, for work, for the kids. I’m a very emotional person and maybe more open than him in certain ways. But he’s more rational. He can stop for a second and think.

What do you love about her?

I admire what she has been able to do with her career, as a mother, and her position with the company. I get so involved with technicalities; it’s good every now and then that someone shakes you and says, “Don’t forget to feel!” In the end, it’s what we do; dance is about feeling.

 

Pam and Frank Haith: Courting love

It was the summer of 1985, and Frank Haith was home for the summer after finishing his freshman year at Elon University in North Carolina. His friend wanted to set him up with a young lady named Pam Brown, but he wanted to meet her on his own terms.

Pam was working the drive-thru at Hardee’s in Mebane, North Carolina, on summer break from Winston-Salem State University. Dusted with flour from the biscuits she made that morning, she was told someone at the front register needed to see her. There was Frank. He’d ordered some small fries and a small orange drink. He introduced himself, and said a mutual friend thought they should meet.

As horns in the drive-thru blew, Pam hurriedly gave him her phone number and got back to work. Later that night, he called her. The two talked until they fell asleep with the receivers to their ears.

After a year of long-distance dating, Pam transferred to Elon University to be closer to Frank. After graduation, he accepted a job as a basketball coach at Western Middle School in Elon, North Carolina. He was also attending graduate school at Wake Forest University and living on campus in the athletic dorms as a grad assistant. Frank had decided already to propose to Pam, but the way he asked was decidedly unplanned.

“I had some papers I had to do, and I needed a big one typed,” Frank says. “As a GA, I was worn out, up all night, checking on the guys staying in the dorm. Pam helped me out a lot.”

“This one night, he needed a 25-page paper typed,” Pam says. “And much of what he had written didn’t make any sense. He’s on the couch in the back office sleeping. It’s, like, 3 a.m.”

“I felt bad. What a champ, right?” Frank laughs. “So I walked in and said, ‘Look, do you want to get married or what?’ Lucky for me, she said yes.”

They were married in the summer of 1990, then moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, the next day. Over their 33 years, they’ve moved almost a dozen times.

From Missouri to Miami, and now to Tulsa, where Frank is the head coach for the University of Tulsa Men’s Basketball, the couple, along with their 24-year-old son, Corey, and 14-year-old daughter, Brianna, have followed Frank’s career across the country.

“I had to be gone so much for my job, and Pam has done an unbelievable job,” Frank says. “I didn’t want Pam to work, but she always worked as a homemaker while taking care of our family. I really owe everything I’ve accomplished to Pam.”

What do you love about him?

I love his compassion for family, and his immediate, undisputed love for me that has not changed. I think it has continued to intensify as the Lord has provided us more years to mature and grow together in the Word of God.

What do you love about her?

She’s always right. (Cue laughter from Pam.) But seriously, she’s always seeing the bright side. Pam has such a great way of communicating to me to change my perspective on things. There are tough moments in my career, and her support and who she is spiritually has really been beneficial to my success.

 

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September 2019

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Cost: Half: $70; 5k: $35

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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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The Drunken Botanist at OK Distilling Company. Amy Stewart’s New York Times best-seller, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks, is a favorite of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Oklahoma Distilling Company
1724 E 7th St.
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Tulsa Botanic Garden
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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-813-6514
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As the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally,   Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the romantic era’s finest composers. Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony...

Cost: $20-$42

Where:
VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education
10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
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Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
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Disney On Ice presents Mickey’s Search Party is Coming to Tulsa, OK, September 26 - 29 Bringing the Magic Closer to Fans than Ever Before TULSA, OK — Create unforgettable...

Cost: $15, $20, $30, $35, $40, $45

Where:
Expo Square Pavilion
4145 East 21st
Tulsa State Fair
Tulsa, OK  74137
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Sponsor: Feld Entertainment
Telephone: 918-798-3655
Contact Name: Kasey Littlefield

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Back by popular demand, we've found some more wild and crazy stories told by the funniest people in Tulsa! Blue Whale Comedy Fest and Story Club of Tulsa present "Offbeat: Crazy and...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
Duet Jazz Club
108 N. DETROIT AVENUE
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Story Club of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
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