Rick and Sandy mark 54 years
The couple still lives in the home they bought 45 years ago
It started with a coffee milkshake in August of 1958.
Former Monroe County Sheriff Rick Roth found his wife of 54 years, Sandy Roth nee Handley, at one of the picnic tables in front of the former Jack Smith’s Dairy Bar in old town Marathon. She was taking a break from her job serving fish sandwiches and ice cream. He was on liberty from the Navy in Key West. She was 18, he was 19.
“Back then,” Sandy said, “the local boys didn’t allow the Navy boys to date Key West girls. They had to get out of town [if they wanted to find a girl].”
Serendipity, then. They were married six months later at First Baptist Church in Marathon. When he was discharged, they returned to Rick’s hometown— Minneapolis.
“I got a job at the foundry. It was a terrible job,” Rick said, in that understated way of his.
“I’d never seen snow in my life,” she said, “so I was excited.”
But about five years later, they were both ready to return to the Florida Keys. Through the Handley family grapevine, he learned about a job opening in the Sheriff’s Department. He told his wife he had always wanted to be in law enforcement, which came as a mighty surprise to her. Nevertheless, they loaded up the family car — a ’57 Chevrolet, a nice car Rick said — and towed a U-haul to Florida with their first born in the back seat. Once they crossed the state line into Florida, the trip’s soundtrack of Elvis oldies was rudely interrupted by weather bulletins. Hurricane Betsy, by today’s standards a Category 3 hurricane, had aimed for Key Largo. One 10-hour trip following a military convoy from Miami to Marathon, and a harrowing first day on the job involving coordination of multiple government agencies disaster response, the two settled into a pretty quiet life in the Keys. Yes, even with the political campaigns, they say.
Rick and Sandy have two daughters — Cathy living on Big Pine Key and Deanna living in Palm City. And one granddaughter, Rayna, 15, clearly the apple of her grandparents’ eye.
After many years of public service — he as a lawman, then interim sheriff, then elected sheriff for 19 years and she as a bank teller, retail sales and then working for another law enforcement agency investigating money launderers — retirement suits them.
Rick spends time in his wood workshop. He makes beautiful wooden canisters he turns on a lathe. He also creates clever wooden locks that open with wooden keys or a combination. He also made two dulcimers, although he has no idea if they make music because he can’t play.
Sandy likes to travel. Several times she’s been to Europe with her daughters and granddaughter. When they’re not available she’ll take cruises— by herself.
“I’m done with traveling,” Rick said. “I’m happy right where I am.”
They continue to live in the same house they bought 45 years ago on Grassy Key. And they claim not to know the secret of a happy marriage.
“I guess, everything is funny,” Sandy said.
“I think …just patience,” Rick said. “And mutual respect and tolerance.”
It’s clear to any observer, however, that they are one another’s biggest fans. Sandy said Rick is extremely handy around the house — he made the fireplace from local stone, constructed the fish pond and builds the picture frames to house the photos of their family. She can cook, Rick said, and sing beautifully.
Couple’s passion is for each other, the arts
Suzi and David Feder married themselves and threw the wedding flowers to the mermaids
David Feder’s dad convinced him to leave the Keys (albeit, temporarily) to go to Buffalo, N.Y. to meet his future wife, Suzi.
“He said, ‘Come to Buffalo. Meet this girl. You don’t have to marry her right away,’” David said, with a smile on his face, remembering that fateful call. The selling point? He already knew her brothers and had a boyish crush on her mother.
Eventually, he convinced her to move to Islamorada and sold his sailboat to pay for a more conventional land-based home, but their life is far from ordinary. The proof? The only remnant of the boat is a single pulley that suspends their garage sale find, a crystal chandelier, over the 6-foot round dining room table he made for her.
“I married a musician, and ‘snap,’ I got a table,” Suzi said, laughing.
Both Suzi and Dave are artists. Locals know Dave for the incredible music he makes. His style is most often referred to as Hillbilly Flamenco — or bluegrassy mixed with a pinch of Latin spice. He plays mostly in the Upper Keys now, plus teaches, host sing-a-longs in his wooded backyard, was formerly a camera expert before the digital age and now runs Islamorada Community Entertainment (ICE), the group that produces numerous musical festivals at Founders Park’s amphitheater.
Suzi, originally of Toronto, is an aesthetician that brings an artistic flair to anything she does from beading to cooking.
“She has so many interests — painting, drawing, beading, and she makes amazing [skin care] potions. And she’s always learning — she’s extremely educated about health and nutrition and ways the environment affect our health,” Dave said. “Oh, and she’s an amazing cook.”
Dave said that her interests are so varied, and her confidence so concrete, that their life usually intersects — and affection grows — over their mutual love for their son Nyan, 17, and their passion for the arts.
“He serenades me,” she said, smiling. “And he can fix anything and he’s a really good dad.”
“I love many things about her, but I also appreciate the fact that when I walk into the place, I know I’m with the most beautiful woman there,” he said. “And she’s extremely supportive of my weird, artistic eccentricities.”
The secret to their happy 20-year union is an open mind, she said.
“I feel like we’re still getting to know each other,” she said.
Couple meets in KW, marries in Vegas
So, a girl walks into a bar in Key West ….
Isn’t that how most Keys love stories go? It’s true in the case of Jennifer Garrison nee White, 29, and her husband Brad, 38.
“I was bartending and this pretty girl walked in. She and her friends wanted to sit at a table but I convinced them to come sit by me,” said Brad. And the rest, as they say, is history. Recent history.
The two were married less than a month ago in Las Vegas— the site of their first date. (Hey, when you go, go big.)
“I think that trip sealed the deal for me, but we had only known each other for two weeks,” she said.
“Same here. We were just on the same wavelength,” he said.
Both Brad and Jennifer work in the food and beverage industry and its uncommon for them to have the same night off. When they do, they try to make an adventure of it — heading somewhere out of Key West for a romantic getaway. But they have bigger travel plans.
For their one-year anniversary, they’re planning a trip to San Francisco. He’s excited about surfing and camping and snowboarding. She’s up for it, too.
“I think that’s what I appreciate about her the most,” Brad said. “She loves to do the same things that I do. She a free spirit, open to possibilities.”
Next on the list? Scuba diving. Brad is also a scuba instructor and just as soon as the water warms up, she’s going in. The chance to dive in the Keys — and the U.S. Coast Guard — is part of what brought him here about 10 years ago from Texas and Oklahoma. She’s from Toronto. Like most of us, she came to the Keys on Spring Break. After she graduated college in South Florida she lasted about six months in an office job.
“She quit her job and moved to Key West,” Brad said, laughing.