The complimentary champagne cruise for 12 was booked, said Agatha, the Le Sireneuse concierge. She was sure there’d be cancellations. Agatha had the thick, tawny hair and olive complexion my sister and I had envied since arriving in Capri and now Positano, in early June.
Agatha proved right. Just 4 of us, plus a photojournalist, showed up. Perfect 80 degree weather, blue skies, calm water. Our fellow passengers were on their honeymoon. Stacey Alexander had eyes to match the Tyrrhenian Sea; Kevin Thornberry was big and solid. They radiated the excitement of newlyweds, tempered by the wisdom of experience. This was a second marriage for both– a marriage that almost didn’t take place.
From northern Kentucky, they met on Christian Mingle. Kevin’s an exec with Merck. Being on the road 3 out of 4 weeks made it tough to develop a relationship, he said. He’d met other women online. “With Stacey, I knew right away.”
This was Stacey’s only online dating adventure. Girlfriend Tiffany Sams kept insisting she try it. After filling in questions about personality, past experiences, strengths and weaknesses, she felt “ready and mentally stonger than ever.” When she read Kevin’s self-described traits, “hard-working and passionate,” she felt he was talking about her. When she read he was a Christian, she was sold.
About their failed earlier marriages, this couple’s philosophical. “As adults, we know ourselves better,” Stacey says. “We know our strengths.”
So far, their kids get along well. Stacey’s are William (14) and Nicholas (11). Kevin’s are Seth (20) and Bridget (19). “Kevin’s protective but gentle,” Stacey says. “He takes time to talk with my boys and be silly with them. He treats me better than they’ve ever seen me treated.”
Stacey manages the office of a day care center, Skidaddles. A newly certified life coach, she also organizes retreats “to help women become their best selves,” focused on faith and fitness.
Kevin worked for Toyota for several years and says Toyota’s admired for production efficiency. Merck recruited him to help optimize production/distribution of their new cancer drug Keytruda.
Kevin’s also a Lt. Colonel, in his 27th year of the National Guard.
The couple shared the near-miss story of their wedding. On Friday, Kevin had terrible stomach pains. A doctor diagnosed a bad gall bladder attack. The pain lessened over the weekend. “I was determined not to let anything get in the way of our wedding,” he said. On Saturday, June 4, they got married on the rooftop of a downtown Cincinnati hotel. Kevin wore his US Navy uniform.
Monday morning, Kevin checked into the hospital for emergency surgery. By Tuesday morning, he felt well enough to be released. That afternoon, they made it to their scheduled flight to Italy.
Talk about miraculous.
The day of our cruise, Kevin, who enjoys cooking, spent the morning at a cooking class at Max restaurant. Stacey climbed 1400 steps, visiting tiny towns near Positano.
An hour into our cruise, I asked about the advertised champagne. (Okay, I asked in half an hour.) I was reassured it was coming. I figured sooner or later the 4 of us would share a bottle of something cheap. The cruise was complimentary, after all.
Midway the captain pulled into a cove and cut the engine. The co-captain put out a yummy spread of salty olives, chunks of Parmesan cheese, salami and taralli (savory O-shaped crackers). And poured 2 bottles of something fine, cold, dry and bubbly.
Kevin and photojournalist Roberto Salomone, who was aboard snapping pix for the hotel, shared war stories. Kevin talked about tours with a branch of Special Ops. Having served in the Navy for 28 years, he’s currently Deputy Mission Support Group Commander of the Air National Guard. Roberto, who covers the migrant crisis for an Italian news service, mentioned a close call he’d had in a war zone. While he was embedded in a combat unit in Herat, Afghanistan, an i.e.d. blew up the vehicle in front of his. Anne and I, naive but grateful, were fascinated by a conversation so far from our experience.
I asked Kevin about his military service. He said, “From supporting combat operations in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia to helping those most in need in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, I’ve had the honor of stepping in and giving back. I joined for the purpose of serving this great nation. I continue to do so with the mindset: if not me, then who? Wearing the uniform isn’t easy, but the world requires a ready force prepared to defend our nation’s values. I’m proud to be a part.”
Thanks for your service, Kevin. And thanks to you and Stacey for sharing your love story. Grazie mille. And tanti auguri!