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A world-class romance

By COLLEEN ARMSTRONG
Islands Sounder Publisher, Editor
February 11, 2013 · Updated 4:11 PM
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Michael and Jeffri at their home on Orcas Island. / Colleen Smith Armstrong/Staff Photo

They keep a car in Italy and have visited 25 countries together. Their home is filled to the brim with the eclectic fruit of their travels. They live a life of romance.

Yet for Michael Rivkin and Jeffri Coleman, it's the shared connection of day- to-day living that is their strength.

“It's not a honeymoon forever,” Jeffri said. “It ebbs and flows. You have to reignite the fire and have the patience to know that it's not always going to be great.”

After more than three decades together, it's a dance they know well.

Michael and Jeffri met in Hershey, Penn. in 1978 in cooking school. They became friends right away, but their romance didn't cement until some years later. In the interim, Jeffri had to get a few marriages out of the way.

“I was raised very Catholic,” he explains about his heterosexual relationships.

Jeffri was worried about his family's reaction to his sexuality while Michael, who had a budding professional career in the hotel industry, was unsure about “social and work acceptance.” They always knew they wanted to grow old together, but never thought it was possible in Pennsylvania. When they finally committed to each other and told their families, it turned out to be a “non-event.”

Michael and Jeffri moved to Orcas in 1985 and have been running Crow Valley Pottery ever since. Michael is also a quality assurance auditor for hotels across the globe, which means he is often gone. Jeffri holds down the fort in his absence, along with their dog Clara, who was voted mayor of Eastsound in 2010. Every time Michael returns from a trip, Jeffri has a special meal prepared for him.

Their home on Orcas is a converted early 1900s barn, adorned with both local artists' work and treasures from their travels. Michael did all the renovation work – floors, cabinets, counters, etc. – with Jeffri's creative direction.

They became domestic partners in 1994 during a commitment ceremony at their home with 130 members of their friends and family.

Michael and Jeffri say they are still overwhelmed by the passage of Washington state's gay marriage law this past November. While applying for a marriage license, the ladies at the courthouse were more excited than them.

The couple's wedding at the end of December was an intimate affair at home. Eight of the guests were also at their first ceremony nearly 20 years previously.

“We wanted to start the new year as Mr. and Mr,” says Jeffri.

Michael and Jeffri have been to 25 countries together – England, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Romania and Poland, to name a few. They have a 1961 Porsche named “Olive” in Italy and do the majority of their travel via automobile. They have two porsches and a Mercedes wagon in their Orcas fleet.

Michael and Jeffri create a hard-bound photo journal from every trip. Fifteen tomes are stacked in their living room.

“It doesn't matter where we go, we have a great time,” Jeffri said.

Some of their most romantic moments occurred while traveling. Jeffri used to send his partner sweet cards to every hotel room he was scheduled to stay in. One year, Michael met Jeffri at a train station in Paris with a bouquet of sunflowers so large that his face was hidden.

One of their favorite trips was to Jordan – and it nearly never happened. Jeffri was against it, so Michael sprung the trip on him at the last minute in the airport once they were in Europe. Michael hired a local to guide them, and Jeffri says the trip was “an eye opener.” While visiting the women's co-op of pottery, the pair bought every pot they had in stock.

“We believe in reincarnation, but there is the 'what if'... so we live to the fullest. Both of our fathers died at 49 and it was a big wake up call,” Jeffri said.

The couple says they are very compatible and not competitive. They went to therapy early on in their relationship and have learned to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.

“Michael is so patient. I am a difficult thing to live with!” Jeffri said.

Michael says it's important to be respectful and follow the “golden rule” of treating others how you would want to be treated.

“Jeffri is generous to everyone,” Michael said. “Everyone else comes first. His mind never stops – he is always thinking of things to do for others.”


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