Wedding Bells at Watermark: Stephen Gibson and Rob Johnson

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Rob Johnson and Stephen GibsonStephen Gibson, 45, who oversees vacation rentals and entertains as “Stephane Blair,” and Rob Johnson, 54, who is a graphic designer by trade, met online toward the end of 2007. Stephen noticed they had a lot in common,so he decided to message Rob.

“I got this message and email, and it said it was this guy from Florida,” Rob says. “And I was like ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to meet anybody from out of town.’ He and I started talking, and it got to the point where we would send messages back and forth online all the time, then we started talking on the phone and then we started talking on the phone every day.”

Stephen was able to take some time off around his birthday, so he told Rob, who was living in Texas at the time, because he couldn’t come to Florida for his birthday, that he would go there. He arrived there on January 4, 2008 – Stephen’s birthday—and that’s where it all started.

After visiting each other back and forth for months, Rob put his house up for sale to move to St. Pete to live with Stephen in August 2008.

“We never have really heated conversations,” Stephen says. “If we have something to say, we get our point across, and then we go on with everyday life.”

Years passed, and they only grew founder of each other, but in March 2013, things started to change for Rob and his health.

“I would mow the grass, and I would be sick for a few days afterward,” Rob recalls. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I finally got diagnosed with cancer after going to the doctor’s about four to six times thinking I had allergies or something, but it was cancer.”

In August 2014, Rob was diagnosed with plasma blastic lymphoma. Rob had a tumor in his stomach that was pushing down on his kidney, and the kidney had a large cist on it—larger than many of the doctors they were working with had seen.

Eventually, Rob received a stem cell transplant in March 2015, and Stephen became Rob’s full-time caregiver. Stephen would go back and forth to from the Moffitt Cancer Center to their home to take care of their animals and take care of anything else.

Before Rob got sick, he put a lot of time and money into trying to get their new place fixed up,but when he got sick, he didn’t see how their house was coming along for a year.

“His words were: ‘Well, this could be my last Christmas, so I really want to enjoy it,’” Stephen recalls. “I told his mom I was going to do everything possible to have up in the house by the time we got married. I called his mother to ask her permission to have Rob marry me, and she gave us her blessing.

“After we had that conversation about how it could be his last Christmas, I had to sit back and look at things in whole and say, ‘If I was in his situation, I would hope someone wouldn’t put restrictions on me.’”

Stephen wanted to have renovations done by the time he finally came back to their house December 28, 2015. It was his Christmas surprise — Stephen finished most of the house project.

Stephen proposed to Rob on a Saturday after his ROTC practice at a Vietnamese restaurant. He got flowers and a cake, and on the cake, he had them write, “Rob, will you marry me?” At the end of the dinner, he tried to play it off and ask for the check. The waiters were in on it and brought the cake out. Rob said “yes”.

They had a very small and exclusive wedding ceremony because of Rob’s health issue. They got married at a friend’s gazebo on Treasure Island. They had a sunset behind them on their wedding day. A ROTC friend of theirs performed the ceremony.

“My favorite thing about Rob would be his openness to understand everyone and their feelings and thoughts,” Stephen says.

Rob says that Stephen is such a hopeless romantic, and not many people get to know that about him. He says Stephen was the one who got teary-eyed at their wedding ceremony.

They went in to apply for their marriage license on December 21, 2015, their anniversary date, and got married on December 24, 2015.

“It makes you think differently when you have a conversation with someone, and instead of saying ‘my partner,’ like I’ve said for eight years,now say ‘my husband’—and there’s no question of who that would be,” Stephen says.

YEARS TOGETHER: 8 years

ENGAGEMENT DATE: October 18, 2015

WEDDING DATE: December 24, 2015

WEDDING VENUE: At a friend’s gazebo in Treasure Island

WEDDING CATERER: Their cake was done by Cake by Carolynn A Special Touch

WEDDING COLORS: Beach theme, aqua and magenta

INTERESTING FACT: They met online in 2007 and were living in two different states at the time. Rob ended up moving to St. Petersburg to be with Stephen.

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