Dance of Romance Story
By Katie Wheeler, Canton Resident
Since the beginning of time, scholars, philosophers, and writers have been trying to put into words the feeling of love. Some think love is indescribable. Love is universal, appearing in many forms in every culture. Some people may have many loves in their lifetime, while others may have but one. Love in all its forms, even romantic love, is blind to age, time, and circumstance, and it can sneak up on us when we least expect it.
Jodi Ceraldi was not expecting she’d find her life partner one cold, December evening in 2009 at an American Legion dance. Realistically she and Ray Lemieux might never have met. Ray typically danced on Fridays, ballroom night, while Jodi danced at the Saturday night country events. As fate would have it, Ray changed his routine one evening and spotted Jodi at the Saturday dance.
Jodi, then seventy-five, sat at a table with a large group of friends she enjoyed going to dances with, though she claims she was no dancer at the time.
Ray, then sixty-two, says, “She caught my eye. She couldn’t really dance, but she had good rhythm. I thought she was cute. I could see that she was well dressed and well-mannered. I watched her all night.” Being afraid to ask the pretty girl to dance is a theme that apparently doesn’t dissipate with age, as Ray nervously approached Jodi for the last dance of the night, “The Tennessee Waltz.”
Her reply to his romantic gesture? “Oh, I can’t waltz.”
Ray wasn’t ready to take no for an answer. “Sure you can. Put your hand here, place your other hand here, and follow me. One, two, three. One, two, three.”
Jodi recalls being stunned that she had been able to waltz with the handsome stranger simply by following his lead. Dancing with him made her feel as if she were floating.
Ray walked Jodi back to her table and thanked her for the dance, knowing their evening together had come to a close.
When Jodi turned around to introduce him to her friends, she was surprised and disappointed to find he had vanished.
The next time they saw each other was about a month later. The second night they danced together was equally magical. Jodi hadn’t recognized him at first, but when they started to dance, she immediately knew the feeling she’d felt back in December. Jodi wasn’t ready to fall into his arms just yet, though.
Ray recalls they had chemistry and he liked Jodi, but it took persistence to win her over. Jodi, an independent woman, knew what she wanted. After she turned down a few of Ray’s offers to walk her to her car, she finally conceded, and when they reached her car, Ray went in for a kiss. It was unexpected, but they both say they drove home that night feeling giddy.
After their romantic dance in January, the two became dance partners. They liked each other, but decided they both wanted a dance partner more than a romantic partner. Ray didn’t give up on showing Jodi how much he wanted to be around her, though. He registered them for dance lessons, and they practiced three times a night, four days a week, and danced at events on the weekends. Together they learned both international ballroom and country ballroom.
Ray lived in Lilburn at the time. He drove fifty miles to pick Jodi up, twenty miles to Alpharetta for their lessons, twenty miles back to take her home, and then fifty more miles to his home. During those early days they often stopped to get a bite to eat after their lessons. Ray says that many times they sat at a Waffle House, talking with each other and the staff members they got to know over the months. The couple often put money in the jukebox and danced around the restaurant to the delight of the staff and patrons.
After six to eight months, Ray realized he wanted to pursue a relationship with Jodi outside of dancing. He asked her for a date, but Jodi was concerned. She had recently discovered that Ray was thirteen years younger than her. The connection they shared through dance and their companionship was far more important than their ages, though, so she relented. Ten years later they couldn’t be happier in their life together.
Ray and Jodi’s dancing has given them many years of rewarding experiences. In 2011, a year after meeting, Jodi and Ray both were named world champions in Newcomer Country Western Dance with the United Country Western Dance Council. Since then they both have won numerous other awards, individually as well as together.
Jodi and Ray sometimes hear a good song in the background and start dancing, regardless of time or place. They have loved creating memories together on cruises, sometimes three in a year. Of course, on cruises Ray and Jodi love to dance to live band music and have even sometimes been invited to dance as part of a ship’s on-stage performance. The two have spent thirty days traveling and dancing across Europe together, creating fond memories they cherish. Ray says, “Wherever there’s music, we dance.”
Ray says his goal is “to make Jodi’s life as romantic as possible and as nice as possible. I want every minute to seem like an hour.”
Although they met late in life, Jodi and Ray are a spontaneous, romantic, young-hearted couple. They note that good communication and the ability to compromise are the pillars of a good relationship. Their love story revolves around dance, but their connection runs much deeper. Now living in Holly Springs, Ray and Jodi enjoy life together and are best friends. They can’t keep their eyes off of one another. They laugh together often and smile when reflecting on the memories they’ve made.
Love can start from a mere spark, a fleeting moment. It isn’t affected by age or circumstance, and it captures us before we realize it. Jodi and Ray are the perfect example that no matter what stage of life you’re in, love may be just across the dance floor.
Ask Hunter Tice what sports he likes to play, and he immediately replies, “Baseball, basketball, and volleyball…