A Florida couple who fell in love on an island months before their wedding could never have imagined how their plans for the big day would be tossed into the winds by Hurricane Ian a few months later. For more information on Miami Beach weddings and vow renewals visit:
There was no doubt in Beth Ann Rueter Sharer's mind that she was falling more deeply in love with Jay Goad with each passing day on the beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida.
It was on New Year's Eve 2021 that the two of them met through SilverSingles, a dating site for people over 50. They met on Jan. 2, 2022, at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Edinburgh, Ind., selected for the fact that it was located in the middle of their homes (hers in Seymour and his in Franklin).
The meeting took place shortly before Ms. Sharer was to depart on a preplanned, month-long stay at her condominium on Sanibel, an island off the coast of Fort Myers in southwest Florida.
A month earlier, Sharer would have left for the island of Sanibel, a small island off the coast of Fort Myers in southwest Florida, for a pre-planned month-long stay in her condominium.
His disappointment at this news came from a retired executive vice president at Cummins, an engine distributor. He decided that there might be a possibility of a relationship between him and her, and he daringly asked if he could join her. “I said, ‘This might sound weird, but I’m not doing anything, and Sanibel sounds pretty nice, right?”
In spite of the fact that she was surprised and flattered by her new position as dean of the Indiana University School of Nursing, Ms. Sharer said, “I knew I liked him, but I didn’t really know him.” She told him yes, provided he found his own place to stay. “I told him, ‘Do not think you are going to stay with me.’”
In the coming days, they sat by the beach for hours upon hours, talking to each other, toes in the sand, learning everything about each other during the time that they were both feeling something special. “We did a lot of nothing,” said Mr. Goad, who stayed in Sanibel for a week and did nothing but talk to each other for hours upon hours.
Each other shared stories about their lives, as well as pictures of their children and families that had grown up. It was astonishing how much they had in common: They both had a son and a daughter from previous thirty-plus-year marriages that ended three years earlier in divorce, and both had grandsons — she had five and he had three.
In the last few days before her subscription to SilverSingles expired, both of them had canceled their subscriptions, however, their subscriptions were scheduled to expire on the same day. "My friends call him the unicorn," Ms. Sharer laughed.
After Ms. Sharer's stay, Mr. Goad ended up returning to Sanibel for the last week of the girl's stay (living in his own house, still). Between visits, Mr. Goad sent roses with a note that said, "I have seen your heart and it is beautiful. I look forward to many more walks on the beach with you."
It was in the middle of May 2022, after Ms. Sharer and Mr. Goad had been steadily dating for a while, that the two agreed to get married on February 4th, 2023, and decided the Sanibel Inn, an upscale hotel across the street from her condo, would be the perfect place for the wedding.
Hurricane Ian had a different plan in mind when he made landfall.
There was a Category 4 storm on Sept. 28, 2022, that hit Sanibel, sending winds at over 150 mph and a storm surge of 12 feet across the island. In the first-floor unit facing the water at the Coquina Beach condos, Ms. Sharer's unit did not stand a chance. Her living room was destroyed to the studs by a flood of water that ripped everything out with such force that it left the apartment in a state of ruin.
Mr. Goad, along with Ms. Sharer, who was with him at the time of the hurricane that struck Indiana, said all the furniture and the refrigerator was swept into the sea. He said he could not even comprehend that everything had been swept from their homes.
As a result of the flooding, the condo's walls did not even have a water line, because the water was higher than the rooms themselves, Ms. Sharer said.
“Some of my friends saw the photos of the condo and thought that was your great job of cleaning. However, it was Mother Nature."
Ms. Sharer says that even today, she feels emotionally and physically shaken whenever she speaks of the storm. “It's something like post-traumatic stress,” she says.
In spite of the storm, they still wanted to spend a week on the beach in Florida, so they headed north to Anna Maria Island, which did not suffer as much damage as Sanibel. When they walked through town one afternoon, Ms. Sharer was suddenly overcome by her excitement after passing a store that was selling clothes from the Florida brand Lulu-B.
“I had bought a bunch of Lulu-B clothes in advance of my visit, and I kept them all in the condo for when I came. Now I don’t have a single thing that I wanted to wear. They were swept out, and my shirts are probably now worn by dolphins,” she said. The moment of my encounter, I felt overwhelmed by everything around me, even though I am not a materialistic person.”
As soon as she explained her situation to Mr. Goad, he encouraged her to enter the store without hesitation and offered to pay. "It really meant so much to me that he said, 'Buy whatever you need to replace what you lost.' He didn't hesitate to buy whatever I needed to replace what I lost." He showed me that he was just a good human being who really understood what I was going through.
The bride and groom, having been through hell and high water, now questioned whether a Sanibel wedding scheduled for February 2023 would even be physically possible. The venue where their wedding was supposed to take place, the Sanibel Inn, is today only a fragmentation of what it once was.
There has been some progress in Sanibel's recovery after the storm, albeit in a slow and steady manner. Several of the bridges that connect it to the mainland were damaged, blocking the island from access to the mainland. It was only a few weeks later, however, that access to the causeway had been regained, and cherry-picker utility trucks were soon spotted parading across the causeway, which was a welcome sight for the residents.
After all, this couple has gone through, of course, a happy ending was in the cards. They had a lovely beach wedding on a perfectly sunny day.