Together at Last

By staff October 1, 2002

The worst day of Byron DeVoe's life happened 15 years ago, when the truck he was riding in flipped over at a Sarasota entrance ramp to I-75. His spinal cord was severed, leaving him a quadriplegic. His happiest day happened this year, when DeVoe, 36, wed Crystal Denise Rhodes, also 36, in an outdoor ceremony at Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, North Carolina. But before the happily ever after, there were some roadblocks and wrong turns to navigate.

After his accident, DeVoe summoned his determination and finished college, becoming a licensed contractor. He maintained an active social life and often returned to Sarasota, where he had lived as a child, to visit family members who still lived here.

Byron and Crystal didn't meet until six years ago, but they had attended the same high school in Wilmington and even worked for the same business in Jacksonville before that. Still, their lives didn't intersect until DeVoe and his uncle inspected a Wilmington residential development where DeVoe was buying lots. Crystal was the on-site real estate agent. After they left the development, DeVoe announced, "We just met the woman I want to spend my life with."

Crystal was impressed, too. "After our second meeting, I didn't see the chair anymore," she says. "Byron's personality is just so big that everything else disappears."

But despite the attraction, Crystal was already engaged; and she went through with her wedding. "Plans had progressed too far for her to stop them," Byron explains. "But I knew she belonged with me. I waited to see if she knew it, too." His patience paid off. After several months, Crystal and her husband separated and subsequently divorced. She didn't tell Byron right away. "It was a pride thing," she remembers.

Eventually, they began to date. Byron proposed on Valentine's Day of 2001. They vacationed in Sarasota and decided to move here, buying a home on Bird Key.

At the reception, when it was time for the bride and groom to take the floor for their first dance, guests wondered how it would play out. At the first notes of "their song," Barbra Streisand's "Finally Found Someone," Byron took Crystal's hand. He wheeled and she walked onto the dance floor. She gathered the folds of her ivory silk gown and sat on her husband's lap. "He just whirled me around the floor," she laughs. "It was amazing how we fit." And the groom says, "I always knew we would."

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