Courtship McCullough Style
"Tell me the story of how you met."
"We're both professional knife fighters," Will immediately responded.
So this is how it's going to go, I thought. Cool.
Usually a story like this would come with the warning, "Professional drivers. Do not try this at home."
It was December 30, 1995. Will McCullough was a drill instructor at Parris Island. He was driving up to a small town outside of Erie, PA to visit his brother and welcome in the New Year. Deena was driving back home to Cleveland Heights, OH after visiting her father in Florida for the holidays. It was a long drive for each of the 25-year-olds, and unbeknownst to them, they shared the same open road heading North up I-77. They both crossed into North Carolina at twilight, cruising at the same pace for quite a while. Deena noticed, in the penetrating light of the setting sun, the silhouette of a young man in the car ahead of her, hair cut short against the scalp-her favorite look. She was bored and curious so decided to inch up next to his car. As soon as her window lined up with his, he looked over at her and smiled. She didn't know what to do, so she waved. They continued along at the same pace until Will needed gas. He motioned to her and she followed him off the highway. Deena sat in her locked car with the window cracked as she watched Will in her side mirror walking up to the car. "I'm not an axe murderer or anything," Will said, figuring this was always a good opening line. They talked a bit and agreed they would meet for dinner at the next stop. They talked and talked. At the junction of the highway, where they had to part ways, they stopped at the side of the road and exchanged numbers. Each drove off in different directions but had the same instantaneous sad and lonely feeling. "We talked everyday for two weeks, then scheduled to meet half way in West Virginia for a weekend. Afterwards, we again talked everyday," explained Will. By the end of February, two months after they met, Deena had packed up and moved down to Beaufort. "We lived together for a year and then got married," Will added. "I don't know what got into me but I felt very open to meeting someone, a special someone," Deena recalled. "He's honestly the best person I've ever met. We were willing to take the risk, that's just the way we live. I took the risk, rather than always wondering what if?"
Their relationship has followed this original, non-conventional path. As a double black belt in martial arts, hand-to-hand combat instructor, and all around athlete, Will decided in 1997, after his time with the Marines, that they would start a martial arts school. They really could have been knife fighters!
Will was the front man for the school and Deena, with her degree in accounting, took care of the business end. With their complementary personalities and skills, their studio became only the eighth school in the country to be endorsed by the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Their great management and the timing of the very popular sport brought them huge success.
Because the business was going so well, they were able to start a family and could afford to make investments in real estate, which prompted both Will and Deena to get their real estate licenses. Will said, "I soon realized that selling real estate beat being punched in the face all day so we sold the martial arts school." They launched into a new career, again creating great success.
Deena and Will have built their life together using two tenets. First, build a three-legged stool of faith, family, and finance. Secondly, like David in the Goliath story, when faced with challenges, don't stand still or run away. "We run towards challenges, facing them together." It's the McCullough way.
Favorite characteristics of each other: "She's my best friend, soul mate, other half," Will said without hesitation. "He's handsome, very witty, makes me laugh, and I know I'm safe with him," Deena said proudly.
Most unique aspect of their marriage: They can't stand to be away from each other even for a minute. They are best friends and together 24/7.
Married: 15 years.
Children: Keara, 13-a cheerleader and a future track star. "She is freakishly fast!"; Cooper, 6-kindergartner and all around sweet kid.