Dr. R Everett Frerichs knew he was gay since he was a teenager. But it took decades for him to publicly share that.
“I was 60-years-old and finding my way in the gay community,” said Dr. Frerichs, 61, who started dating again after getting an amicable divorce from his wife of 32 years in November 2020.
As he embraced his sexuality, his therapist suggested he try Match.com. When he signed up on Feb. 7, Super Bowl Sunday, Anthony Glenn Harrelson’s profile stood out from 10 introductory matches.
Dr. Frerichs then sent a “like” Mr. Harrelson’s way. Or, so he thought — he had actually hit “super like” instead.
“That was the only reason I read his profile,” said Mr. Harrelson, 57, who at the time was weary of dating. A self-described one-date person, Mr. Harrelson, who goes by Tony, said he had even left in the middle of a few.
“Are you on the organ procurement list?” he would ask if someone pulled out a cellphone on a date, his pet peeve, and a deal breaker. “I didn’t have time or patience,” added Mr. Harrelson, who remained content with his English Cavalier Spaniel, Lily, and his circle of friends.
Mr. Harrelson is a nurse anesthetist at the Cary and Raleigh, N.C. locations of Raleigh Endoscopy Center. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and received a master’s degree in biomedical science from Albany Medical College.
Dr. Frerichs is a pediatrician at North Raleigh Pediatrics, a group practice in Raleigh, N.C. He graduated with highest distinction from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Neb., and received a medical degree from Vanderbilt University.
Judging from Dr. Frerichs’s profile, Mr. Harrelson said he figured that, if nothing else, Dr. Frerichs would be a good friend. Mr. Harrelson messaged Dr. Frerichs and they later exchanged phone numbers and agreed to chat the next evening.
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In their early conversations, the two bonded over growing up in rural areas — Mr. Harrelson on a tobacco farm in Clarkton, N.C., and Dr. Frerichs in Beatrice, Neb., where his parents ran a bowling alley popular with local farmers. They were also the first in their families to go to college.
They decided to meet on Valentine’s Day, but all their favorite restaurants were fully booked. Instead they virtually watched the romantic classic “An Affair to Remember” — Dr. Frerichs at home in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Mr. Harrelson at his condo in Greensboro, N.C. — followed by “The King and I.”
When they finally met at Print Works Bistro in Greensboro the following Saturday, Mr. Harrelson couldn’t step out of his car fast enough in the parking lot. “Before we met I knew I loved him,” said Mr. Harrelson, who hugged, and then kissed, Dr. Frerichs outside of the restaurant.
“That was the very first time I kissed a man,” said Dr. Frerichs, who spent the rest of the weekend at Mr. Harrelson’s place. The next day, they toured the gardens at Reynolda House in Winston-Salem, N.C.
After spending two more weekends together, they realized they did not want to be apart. That March, Mr. Harrelson moved in with Dr. Frerichs. Talk of marriage soon followed.
“We started to make plans for the wedding five weeks after we met,” Mr. Harrelson said.
On Memorial Day, Dr. Frerichs proposed at the Oceanic Restaurant along North Carolina’s Wrightsville Beach.
“We knew we had something very special,” he said.
The two were wed Dec. 4, at their home in the Governors Club section of Chapel Hill. The Rev. J. Stuart Harrell, a United Church of Christ minister, officiated before 13 members of their immediate family, including Dr. Frerichs’s mother, who flew in from Beatrice, and his son, Andrew Frerichs, 31, who was his best man.
A reception followed with 65 guests, all fully vaccinated and casa blanca lilies everywhere. Inside the grooms’ house, a 10-foot Christmas tree stood in the foyer with trains running around the base.
Of the couple’s relationship, Dr. Frerichs said, “It’s been a whirlwind and magical.”