A Clearwater couple radiated excitement about their New Year's Day wedding plans one recent morning at Frida's Bakery in Largo.
Between bites of a sample Frida's Italian-Rum cake, which they ultimately selected as their wedding day dessert, Maria Posani and Thomas William Kish shared the story of how their New Year's Day wedding on Indian Rocks Beach came to be.
Posani, 45, is the mother of a young daughter with cerebral palsy. She said she had resigned to being alone as a single parent.
"I didn't think anyone would accept the situation and be wonderful about it," Posani said.
But Posani's life changed through an "old-fashioned personal ad" in 2010, she said.
Posani's future mother-in-law told her son, Kish, 56, of Clearwater, about a personal ad she found in Senior Voices.
Kish was skeptical at first.
Posani "was from Ohio, and I did not know what to think. Her first voice (mail message) really got to me. I still have the original message," Kish said.
The couple developed a long-distance friendship and "courted" with phone calls and hand-written letters for eight months between Clearwater and Columbus, before they met and ended up together in Florida in 2011.
"We really did the old-fashioned kind of courting with love letters and phone calls. I still have the letters all tied with a ribbon," Posani said.
The couple said, the relationship was the answer to their deepest dreams. Kish had always wanted a family and Posani wanted to be a mother and wife.
"I wanted someone who respects my space and opinions but still was traditional," Posani said. "When you go through life experiences, you learn what's important — the value of someone's character. When you really love a person, you love their soul. We are all going to get old and wrinkly."
The couple loves walks on local beaches and Kish proposed behind Caddy's on Treasure Island.
"It was very romantic at sunset," Posani said. "He proposed and asked to be my daughter's father."
Although the couple originally planned a fall wedding, they decided instead to "start fresh together" in the New Year.