In celebration of the day on which we honor love itself, we present a few industry Valentines. And in accordance with primary school tradition, we're making sure everyone gets one.
Some of our AQUA Valentines met their spouses on the job, starting out as co-workers and growing into something more. Many were born into the trade and brought their partners into the work. And others walked down the aisle — straight into the pool and spa business.
Of course, being partners in both life and business can be a tricky road. But those who do often attest they wouldn't have it any other way.
"It was 2001, and I was living in Sheffield, Mass. I had been dating CJ since 1995, but he was living in Connecticut at the time. We were doing the long distance thing, which was getting pretty old.
When CJ asked me to move to Connecticut, I was thrilled. I packed up my stuff and got a new job there as a meeting planner with Deliotte and Touche.
After we'd settled into Connecticut, one day he said, 'Let's go to Long Island for the weekend.' So we go and he takes me to one of the local beaches, sits me down and says, 'Isn't this so nice?'
'Yeah, I've never been here before, it's really nice,' I said.
'Well,' he said, a bit nervously, 'I just bought a pool business here, and I need your help.' I was shocked. I had just moved to Connecticut for him, and now he wants me to move to Long Island?
But, because love is crazy, I helped him out. I kept my job in Connecticut and commuted on weekends. After awhile, I moved to Long Island to be with CJ and work with him at his pool business full time, trading in my heels for steel toe boots.
As excited as I was to be living in the same zip code as CJ again, it was so scary to make such a huge life change! I didn't know anything about the industry, and now it was my entire life!
It started off easy — me in the office, running the store, doing inventory. At the end of my office day I would meet up with CJ and help him vacuum pools, open pools, install motors. Like a little apprentice, I put in my time and learned enough to go out and have my own truck and pool route. After 10 years in the business my role has evolved to include inventory for the store and warehouse, customer service, managing the employees, accounts receivable and sales. And yes, I am still in the field servicing and building pools!
CJ and I got married in 2010, and last year, we celebrated owning East End Pool King for 10 years. As all husband and wife teams know, it is not always easy running a business with a spouse but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I call us the dynamic duo. We complement each other. I am the customer service end of things and he is the technical guy. He does the logistics of the day. I run a tight ship while CJ is more laid back. I am the planner and try to be one step ahead while he is the financer. We're a perfect match to compete in this intense and fulfilling industry."
— Jennifer Del Vaglio
East End Pool King
2016 Pleatco Perfect Pool Gal
"It was 1979, and a friend from college asked me if I could help out in the office at his hot tub company until they could find someone permanent for the position. I was between jobs, so I said, 'Ok, I can do that for a bit...but hot tubs? Really?' A few months later they hired Joseph to help install these new products. We were all young, as was the industry, so it was exciting to be part of this adventure. But since I was never going to stay long, I didn't pay much attention to him, even though he was a handsome devil! Thirty-six years later, we are still together, and I am the VP of our great company, while he became an electrician and our go-to guy for customers."
— Lynda Sisk
"I was born into the pool industry with a trowel in my hand. My wife was not.
We met in high school art class when we were 15 and immediately started dating. By the time we were 18, we were both working full time for my father, who started his pool and plaster business in 1976.
We both worked closely with my father for years and now run his business, carrying on his legacy. We also have three children, and our oldest already has pool experience under his belt. Thank you, Dad, I love you!"
— Ronald Jacoboni
Carson City, Nev.
"When I was dating my now-husband, we couldn't stand to be apart for long. So I used to go with him to work when he built pools — I'd sit all day, watching him work, swinging that sledge hammer. Now, 15 years later, here I am: Still riding along as he runs his company, except now I actually have to work, too! (Oh, and we make our son work, too.) One way or another, pools have always been part of our relationship and life. I wouldn't have it any other way."
— Shaunna Turner
"My husband and I met while both working for PoolCorp Distribution. He had been living in Nashville for more than 20 years, while I had just moved to town from Louisiana to start work with Superior Pools (PoolCorp) as a manager in training; he was my trainer/mentor. Our first date was unintentional, as we had a vendor dinner with a few Multicoat reps and our managers at a comedy club.
We thought the relationship would not last; once trained, I had to leave — as an MIT with the company, you were guaranteed to leave your branch and likely not to return.
But when I moved for a promotion with SCP back to my home state of Louisiana, we continued to date long distance for more than a year. He proposed in November of 2010 — shortly after I returned to Nashville for an opening at SCP. We married in April 2011, celebrated the birth of our daughter in Oct 2012... and we are still enjoying the fruits of the industry."
— Jessica Dayhoff
"My wife, Sozan, and I have been married for 15 years; we were married three months after we met. For a long time we never gave any thought to working together. In fact, my family's business prohibited spouses working together.
But after the recession I re-organized under my own name and started looking at everything differently. One of things I changed was to embrace selling patio furniture. It's pure profit, fun and enables us to deliver a complete environment to our clients. With Sozan's degree in fashion merchandizing and her experience working for a luxury spa company, it made sense that she play an important role designing and selecting outdoor furnishings for our clients projects.
That was back in 2012. Our first year about 50 percent of our projects included furnishings, now it's very close to 100 percent. So, bringing her into the business has been a huge success.
On the personal side, it's definitely tough at times. But we work hard at finding ways to balance the business with our personal lives."
— Ryan Hughes
Ryan Hughes Design
Through Thick & Thin
As we honor great industry love stories this month, one marriage stands out for its longevity, industry influence and the overall power of a loving relationship.
Suzanne and Ron Dirsmith, principles at The Dirsmith Group in Chicago, were married in 1954 when embarked on a journey together that lasted until last August when Ron passed away of renal failure. Together, Suzanne and Ron traveled the world, raised a family and ultimately created some of the industry' most memorable designs.
Ron was a licensed architect while Suzanne's background is in educational development and community service. Professionally, they identified themselves as "environmental designers." Together they built a legacy of innovation, artistic sensibility and compassion for the human condition.
When it came to the design and construction of aquatic spaces, they unquestionably qualify as bona fide industry pioneers. Their most famous project by far was the Playboy Mansion West, where they designed not only the famous grotto pool, one of the most photographed pools ever built, but also the entire landscape and mansion interiors.
They had a passion for working with water and designed numerous less famous projects that were no less creative. Their work could be loosely categorized as "organic contemporary," a style that featured the extensive use of stone, wood, plantings, metal, glass and artwork. In every project, they worked to fuse the spaces they created with the beauty of nature and the beauty of human creativity.
They were a delightful couple, with a shared playful sense of humor and an enduring belief that through design they could nurture the human spirit and ultimately make the world a better place. Their work may be over, but there is no question their creative brilliance and love of life left an indelible and decidedly romantic mark on the industry.