A perfect match

4 Mar

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At first glance, Rafael Perez-Micheli and Bridget Moore seem like total opposites.

Bridget (’02 English) grew up in Ames, Iowa, the daughter of “hippie” parents. She was a “nature girl” who loved to get her hands dirty, to go camping, and to crawl under things looking for salamanders.

Rafi, as he prefers to be called, (’97 art & design, ’03 graphic design) grew up in a large city in Puerto Rico, the son of conservative parents. He’d only been to the United States once before enrolling at ISU: to visit Disney World. And he’d never seen snow.

The two met in the unlikeliest of places: Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames. Bridget was an on-again-off-again college student working as a waitress; Rafi was following in his sisters’ footsteps attending Iowa State and was working as a cook.

Their home in Sanford, Fla., is the perfect mix of their backgrounds: Its size, downtown area, and vibe remind Bridget of Ames. The summer heat reminds Rafi of Puerto Rico. They both agree that they “love everything about this town.” Sanford is home to an annual film festival, monthly juried art shows and street parties, funky bars and restaurants, art galleries, theatres, a farmers market, and antiques stores.

“The town is disgustingly cute,” Bridget says, laughing. “It’s an oddball town, with musicians and artists and creatives going in a hipster direction.”

The couple has been together 16 years and married for 10; they moved to Sanford in 2004. Bridget, who has a master’s in English with a technical writing focus from the University of Central Florida, is a proposal development supervisor for Akimeka, LLC, an IT services firm. Akimeka has multiple office locations; Bridget works in the corporate office in Maitland, Fla., just north of Orlando. Rafi is an art director for the Parenting Group at Bonnier Corporation, which is owned by the Swedish Bonnier Group. He works at the Winter Park location of Bonnier Corp.

When Jim and I visited them on a Saturday in mid-February, they were shopping for fresh produce at a farmers market in downtown Sanford. It was such a nice change of pace from central Iowa in the winter to see fresh okra, avocadoes, strawberries, cabbage, radishes, beets, and kale. Both Rafi and Bridget eat a healthy diet: Rafi recently ran his first Disney Half Marathon, and Bridget finds a wide variety of gluten-free foods in Sanford’s restaurants, bakeries, and markets.

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