As the old joke goes, a man walked into a bar. That evening in October 1994, Greg Smith, 33, noticed a nice-looking guy there. But alas, a young man was seated next to him at the bar.
Meanwhile, Rick Harris, 41, was trying to signal to Greg that the young man was not his date. Fortunately, the guy got up to go to the restroom, and Greg zoomed over to talk to Rick.
Rick: “We had a lot in common. Greg liked to laugh, and I could carry on a good conversation with him.”
Greg: “Rick was very businesslike. We talked about everything, and I thought he was very cool.”
The unfolding: At the end of the evening, they exchanged phone numbers. The next morning, they went to brunch and then watched a football game. Both felt comfortable together, and they began to see each other.
Each had a feeling they’d be together forever. But they decided that rather than jump into a relationship, they’d just enjoy the process. By New Year’s, they knew they were in love; they discussed their dreams and goals and their feelings about family, community and each other. They moved in together a couple of months later.
The proposal and wedding: Within a few years, they relocated from Kansas City to Chicago for Rick’s work. In early 2004, Rick secretly entered a contest for “best wedding vows” for same-sex couples. His heartfelt vows won. The prize: a commitment ceremony and reception at the W Hotel.
They had their ceremony in July 2004 in Chicago and were married legally in Palm Springs, Calif., on Oct. 4, 2014.
Favorite shared activities: They enjoy going to movies, eating out and shopping estate sales. They collect 1950s furniture, accessories and holiday paraphernalia.
Careers: The couple returned to Kansas City in 2013 and now live in Overland Park. Rick recently retired from working as a bank examiner for the government. Greg works in management at a retail store.
Family: Throughout the years, Rick stayed connected with his previous partner’s nephew, who had lived with them. Greg also became close to the nephew. Both enjoy spending time with their “son,” his wife and their two children.
What keeps their relationship strong: They always have interesting things to talk about. They don’t overdo and they don’t stress.
The qualities they most appreciate in each other:
Rick: “Greg is extremely witty and very creative. He balances me in just the right way.”
Greg: “Rick is caring and empathetic. His analytical nature helps keep me in line and focused.”
Deborah Shouse is a freelance writer. The final Star Magazine Love Stories will appear here in Saturday FYI.