Tuesday, July 5, 2022 Jul 5, 2022
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Valentine's Day

Executive Couples: Kit Sawers, Marty Turco, Jamie O’Banion, and More

In this special Valentine’s Day series, North Texas business and nonprofit leaders share their relationship advice and ‘how we met’ stories.
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Gail Warrior Suchy, Executive Chairwoman, CASPR Group and her husband Christophe at their wedding in Mexico. Courtesy

Building on the success of our hugely popular (and fun to read!) Executive Holidays series, D CEO editors asked North Texas leaders to share their favorite Valentine’s gifts and traditions, lessons learned from love, and more. Read on to get a glimpse of the personal lives of area execs, who share their proposal stories and wedding photos with us. (Be sure to read part two in the Valentine’s Day series here.)

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Derrick and Monica Evers Courtesy

Derrick Evers, Managing Partner and CEO, Kaizen Development Partners 

He and his wife, Monica, will celebrate 20 years of marriage next month. 

HOW WE MET: “Monica and I met while in college at Texas A&M University. Next month, we will have been married for 20 years. It’s a milestone year for sure!”

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “I tried to make a whole day of events and leaving little clues throughout, with the crescendo being me on one knee at the Renaissance Hotel.” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “I don’t know that we have traditions. Rather, we love to change things up. Some years I do better than others (ha).” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “I love the Valentine’s Days when we were really struggling for cash, and all we did was exchange love notes and ate Ramen. Ah, the simple days.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Learn to say, authentically, ‘You’re probably right, honey.’” 

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Michael and Amy Osteen Courtesy

Amy Osteen, Founder, OutsideCLO 

The love story with her husband, Michael, has been created into a short film by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine.

HOW WE MET: “It’s tempting to stick to the acceptable script but, the truth is: we swiped right. We kept the first date short, sweet, and simple. But soon, I was smitten. People seem to like me because I am polite and I’m rarely late, but Michael won me over with his beautiful eyes and strength of character.  

Next came the realization that some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences. Which led to Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine buying the movie rights.” [Click here to see Osteen’s love story.

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “Michael and I are different in a thousand ways, but we always agree: travel whenever and wherever you can. We learned early on that we’re great travel buddies. Unfortunately, I had to learn that by Michael tending to me at my worst after an ill-advised craving for natural pork rinds at a Louisiana gas station. 

“Was it a surprise when he proposed in Lake Tahoe? No. In your 40s, engagements aren’t a one-way street—they’re something that should be discussed at length and often before it happens. But I was surprised it was right after we took the kids ziplining. Adding to the reasons to say, ‘Yes.’”  

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “We got married about a month before the pandemic, so our Valentine’s Days haven’t been the most adventurous bunker-style hiding out. But I’m writing this on a plane for a Valentine’s getaway. Maybe this one will be it!” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Being a spouse, parent, step-parent, and growing a career, is messy. It is exhausting. No matter how much you love someone, and they love you, things will go wrong. When they do, frame every frustration with these words: ‘In five years, will this matter?’ And remember that sometimes, the most difficult times put us directly on the path to the best of times.” 

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Eric and Alicia Pointer

Eric Pointer, CEO, Credit Union of Texas 

He met his wife, Alicia, on a blind date. Both of them had an exit plan—just in case.  

HOW WE MET: “I did business with the nurse at the elementary school where my now-wife taught. She tried to set us up on a blind date, which neither of us were really interested in doing. After a phone call from “nurse Judy” saying she had a feeling, I finally agreed to give it a try. Alicia and I went to Blue Goose on Greenville Avenue, and both had a made-up exit plan—just in case. We met on Nov. 18, 1998, and were picking out engagement rings over that Christmas break.  

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “After seeking approval from her dad, I proposed the following May at the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth.”  

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “We have a special dinner with our three boys. The two of us may also celebrate a day or two before Valentine’s Day to avoid crowds.” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “I always get my wife a nice flower arrangement.”  

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Make each other a priority and spend time together. Be your significant other’s best friend.” 

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Kemp and Kit Sawers

Kit Sawers, President, Klyde Warren Park 

She booked the church before her husband, Kemp, had even proposed. 

HOW WE MET: “Kemp and I met in law school at SMU. We both graduated from college in 1989 (Dartmouth for him; UVA for me), and then took a year off, so we started law school in the fall of 1990.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “Kemp proposed on his birthday, so I would not expect it. I was so focused on surprising him that I did not realize he was going to surprise me. We then went to The Mansion on Turtle Creek for dinner. He wasn’t wearing a blazer and had to borrow one from management.” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “Valentine’s Day has become much more about the kids than about us. But Kemp does send red roses every year to my office, which is very sweet.” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “Not Valentine’s Day, but a funny memory: I actually booked the church for our wedding before Kemp proposed. What can I say? I’m a planner! We’d been dating for three years, so I figured it was just a matter of time. What’s the harm in securing my desired date, just in case? Of course, I did not tell him what I was doing. 

 “Anyway, I had to give the church office my contact info and his. When they had a follow-up question about something and couldn’t reach me, THEY CALLED HIM! Needless to say, he was shocked to learn that we had a wedding date booked, and I was mortified when he found out. A few months later, he proposed, and we ended up using the date I had booked. A happy ending, but he still loves to give me a hard time about this.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Marry someone funny. It helps in stressful times.” 

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Marty and Kelly Turco

Marty Turco, President, Dallas Stars Foundation 

He and his wife, Kelly, have been together since their junior year of high school. 

HOW WE MET: “We first met in eighth grade, at church. We have been together since our junior year of high school.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “We dated through college and got engaged when I was a first-year pro, right here in Dallas during the 1999 Stanley Cup run. She knew it was coming, so after dinner at Bob’s on Lemmon, we caught a comedy show; it was my effort to try throw her off. Then I proposed back at the hotel—I had only spent 2 months in DFW at that point—with my room filled with flowers, thanks to Aaron and Jen Gavey (another Stars couple).” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “With our busy kids and calendars, we usually do dinner sometime around the date. Flowers are a staple for my bride, like most. Usually, there is a kids’ hockey tournament on or close to that date.”  

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “I once gave Kelly a ring with all the kids’ birthstones in it. I think it was awesome, personally, ha.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Knowing both what makes your spouse happy and disappointed, and giving more than the other is a bona fide way to couple bliss. Or just marry a sweet, level-headed, down-to-earth Canadian.” 

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Charmaine and George Tang in front of The Rainbow Room in NYC on their wedding day, July 7, 2001.

Charmaine Tang, Senior Client Strategist, BNY Mellon Wealth Management 

She and her husband, George, met at a Halloween party when they were freshmen at NYU. 

HOW WE MET: “George and I met during our freshman year at NYU at a Halloween party when we were 18. He was wearing a big cowboy hat and boots and caught my eye with his bright smile. Little did I know his outfit wasn’t a Halloween costume, but part of George’s wardrobe. Born and raised in NYC, I had never met a Dallasite or been ‘lassoed’ on the dance floor. It was quite unforgettable! 

“We have known each other for 30 years, been a couple for 25 years, and have been married for more than 20 years. We’ve been best friends since college and have walked through our entire adult lives together.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “George proposed to me in Lake Tahoe, on a mountaintop while overlooking the beautiful blue water. Later that day, he surprised me further with a big family celebration with my parents who flew in from NYC, my California-based godparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was perfect!”

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “We have none. As George would say, ‘Every day is Valentine’s Day for us.’ 

 RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Marry your best friend. It makes everything fun and easy, especially through the ups and downs of life.” 

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Christophe Suchy and Gail Warrior-Suchy

Gail Warrior Suchy, Executive Chairwoman, CASPR Group

She met her husband, Christophe Suchy, when they both ‘swiped right.’ 

HOW WE MET: “We met through an online dating app, Tinder. The interesting part is that Christophe was not living in Dallas as the time—he was living in Spain. But he just happened to be in Dallas the day we both ‘swiped right,’ within the radius I had set on the app. Our first date was a Super Bowl Sunday brunch in 2015 at Bistro 31. Christophe picked me up because I just had surgery from rupturing my Achilles. That was seven years ago.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “Christophe moved to Dallas that same year and proposed in October. We took a long weekend trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico, and after breakfast, Christophe wanted to take a walk on the beach. Hardly anyone else was on the beach because it was windy and muggy, he starts telling me how much [my son] Corey and I mean to him, and that he can’t imagine life without both of us.  

“The next thing I know he diverts my attention to a group of people playing volleyball on the beach. I look over and by the time I turn my head back to him, he’s down on one knee proposing. I was so surprised!! We were married the following summer on the beach in Mexico with a small group of friends and family. Corey walked me down the aisle as Christophe played the guitar and sang my favorite song in French! It was truly a storybook wedding, and it has been ever since.” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “For us, every day ins Valentine’s Day—seriously! We celebrate our ‘monthiversary’ each month on the 16th. Valentine’s Day for us isn’t about doing something special on a certain day, it’s celebrating each other every day. Christophe always brings me flowers each week because he knows how much I adore fresh flowers. And he is a great cook, so candlelight dinners with jazz music are a constant in our home.” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “We spoil each other all the time, not just on Valentine’s Day. We do exchange cards; my favorite is a card from Christophe where he wrote a special love note on the inside.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: I’m sure people have heard this before, but never go to bed angry with one another. Appreciate the little things that your spouse or significant other does for you every day. Say ‘I love you at least 10 times a day—and kiss often!”  

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Nirav and Megha Tolia

Nirav Tolia, Founder, Nextdoor 

Nirav’s wife, Megha, is president and COO of Shondaland. 

HOW WE MET: “Megha and I were set-up by common friends, Jim and Shannon Lanzone. I was living in San Francisco and knew Jim as he and I were both executives of Internet companies. Megha was living in Santa Monica and had met Shannon while growing up in Palos Verdes, California. It must have been fate as we first exchanged emails on February 25, 2010, and only one short year later, we were married on March 5, 2011. We have been married for almost 11 years.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “I proposed with the help of world-renowned interior designer Ken Fulk, at his amazing paradise Durham Ranch in St. Helena, California. Megha thought we were going to Ken’s ranch for a party, but when we arrived, the entire place was empty and so Megha wondering what was going on. We walked around the back to a large barn that was lit up by hundreds of candles and perfumed by hundreds of flowers. In the middle of the barn was one empty chair. Megha took the seat and I got down on one knee to propose. Thankfully, she said yes!” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “We have spent most of our married lives raising our three young boys (ages 9, 8, and 6) so Valentine’s Day has been more of a reminder of our love and commitment to each other, versus an over-the-top holiday. We typically have a quiet and romantic dinner together and reflect on how lucky we are to have found each other.” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “One year, Megha put together me an amazing memory box—a jar beautifully decorated and inside dozens of small pieces of paper with our favorite memories written on them. I always ensure that Megha has gorgeous flowers on this special day and our favorite gifts each and every year are heartfelt cards that we write and save to re-read in years to come.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “We believe that there are a few keys to ensuring a lasting and healthy relationship. The first is frequent and open communication. The second is laughter and constant shows of affection. The third and final one is to make the time for shared experiences—not just date nights and holidays, but everyday things such as working out together, watching the same TV show or reading the same book.” 

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Suzanne Slonim and Pam Gerber

Pam Gerber, Founding Advisory Board Member, City Year Dallas 

Her wife, Suzanne Slonim, is the medical director of the Fibroid Institute Dallas. 

HOW WE MET: “As they say, we could’ve danced all night. And we did. Thirty-two years ago we walked into a dance club as strangers and walked out without ever guessing that we would be together for more than three decades and still going strong.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry was guaranteed to same-sex couples. That was the day we looked at each other and asked: ‘Are you ready?’ And without missing a beat, we replied in unison: ‘Yep!’ Five months later, we said ‘I do.’ And we did. And we still do.” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “Our tradition is to recite our annual mantra: ‘Please don’t send me flowers. Please don’t send a card. We don’t have to eat out—I’m good with a salad from Eatzi’s. And why go out when we can lie on the couch and binge-watch our favorite tv shows.’ We follow this tradition religiously.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Never, never, never take each other for granted. Did we mention that you should never take each other for granted?” 

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Melbourne and Jamie O'Banion

Jamie O’Banion, CEO, BeautyBio 

Her husband, Melbourne, is the CEO of Bestow. 

HOW WE MET: “We started dating when I was a still a teenager. So, we’ve had almost 20 years together. We dated all through college.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “Melbourne has always been incredible at making every detail perfection. He proposed at Sundance near Park City, Utah. It’s one of our favorite places. A driver picked me up, there was a box on the seat full of rose petals (that matched the exact same blush as the box!) and he wrote love notes. Rose petals led to the most beautiful cabin, fireplace on with candles everywhere. Total Bachelor-worthy—before that show even existed. 

“When he walked out and proposed, I was so overwhelmed and speechless I just kept saying, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And he finally paused and said, ‘So is that a yes?’ My response: ‘Yes, yes, yes—a million yes’s!’ And three kids later, the rest is history.” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “We always write a note to each other. Melbourne sends the most insanely gorgeous flowers and we usually go out to dinner out somewhere.” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “Loved our V-day trip to Las Ventanas a few years back. It was incredible. No one does romance better than that property.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Every marriage requires intentional effort. Keep dating each other. Someone once told me the key to a happy marriage is waking up each day and being more concerned with what you can do for that person that day than what they are doing for you. There’s a lot of truth to that.” 

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Danny and Amber Lovell

Danny Lovell, President and CEO, The Rainier Cos. 

Lovell’s birthday is Feb. 14, so his wife, Amber, tries to make the day about him. 

HOW WE MET: “Amber was a calligrapher (scoreboard artist) on the professional golf tour I was playing on in 2005. We’ve been dating since 2006, and we were married in 2008.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “I proposed to her on a trip to Costa Rica, and it was her 30th birthday, so I surprised her.” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “Interestingly, I was born on Valentine’s Day, so while I always try to be thoughtful about getting her something, she tries hard to make V-Day about my birthday. Amber always makes strawberry cupcakes for me using the same recipe my mother used when I was a kid. They are unbelievably good!” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “My wife hosted 12 of our closest friends in Napa for my 40th B-day/V-Day three years ago. She rented a big house in the country with a chef. Almost everyone stayed at the house for three days, and she set up wine tours and golf. It was my favorite gift for sure.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “Communication is vital. You’re on a team together and need to have each other’s back.” 

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Michael and Marissa Horne

Michael Horne, President and CEO, Parkland Foundation 

His wife Marissa is vice president of financial services, technology, and data at Capital One 

HOW WE MET: “Marissa Horne is my college sweetheart. We were students together at Amherst College — she was a student in the Computer Science department, and I was in Sociology. After many days of me carrying her C++ books to class, she finally agreed to date me. We did end up eventually taking classes together; much to my chagrin, but not surprise, Marissa got the higher grades. After college, we were married, and now, seventeen years later, we continue to learn and grow together.” 

OUR PROPOSAL STORY: “A lover of music, I knew that Stevie Wonder’s melodious songs would play a pivotal role in my proposal. Amidst the tree-lined streets of brownstones in Brooklyn, New York, I set to make the most memorable proposal. At that time, Marissa worked late nights on Wall Street, so I carefully set the mood in my apartment: candles lining the staircase, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ playing on repeat, and a card with the last line reading, “with this, I ask you to be my wife,” carefully placed in the apartment door’s hinge such that when Marissa opened the door, she would find the card. Upon her arrival, she was overcome with emotion, and swiftly said ‘yes.’” 

VALENTINE’S DAY TRADITIONS: “Over the years, Marissa and I have both learned that we love to spend time outdoors. Marissa, enjoying long walks through wooded trails, and me providing accompaniment to offer stimulating conversation. At the same time, in the throes of parenting our two children and demanding careers, the opportunity for time alone during the week is sometimes challenging. Accordingly, on Valentine’s Day we look for the chance to do something simple: to take a walk together and unpack the day we’ve both had and the days to come.” 

FAVORITE VALENTINE’S GIFT OR MEMORY: “One of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories is from a time earlier in our marriage. I love the arts and Marissa shares my love of classical music. Given this, I decided to surprise Marissa with a date to the American Ballet Theatre in Lincoln Center. After enjoying an amazing performance and spectacular music, we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant and spent the night reminiscing about the event.” 

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE: “The art of communication is the basis of all great decisions. As such, the best advice I can offer is to listen first, then speak.” 

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