Keith Masterson-Hawkes and Gabriel-Thomas Masterson-Hawkes are living the "modern family" dream. The Virginia based couple first connected in June 2011 when Gabriel posted in a Facebook Group and Keith commented on his post. A few hours later, Gabriel also commented on the post and they began communicating directly via Facebook. Over the course of a month, they learned about each other’s families, friends, likes and dislikes. Keith also let Gabriel know that he was a single parent of two children from a previous marriage and Gabriel was very comfortable and accepting of that. By the end of that month, Keith, who lives in Virginia, flew to Florida to meet Gabriel in person for the first time. Sparks flew and two weeks after that encounter, Keith returned to the Sunshine State to help Gabriel pack up and move north. The couple was legally married in Washington, D.C., in October 2011 and celebrated their one-year anniversary with a renewal of vows in front of their family and friends.
In honor of Facebook's 10th anniversary we caught up with Keith and Gabriel to talk about their amazing and unique love story and to update us on their modern family.
Instinct: What chat group did you two initially meet in?
KEITH: We met in a Facebook group for me called Dark and Lovely 4 Men. I made a comment to a comment Gabriel had made from an original post… and now we're here!
Instinct: Can you share a bit about the progression of your relationship from the first few messages?
KEITH: After the initial comments back and forth in the Dark and Lovely 4 Men group we started instant messaging one another and after about a week of the going back and forth online, Gabriel decided I was safe enough to have his number. [Laughs] I decided I would give Gabriel a call to see how his day was going and I wanted to put a voice with his face as I had already seen his picture. I was totally blown away.
GABRIEL: Spending so much time instant messaging and texting, I was really getting to know Keith, he's the youngest of 9 kids whereas I am the oldest of 4. He has 2 children of his own (I always wanted children). At one point while we were chatting on the phone, the funniest thought passed through my head, "if things work out for us I won't have to 'wreck' my figure to birth any children." [Giggles] Still the biggest inside joke to this day. I have to admit, Keith really did put the giddy-up in my step.
Instinct: When did you two decide to finally meet in person and how did that first meet go?
KEITH: Now it's August 2011 and it's the time I decided to make the drive from the central part of Virginia to sunny Ft. Lauderdale to meet Gabriel face to face. After 1,000 miles and 18 hours I was going to meet him. I'll be honest, I felt like I had a swarm of butterflies in my stomach, but I was ready to go forward and meet him and take my life and the lives of my children in a new direction.
GABRIEL: I could feel all the butterflies as well (pesky buggers). I hadn't done anything like this before. I was a little worried that he wouldn't like me and feel like he had made this trip for nothing. I was taking a HUGE leap to meet Keith but I wasn't about to turn back or change my mind. I figured if he was able to captivate me online AND over the phone then he more than deserved the chance and I was sure as hell gonna give it to him.
KEITH: Upon arriving in Ft. Lauderdale and checking into my hotel I called Gabriel in order to meet up. About an hour or so later while I was sitting in my room, I heard a knock at the door. Those butterflies started swarming again (nervous jitters). I peered through the peep hole to see who was knocking and lo and behold it was him. I was so scared. I truly hoped he liked what he saw when I opened the door. I made him wait for a minute or two so I could calm down. [Laughs] Once the door was opened, it was like the 4th of July (sparks flying). We spent the next 2 days together before I had to leave Florida and head back home to my kids and my job. Leaving Gabriel was a very difficult time. I knew I would see him again, I just didn't know when. We cried together and kissed before leaving. Gabriel did something that stole my heart and made me cry all the way home. Just before parting ways, he removed his necklace containing an "Open Heart" pendant and placed it around my neck. As he did so, he said, "As long as you wear this, you will always have my heart close to yours." At that moment I could have melted like hot butter all over his driveway. [Both giggling] I didn't stay home too long after my initial trip to meet Gabriel. I waited 2 weeks before traveling back to Florida. This time my children were along for the ride. It was going to be a very short trip as Gabriel and I had decided it was time for him to come back to Virginia with me. This was the best and fastest 2,000+ mile trip I have ever made in my life.
Instinct: I know you're a single dad of two from a previous marriage, Keith. How has your ex been with you and your new husband and how are the kids with their new modern family?
KEITH: To be truthful, the children's mother is not in their lives and hasn't been since I gained full custody back in 2001. The children accepted Gabriel into their lives and they too enjoyed getting to know him and his life in Florida. The children (Emily, 20 and Jordan, 18) have both grown to love and respect Gabriel and our marriage. They are an everyday part of our lives.
GABRIEL: I have to admit the adjustment to parenting was swift, to say the least. I had always wanted children but I always thought I would be raising infants in diapers into adults. Be that as it may, I wouldn't change my life being with Keith and the kids. They have all changed the way I look at my life and our "modern family."
Instinct: Now that you're married and are going on your third anniversary, what has married life together taught you?
KEITH: Being married to Gabriel has taught me to open my eyes even more to the fact "Love is Love" no matter the sex of the two people. I love and respect Gabriel, his life and upbringing and what makes him the man he is today.
GABRIEL: Even though Keith and I started out in two different states and many miles apart, color and race don't always play a part in what the heart sees. Having not met Keith face to face after many phone conversations, I now know "Love is Blind."
Instinct: What has the response been via Facebook on your love story?
KEITH: After changing my relationship status from "single" to "in a relationship" I was congratulated by many of my Facebook friends. They were all very accepting and quite a few had questions to ask and advice to give (all positive, of course). I have not had any negativity from my friends, which is more than I can say about my biological family.
GABRIEL: Everyone was overwhelmingly positive and lots responded with "finally, a man is settling you down. [Laughs]
Instinct: What does the future hold for you both and the kids?
KEITH: I am currently working on building my Wedding and Event Planning business (A Rainbow's Dream) specializing in same sex weddings and events while bracing for the day Virginia and Florida allows same-sex couples to legally marry. Gabriel and I, along with the children, are planning to relocate to Fort Lauderdale this summer after our son graduates from high school.
GABRIEL: The only future I want has Keith, the kids and I laying on a beach in Florida, the rest will just fall into place.
For more touching stories stemming from Facebook's first 10 years, head here. If you'd like your personalized video celebration of Facebook's big anniversary, check out the incredible Look Back feature, launched today.