How We Met: Love Stories

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Gabber talked to three local couples about their relationships and how they found each other.


Internet Troll to Marriage Material: The McCanns 

Elizabeth McCann, 33 and Matt McCann, 35 originally bonded in a Yahoo! chatroom back in 1999. Elizabeth was a member of the “Official Hanson Club,” chatroom and Matt joined. He was not a fan.

“Matt popped in with a funny screenname and a warning for people who were interested in Hanson’s music,” said Elizabeth. “For whatever reason, I thought it was quite funny and decided to message this angsty person and see what they were all about.”

Matt, a self-proclaimed internet “troll” at 16, said he took to Elizabeth in 1999 because she was the only one online who didn’t feed into his online nagging.

“I wanted to hear her opinion about everything,” said Matt. “We soon starting chatting outside of the chatroom (thank goodness) and the rest is history.”

After two years of talking online, without knowing each other’s real names, addresses or even seeing a photo of each other, Matt and Elizabeth finally met in person in 2001. The duo only lived two and a half hours away from each other, with Matt in Gainesville and Elizabeth in St. Petersburg. The internet friendship led to an instant match. The McCanns dated for just over five years, got engaged in Ireland in 2006, and married June 23, 2007. They now live in Gulfport and are expecting their first child in July.

O Canada: Bree Phillipe and Anthony Arellano

A Canadian and an American walked into a bar. Flash forward about five months? They’re engaged.

Bree Phillipe, 32, from Nova Scotia, met her fiancé Anthony Arellano, 37 on the dating app Tinder in January of 2017. Bree was in town visiting her grandparents in a Largo retirement community. For the last few days of her trip, she decided to use Tinder to find a local guide to check out St. Petersburg. Enter the American.

The two met up initially at the Hollander Hotel’s bar. They shared similar interests. Bree was on a weight-loss journey and was dedicated to improving her health. Anthony was a triathlete.

“He happened to be a self-proclaimed health know-it-all,” said Bree. “Needless to say, we hit it off without any expectations.”

That initial beer flight at the Hollander turned into a three-day date: dancing at Ruby’s Elixir, a giraffe-feeding at Busch Gardens, a beach picnic and even dancing in the middle of the street.

Bree said Anthony was “the perfect gentleman,” but she traveled back to Canada thinking she would never see him again.

The two ended up dating despite the international distance, visiting each other in both Nova Scotia and the US. After five months, Anthony decided to get serious about his future with Bree.

He sat down with an immigration lawyer to see what steps he would have to take to spend more time with her.

“He asked me all these questions,” said Anthony, “and I’m telling him the story and he’s like ‘Ah man, I’ve been doing this for a long time. You need to go marry her.’”

Anthony proposed in May of 2017. Bree moved into their Gulfport home in September of 2017. The wedding is in April.

It Started with Friendship: The Roysters

Ike Royster, 69 and Donna Royster, 68, go way back. All the way back to 1961, actually. When Ike Royster was 12 years old, he was a paperboy – Donna was on his route. Despite attending different schools in the town of Richmond, Virgina where they grew up, their friendship lasted beyond childhood. Donna was a friend to Ike in middle school and even set him up with her friends in high school. When the pair didn’t have dates, they would go to dances together, but always as friends. Ike’s involvement in the Vietnam War changed the duo’s friendship forever.

While Ike was stationed in Vietnam, and he and Donna wrote to each other daily. Ike promised her if he ever got out of Vietnam and back to the United States, he would take Donna on a real date. In 1967, Ike proved to be a man of his word and kept his promise to Donna.

Ike returned to the states in February and married Donna on July 12, 1968. The pair will celebrate 50 years of marriage this year.

“I always knew I loved him,” said Donna Royster. “It’s been a really fun 50 years. He’s the love of my life.”

Jokingly, Ike replied, “I like her too.”

What advice does the couple have for people seeking love today?

“We have three girls,” said Donna. “The advice I always gave them is you can love somebody but you don’t have to like them every day. You’re best friends, you’re lovers, you’re soulmates. We truly love each other and everything that might go wrong is worth fighting for.”

Ike was more to the point: “Make sure that whoever you choose as your mate that you like. If you like them, you’ll love them and it’ll last forever.”

The Roysters have lived in Gulfport for 21 years and have three daughters, ages 40, 42 and 50.

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