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Move over, Bey and Jay: Cincy's power couples

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 08:57:19-05

CINCINNATI -- Power couple (n): A couple in which both have high-powered careers or are politically influential.

Yes, that’s a real definition — thanks, thefreedictionary.com — but it comes up short in one area. It’s not easy to maintain a marriage and healthy family life when both spouses have demanding professional jobs and schedules, and many successful couples make it work. But true power couples go a step further and find the time to also give back to the community that made them.

Granted, most examples online of power couples are of the Jay-Z and Beyoncé or Bill and Melinda Gates variety. But Cincinnati has its own power couples that make a difference together outside of their day-to-day careers.

JJ and Megan-Kate Hoover

These Cincinnati transplants work for two of the most visible organizations in the city. For those who don’t follow baseball, JJ is a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, and his wife, Megan-Kate, owns a business which contracts with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens to manage training of animals.

And it’s those organizations that (indirectly) brought them together. When JJ was a rookie for the Reds in 2012, he set up a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo with his parents as a way to get to know the city better. Megan-Kate, who had been living in Cincinnati for almost a year, was called in to take them on a tour. When JJ heard that she came in on her day off, he felt bad and offered her tickets to a Reds game on him.

Yet it was far from love at first sight. They spent months as friends only — Megan-Kate even set him up with a co-worker. However, after a mishap that stranded him at her house for almost a week, they soon thought there might be more than friendship.

“I knew when I was sitting in my deer stand and caught myself thinking about her,” JJ said.

While both have involved careers — one of which takes JJ out of town frequently for the better part of a year — the Hoovers say good communication and a high level of respect for one another are what keep their relationship strong. They set aside time to be together — whether it’s FaceTime or a phone call — while he’s on the road.

“I’ve always been a goal-driven person,” JJ said. “Her working toward her dreams is motivating, and I have nothing but respect for what she’s trying to accomplish.”

Their faith is another knot that keeps them tied together. Both Megan-Kate and JJ are devout Christians, and their community work reflects that. The Hoovers find joy in working with several organizations throughout the Tri-State, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Dragonfly Foundation and Children’s Home. Megan-Kate is a board member for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Southwest Ohio Chapter.

They’re also active members of their church, First Baptist Church of Cold Spring, and participate in charitable programs through their respective employers. In the future, they want to work with their church, CCHMC and Children’s Home even more. Working with kids and youth is a huge difference-maker to them, because they’re able to share some life-changing experiences with them.

“Not only is it something we’re called to do, but also the amount of joy we get from it is amazing,” Megan-Kate said. “Being able to connect with families, sometimes they send us updates on the kids and we can see their progress. We can give support, even if it’s just saying that we’re praying for them.”

While kids are still in the future, they’re not home alone. The Hoovers have three “kids” — three dogs and a miniature pig. When JJ and Megan-Kate aren’t working or volunteering, they’re spending time with Labrador retriever Faith, toy poodle Jeff, Irish wolfhound Piper and miniature Juliana pig Dozer.

But what they most want people to associate with them is followers of Jesus, and that they are authentically themselves.

“We would love to know that we made a difference in the lives of the people we try to make smile,” Megan-Kate said.

 

 Awadagin Pratt and Jill Meyer

It’s a tale as old as time — man sees woman in a bar, man works up courage to talk to woman … woman hands man her business card as she leaves?

That’s how it worked with Jill Meyer and Awadagin Pratt in 2011. He was sitting in The Lackman in Over-the-Rhine when Meyer and her sister came in for a drink. It was a Tuesday, so not terribly crowded, but Pratt noticed her quickly. He was talking with two friends — Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” star Adam Richman and a producer on the show — when Meyer’s sister approached them to join the conversation. Soon, it moved over to their table, where Meyer sat.

Soon, Meyer and her sister headed out, but not before she handed Pratt her business card. Although they didn’t go out for a month, they were married within five.

“Awadagin was never getting married. I was never getting married. And then we just looked at each other and said, ‘Why not get married?’ ” Meyer said. “It just seemed obvious. Although I like to tell people it’s because he wants to keep his platinum status on Delta,” she jokes.

“We had a trip planned and needed a date for the wedding, so we got married the day before,” Pratt said.

Most things are quick in Meyer and Pratt’s life. Their jobs are busy and demanding. Meyer is a lawyer and is president and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, while Pratt is the artistic director for Cincinnati World Piano and a world-renowned pianist. They married soon after meeting. Meyer found her dress and wrap on a mannequin in a vintage store window right before their wedding. And so was their transition of supporting one another’s careers in married life.

“We both have always lived with crazy schedules and lives, and it’s very natural to be with someone who juggles a schedule more hectic than mine,” Meyer said. “It’s just a way of life, it’s a way that we know, and it’s very normal for us.”

For two very busy people with sometimes opposite schedules, good communication is vital to their success. Whether it’s who will be home with their 3-year-old son, Ayrton, or who has an event to attend in the evening, communication is what keeps it going smoothly.

And that communication, Meyer said, is made up of three more aspects: acceptance, flexibility and patience. Those traits that will come in handy as they launch their upcoming campaign to raise money for ArtsWave, Cincinnati’s local arts agency that provides resources and support to arts projects throughout the region.

It might seem that support of ArtsWave would lean much further into Pratt’s realm than Meyer’s commercial world, but she doesn’t agree. Meyer considers herself both a patron and enthusiast of the arts personally, and thinks drawing the connection between it and business is beneficial because it allows the local community to address the issues it struggles with.

“As a community, when we look for areas of growth and ways to do better, Awadagin has the ability to reach a segment of the population that faces challenges and don’t have opportunities that Awadagin and I were given. He serves as a different type of role model, I think, just doing what he does and he does a lot of deliberate things so that kids can see that that’s an opportunity for them as well,” Meyer said.

Outside of ArtsWave, Meyer and Pratt use their combined influence and work to support other causes, such as the annual Cincinnati World Piano Competition and Art of the Piano — both events hosted on the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s campus, where Pratt is a faculty member.

Outside of their professional and philanthropic lives, Meyer and Pratt love to travel and enjoy wine. Pratt likes to cook, while Meyer says she loves to eat. Even though Meyer is a native Cincinnatian and Bengals fan, and Pratt is a Pittsburgher who cheers for the Steelers, it’s their balance of separate but intertwined interests that defines their respect for one another as a couple.

 

Liz and David Cook

How does the old saying go? The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Well, in the case of Liz and David Cook, it’s true for both. As owners of Daveed’s in Mount Adams, the Cooks live and breathe food. And they have to — they run their restaurant and catering business together, and it’s a restaurant that they have to thank for their introduction.

In 1985, Liz and David were working at the 20 Mile House in Loveland. David hoped to pick up bartending and tried showing off his newly acquired skills behind the bar when Liz, a weekend cocktailer, walked in for her evening shift. His opening line?

“Want to go skinny dipping?”

To his surprise, she agreed, and he waited in the restaurant for her shift to end, playing Pac-Man and Asteroids arcade games until 3 a.m., when she told him she was too tired to go. So he asked her again the next week — to the same result. He gave up.

But that wasn’t the end for them. David soon swept Liz, who was engaged at the time, off her feet, and here they are, 28 years of marriage later. Their relationship started, bloomed and continues through the restaurant business, where they spend their lives together.

Liz and David Cook consider their employees their family. They have no children, but aspire to encourage their employees to grow and flourish within their positions, much as parents do of their kids. Also like a mom and dad, when an employee has improved and has the chance to move on to something else, it’s bittersweet.

"We’re 17 years into (our restaurant), and David is the nurturer,” Liz said. “I think of it like we have these birds in the nest, and some have to fly the coop. When they move on, they come back and we hope that they learned something from us.”

That family-like support extends to their industry colleagues as well. Outside of their restaurant and catering business, the Cooks support several organizations, such as the de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation. Established by restaurateur Jean-Robert de Cavel and his wife, Annette Pfund, after their infant daughter Tatiana died of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Liz and David consider it necessary to offer their support. They also support other organizations, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Greater Cincinnati, American Heart Association, and The First Tee of Greater Cincinnati.

“We like to give back to the city that’s given us so much,” David said. “If that means do special events gratis, we’ll do that. Cincinnati is a tight-knit restaurant town. There’s no pretentiousness here.”

Liz and David consider Cincinnati, as many do, a “foodie town.” As they should — they’ve dedicated their professional lives to it and tied their marriage to it as well. They’ve learned the littlest nuances about one another if not simply because they spend most of their time together at home and work.

“We get along pretty well,” Liz said. “When we’re (at Daveed’s), it’s all business. I’m asked all the time how we can work together 24/7. We’re two peas in a pod, and if you had to put the Earth, moon and stars together, we were meant to be together and we were meant to do this together.”

Liz and David have been in the Cincinnati restaurant business together for nearly 20 years, and even longer individually. If their past is any indication of their future, they’ll be a feature in the local food scene for 20 more.

“We’re fortunate to still be alive in this restaurant business,” David said. “… We’re proud of everything we’ve done here and we hope we’ve been able to touch enough lives for people who have worked for us to do great things in this industry and in life.”