Lana and Michael Howerton met more than 40 years ago in their hometown of Decatur, Ill., and they still consider themselves best friends.
Being in the hospitality industry, they’ve learned that being sensitive to people’s needs also transfers over into making a marriage work.
After living in Chicago for most of their adult lives, and a nine-year stint in Colorado, the Howertons moved to Louisville six years ago.
How did you meet?
“I was dating his best friend,” Lana said, “and he was constantly having trouble with his girlfriend, and he’d call me on the phone and want to know what to do and ask for advice. And that went on and on and on, and finally I said, ‘Why don’t you just date me?’ And so we started going together.”
“That was after she left my best friend,” interjected Michael, with a laugh. “I just want to make that perfectly clear.”
“And we’ve been together 40 years this November,” continued Lana.
“We really became best friends while she was still dating my friend,” Michael said. “And that really led to us coming together.”
How did he propose?
The Howertons had a trial run at a proposal. After dating for about a year, Michael bought Lana a watch ring for Christmas.
“At the top of the ring was a large glass diamond-cut stone that would have probably weighed 30 carats,” Michael said. “So she opened up this gift, and it’s a ring box, and she opens the box and the only thing she sees is the stone on top. And then when she looked a little further and realized there was a watch underneath, her face went from exuberant to a great job of trying to mask her lack of excitement.
“About a year after that, since she’d already gone through this experience with me, I did a similar gift, wrapped a ring in an enormously large dress box, let her dig through the box to find the ring, and I proposed to her on Christmas Day.”
How do you make it work on a day-to-day basis?
“For the first 25 years, I traveled more than 200 nights a year,” Michael said. “We’ve been together for 40 years, but we kid about the fact that we’ve really only been together for about 20.”
“We started as best friends,” continued Michael. “We understand the value of that relationship first. And I think we both have a level of respect for each other and each other’s strengths, and I think we understand that those strengths, in our case, compensate for the other person’s weaknesses.”
“I think I’ve always been unusual because I’ve never had a girlfriend that I’ve ever confided anything in; it was always him,” she said. “He was always the best friend.”
But in addition to being best friends, it helps to have the same values.
“The priorities have to match,” Michael said. “While you can have – and do have – differences of opinion, you can never have differences of values. Opinions are what they are, they’re yours. But your values have to match, and if your values match, then you get through the process pretty well.”
Is there anything you always do as a couple?
“We pretty much do everything together … and it always involves works here (at the hotel),” Lana said.
“On a daily basis, we’ve always tried to find some time at the end of the day to be together,” Michael said. “We held on to the tradition of family dinners as much as we possibly could during the travels. Since I’ve been off the road, we’ve accomplished that. It might be at 9 o’clock at night, and she might need to drive downtown to meet me at one of the restaurants, but I think we try very hard to get dinner in together.”
“We also make it a practice to go to church together,” he continued, “as well as dining out when we can find the time for that. When we talk about the things we do together, it really has a lot to do with some of the friends that we’ve made since we’ve been in Louisville.”
“Because I was traveling so much,” Michael added, “and now that I don’t, we can occasionally be real people.”
Where do you like to go when you are out and about?
“You name it, and we’ve been there,” Michael said. “I have a lot of friends in the city in restaurants.”
“Someone is always inviting us to the newest place,” Lana said. “A favorite?”
“I don’t want to put a favorite in the paper,” Michael said, as he a Lana both laughed. “Too many of those people are my friends, and you don’t have enough space in the paper (to list the restaurants).”
What advice would you offer to couples – new or old – who desire to walk through life in tandem?
“We joked about starting off as best friends, but I think that’s very important – to always be there for each other and to support each other,” Lana said. “There are challenges, and people have ideas and dreams and (it’s important) to always be there for each other and to help to pursue them and add to their value.”
“(You need) the willingness to give up some things that are not as important to you to allow the other person to accomplish a goal that is very important to them,” Michael said. “To be willing to take that step back from time to time, understanding that it’s really a give-and-take and you need to give more than you take.”
“This is a people business that we’re in,” Michael said. “And while she doesn’t have a title in it, I promise you she’s very much in it. Hospitality by its nature is about taking care of people.
“When you become aware of other people’s needs, you probably hone in a little bit more on what your partner’s needs are.”
Nov. 6, 1971
Two children: Michael (26) and Candace (24).
Michael is market vice president and general manager for the Louisville Marriott Downtown.
Cats or Cards?
“We wear both colors,” Michael said. “Being located in Louisville near the arena, we probably are a little more Cards than Cats, although we appreciate both.”
Category: In Tandem
About the Author (Author Profile)
Jacob Glassner, News Editor/Plate Spinner
Jacob usually has his eyes glued to a computer screen, editing stories and making sure the paper gets out the door each week. Multi-tasking is his modus operandi – similar to the plate spinners you’d see on the old “Ed Sullivan Show.” Turn ons: freshly-sharpened pencils. Turn offs: exclamation points!!!