Wedding Bells at Watermark: Rob Ackerman and Russel Hiett

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Rob Ackerman, who is a retired interior architectural designer and remodeler, and Russel Hiett, who is a retired family and marriage therapist, both have many things in common: They’re both family oriented, lovers of art, and have been previously married to women who they had children with.

“When my wife and I married in the early ‘70s, we had talked about the fact that I was gay, but at that time they had nothing written about it, and she was a professor at UCF,” Russel says.“Since there had been literally nothing written about the subject, we thought, ‘Well, maybe we really were attracted to each other, and maybe that was just a passing fancy.’”

While Russel knew about his sexuality since an early age, Rob didn’t come out until after his divorce to his previous wife. After Russel’s wife passed away and Rob divorced his wife, they decided to explore their newfound sexuality, both coming out to their children and getting involved and trying to meet people within the gay community.

RusselHiettRobAckermanIt was when Rob’s friend Doug, who was crucial in his coming out process, was at Gay Days years back that he ran into one of his female friends, who happened to be friends with Russel. They ended up setting up Russel and Rob on a date.

After the initial date where Doug was with them, they decided to go on another date. This time just the two of them had dinner together.

“He said, ‘I have this letter I’d like you to read,’ which he wrote to his sons about coming out and explaining to them the whole process,” Rob says.“I think from that point on, after hearing his letter and how it touched me very deeply, it was almost like an instant connection.”

Over the years, their relationship grew. One day the two were talking about marriage, and that’s when Russel asked Rob if they could take their relationship to the next step – so he asked Rob to marry him.

“Rob not only notices things and comments on them, but is supportive in his comments,” Russel says. “I’ve always loved that, as a marriage therapist, to be able to comment on a partner’s strengths is so important. It is one of the things I love about him. In addition to that, he has a very fine artistic eye.”

The couple will be one of the first couples to get married in the newly located Capen-Showalter House.

“In a way, it kind of is a metaphor for our lives – piecing our lives back together in a way that would make sense for us,” Russel says.

They planned the entire wedding from start to finish. Russel also plays flute and piccolo, and four of his friends, who he is in a flute choir with, are going to play at their wedding.

“He’s a Renaissance man. I mean when you talk about a Renaissance man, he is it,” Rob says. “He is knowledgeable about so many different things and everything he does, he does so well. And I think that is a big love of mine that I see through him, that he does all these things.”

YEARS TOGETHER: Three and a half years
ENGAGEMENT DATE: Russel asked Rob to marry him in January 2015.
WEDDING DATE: November 28, 2015
WEDDING VENUE: The Capen-Showalter House at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
WEDDING PLANNER: They planned the wedding themselves.
WEDDING FLOWERS: Lee Forrest Design
INTERESTING FACT: They were both in straight marriages — Russel for 31 years and Rob for 35 years. They both have adult children and grandchildren, too.

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