Extreme Love Makeover
Kelley Huppertz has a confession to make. He considered his wife "out of his reach." At least that's what ran through his mind before the two changed their relationship status from just friends to a full-blown romance.
"I don't remember at what point she made it clear to me she had an interest," Kelley said. "I was kinda like, 'Really?' I was honored and quite flattered she would entertain the thought of dating me."
That was more than five years ago, when Susan, who was recovering from a failed marriage of 18 years, and Kelley, a self-described "long-term bachelor," made the leap. His first marriage lasted five years, ending in 1994. Today, Susan and Kelley are closing in on their one-year wedding anniversary, as they enjoy life as a married couple, business partners and, of course, best friends.
They were brought together by friends from the same social circle. Both moved to the area about 15 years ago for a change of scenery. Susan, a West Virginia native, moved from suburban Cleveland to escape the horrid winters. She was married at the time and already had established a successful career in marketing.
Kelley, a Fort Worth, Texas, native who grew up in a military family, relocated after many years in Atlanta. Single at the time, Kelley started a business out of the back of his pickup truck. Today, his Hilton Head Kitchen & Bath store, which focuses on remodels, is on Hunter Road.
The couple remembers their first meeting was at mutual friends' Academy Awards party, where guests were asked to dress as their favorite dead celebrity. Susan dressed like Natalie Wood. Kelley went as his very alive self. "He was dating someone else at the time," Susan recounted.
Through the years, there were more parties and more opportunities to get to know each other. At times, Kelley would bring his latest girlfriend. Other times, Susan and her friends were looking to fix him up. "Some (relationships) would last two months, some two minutes," Kelley said. "They'd be too Pollyanna or something. It's hard to find single women (here), so many come with baggage."
But Susan broke that mold. Neither she nor Kelley had children. There also were no pets in the equation, as they remain without kids or pets. Both are the same age (now 50) and conservatives in their politics. They also love to drive fast cars. He has a Porsche convertible, while she drives a Corvette.
Their first merging of the minds involved business. Kelley decided to have a booth in the 2004 Hilton Head Area Homebuilders Association show and sought out Susan's expertise in marketing. Not only did they win a first-place booth award, but it also led to Susan's full-time job with his company. From there, a romance blossomed.
"Susan fills a lot of voids in my life and completes the way I've always wanted a relationship to be. None of my past relationships had what it takes to last long term as lovers, much less working together," Kelley said.
The couple bought a home together in Hilton Head Plantation in 2007. Once again, it was a smooth transition. They both like to decorate, while Susan also showed her flexibility (and sense of humor) by way of interior decor. "One of the other reasons I decided to go ahead and marry her is because she let me hang my guitars on the living room walls of a very nicely decorated home." Kelley said. "But I recently moved them into my man cave."
It was Kelley who earned style points in his way of proposing. While visiting his parents in Atlanta during Christmas 2010, he asked Susan to marry him while sitting on a granite bench that once was in his grandparents' yard. The engagement ring was his late grandmother's.
No details were spared on their April 2011 wedding. The couple planned a luau-themed party, complete with leis Kelley had flown in from Hawaii. The setting was on friends' property near Point Comfort Plantation overlooking Broad Creek.
Valentine's Day plans are expected to provide an equal level of romantic ambiance. "We're usually inclined to stay home and have a nice meal on our own. And almost always champagne, we're big bubbly drinkers. Champagne and a hot tub night," Susan said.
Path to the Lowcountry: Kelley moved here from Atlanta and Susan relocated from suburban Cleveland. Both have lived here 15 years.
Necessities in a great relationship: (Kelley) A lot of common interests. Having a lot of fun together. (Susan) Natural chemistry, that's the binding agent.
Couples' favorite saying: "Everything we do together is good."
Couples' business slogan: "Love where you live."