Movers & Shakers: Power Couples

Each year as we brainstorm this “Movers & Shakers” feature with the About magazine Advisory Board, we notice patterns in the people who are nominated to receive the honor. Often mentioned are families, couples and colleagues.

Each year as we brainstorm this “Movers & Shakers” feature with the About magazine Advisory Board, we notice patterns in the people who are nominated to receive the honor. Often mentioned are families, couples and colleagues. So this year, we chose to feature couples who are known “movers & shakers” in our community. They work both independently and together to make Stark County a better place, and each of them has a long history of community involvement. Read on to hear more about how they make it all work.

Bob and Linda DeHoff

Linda DeHoff says her mother knew Bob DeHoff was the man she would marry simply because they laughed together all the time.

“Mothers know best,” she said. “Respect for one’s judgments are earned. Bob continues to earn my respect for his excellent judgments; not to say that I always accept his judgments calmly and without question, but he is batting .500.”

Working in the same business can be challenging, but Linda said they work well together because “neither of us obeys!” while Bob says it’s because “I listen to Linda!”

Both would agree that their work and personal life run smoothly because of all they have in common.

“We agree on the most important factors — values, ethics, family, faith and — most of the time — politics,” Linda said. “Sharing 42 years together, we have matured and grown together. I married a persuasive salesman who continues to be very convincing.”

The couple met while playing tennis at Stadium Park in Canton. Bob invited Linda and her friend to play doubles. Today, they enjoy playing golf and cooking together.

Said Bob, “I’m teaching her how to play the game of golf and she is teaching me Italian cooking. At this point I would say my cooking would get a better score than her golfing.”

Linda might not agree completely with his assessment.

“He elected to begin with a few Italian specialties and we soon realized that a German and an Italian cannot cook together in the same kitchen,” she said. “Bob measures everything and chops perfectly. I toss and stir. Perhaps that IS the secret to a happy marriage.”

The couple have two children and four grandchildren who live nearby. Linda said they enjoy spending dinners together at their Jackson Township home, sharing their day’s experiences and participating in community events, shooting skeet and trap, fishing and enjoying family.

They move past disagreements, said Bob, because they learned long ago “not to sweat the small stuff. And in the end, a good bottle of red wine reminds us it’s all small stuff.”

“Bob not only is my best friend,” said Linda, “but my inspiration, my best critic, and my hope for tomorrow and forever.”

Graduated from Glenwood High School and Ohio University with a Bachelor of Science degree in education.

CAREER: CEO of DeHoff Center for Real Estate Services and president of DeHoff Realtors. Served two terms as a trustee for the Stark County Board of Realtors; is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Akron Board of Realtors and the Building Industry Association. Taught third grade at Woodland School in Canton before joining DeHoff Realtors.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Serves on the boards of the Cultural Center for the Arts and the Stark State College Foundation and was 2011 Chairman of the Taste of the NFL. She has served on the board of directors of Quest Services, the National First Ladies’ Library, the Canton Museum of Art, and served as president of the Museum Guild, Canton Junior League,Women’s Board of the Canton Symphony, the Domestic Violence Project board, and the North Canton Chamber of Commerce. She was chairman for the United Way drive and for the Arts in Stark campaign and was Junior League’s Woman of the Year. With Bob, she received the 2002 Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award, the North Canton Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, the United Way Gold Key Award, and the 2006 Canton Chamber Citizens Gold Key Award of the Year.

Graduated from East Canton High School and the University of Mount Union.

CAREER: Began working for DeHoff Realtors, a family business, after a stint in the Army.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Serves as a trustee at Mount Union and is a member of the distribution committee of the Stark Community Foundation. Served twice as campaign chairman for the Stark County Park levies. Selected with Linda as honorees for the Wilderness Center in 2001. Co-chaired the Alexis de Tocqueville Division of the United Way of Central Stark County for 11 years, which then established the DeHoff Emerging Philanthropist Award in the couple’s honor.


Rick and Vicki Haines

When you meet the sweet, soft-spoken Vicki Haines, it might be hard to imagine where you can find her on Sunday afternoons with her husband, Rick.

The Haineses, together 17 years, are season ticket holders in the Dawg Pound at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“We go to all the home games in our ‘Dawg Cage’ Browns bus,” she said. “I have to admit I do not do very well at knowing all the players’ names. There are definitely no black and yellow Steelers colors in our house.”

The couple met on the job. He is the president and CEO of AultCare and she is vice president of marketing, community relations for Aultman Hospital.

Whether at work, in the Dawg Pound, or anywhere, they consider themselves true partners.

“We are a great team and I love how Rick lets me follow my heart when I see a need in the community,” Vicki said. “He is a very special husband and a wonderful father.”

He returns the compliments, saying, “Vicki is definitely ‘the better half.’ She is an unbelievable partner that offsets my rough spots. And anyone that has worked with her immediately recognizes that special caring and giving character. People intuitively respond to her enthusiasm and positive outlook on every issue. She loves to care for people, including continuing to spoil our four grown kids.”

The Haineses spend most of their downtime together, either attending community events, volunteering or visiting their Carroll County property to hike and practice archery. They are the first big brother and big sister in the Big Brother/Big Sister program as a couple and are “bigs” to a brother and sister who are 7 and 8.

Says Rick, “We basically do only two things apart — I hunt and she bargain shops. I can spend a whole day in the woods but not five minutes in a store.”

Vicki said communication and openness is the secret to their happy marriage.

“We really understand each other. We joke around with each other a lot and laugh a lot. We still have a mutual admiration for each other and never want to inconvenience each other,” she said. “He’ll take great care of me when I get older. I just know it.”

Timken High School; Malone University.

CAREER: Vice president of marketing, community relations for Aultman Hospital, which includes pastoral care and the PrimeTime seniors program; began Aultman career in 1985 as a secretary in administration and has worked in patient accounts, physician relations, AultCare marketing, director of Aultman Home Medical and vice president of hotel services (security, housekeeping, dietary, laundry); developed the Aultman Foundation in 2006.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Co-chairwoman, 2009 Greater Stark County United Way Campaign (with Rick); Junior League Women of the Year Community Award, 2008; Malone College Alumni Award for Leadership Excellence, 2008; YMCA volunteer of the year; board member, Greater Stark County YMCA; Junior Achievement program committee; Healthy Stark County 2020; North Canton Student Loan Foundation; Women’s Board of Aultman Hospital; Stark Community Foundation Women’s Fund Committee; other boards.

Native of Mantua (Portage County); bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Kent State University.

CAREER: President & CEO, AultCare.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Board member, Stark Development Board; board member and senior vice chairman, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce; board member, The Wilderness Center; co-chairman, Kent State Stark Capital Campaign, 2008; co-chairman, YMCA Capital Campaign, 2011; numerous other causes with Vicki.


Bob and Nancy Gessner

The Gessners have so much in common, they often joke they share a brain.

One thing they don’t necessarily agree on is when they met at the College of William and Mary some 37 years ago.

She says: “We met in college in the fall of 1974. We didn’t have any real contact after that until the next spring, when I said hello to Bob at a sorority dance.

He says: “I really don’t remember our first meeting, although Nancy does, so I believe her.”

And thus, another reason this power couple is successful.

“It sounds very trite, but we rarely disagree,” Nancy said. “Neither of us enjoys conflict, so we do what we can to avoid it by communicating with one another.”

Bob does remember that fateful hello.

“Nancy said hello to me in passing and I didn’t recognize her. So I actually asked my date — a friend, not a girlfriend — for her name,” he said. “It really is hard to imagine how completely different my life would have been had she not said hello or if my date for the evening didn’t know her name.”

Now, 34 years of marriage and two children later (daughters Suzanne, 30, and Katherine, 28), the couple work together at Massillon Cable and do pretty much everything else together, too.

“We’re very similar in terms of what we believe and what makes us happy. Trust in and respect for one another forms the basis of everything we do as a couple. In every respect, Bob is my best friend,” Nancy said.

Bob agrees, saying, “We really have always been on the same wavelength. There is an undefinable quality to our compatibility. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that makes us click. We just do.”

Both come from family backgrounds in which community service is important, and they continue that tradition with countless volunteer hours.

When they aren’t working, they enjoy hiking, biking, walking the dog (their 16-year-old third child) and spending quiet time together watching TV or reading books.

“A perfect evening together would be eating dinner on our back patio, listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” on the radio and watching the antics of the wildlife in our backyard,” said Nancy.

About eight years ago, the couple said, they discovered the joys of taking active vacations to unusual places that include an element of adventure. Two years ago, they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and then went on safari for a week.

“Our life together is a source of constant delight,” said Bob. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Fort Knox High School (the 13th school she attended in grades K-12 as an “Army brat”); the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg,Va.

CAREER: Worked at Massillon Cable until her first daughter was born; took 16 years off to be a stay-at-home mom; director of community development since 1997, Massillon Cable TV .

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: President of the board of directors,Western Stark Free Clinic; advisory board member, Massillon Salvation Army; chairman, final United Way of Western Stark County campaign in 2003; chairman; Massillon City Schools operating levy campaigns in the 1990s.

Washington High School; the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg,Va.

CAREER: WEWS-TV (Cleveland),Toscany Imports in New York City, Northwestern National Life Insurance in Minneapolis and Detroit; returned to Massillon Cable in 1979 to launch the first satellite program networks (HBO and TBS) and introduce computer-based billing systems; president, Massillon Cable TV since 2002.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Board member and chairman of the Distribution Committee of Health Foundation of Greater Massillon; Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Massillon City Schools; president (one year), Massillon Board of Education; trustee, Spring Hill Historic Home; youth soccer coach; member, Mayor’s Committee for the Massillon Downtown Concert Series; board member, United Way, YMCA, Massillon Club, Massillon Development Foundation, Massillon Area Chamber of Commerce and Stark Development Board.

Kent and Dianne Oliver

It’s probably no surprise that Kent Oliver, a man who spends his days in a library, also prefers quiet activities in his downtime, as well.

With his wife, Dianne, a consultant for nonprofit organizations, the two enjoy spending family time at their house at the Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., boating and relaxing on the water.

“We enjoy trips to the horse barn to watch our daughter ride,” said Dianne of their 17-year-old daughter, Allison. “We have great friends that we love spending time with. We enjoy relaxing on the patio or in front of the fireplace with a good glass of wine.”

The exception might be their love of baseball.

“We are huge Kansas City Royals fans,” said Kent, whose home has a Royals room with plenty of George Brett-autographed memorabilia. “At one time, he probably thought we were stalking him, we ran into him so much.”

The mutual love of the game was the first thing the pair found they had in common when they were passengers on the same bus trip to Topeka, Kan., for a leadership conference.

She was the head of the United Way for the Kansas City area and he was the library director there. They eloped in Lake Tahoe, Nev., four months later and have been married for 20 years.

“We knew we were going to be together and we thought, ‘Why wait?’ ” said Kent, who describes Dianne as caring and extremely intelligent.

“We tend to balance each other out through life’s ups and downs. We always support each other, listen to each other and always manage to figure things out,” he said.

Dianne adds, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we’re able to find humor in most situations. Bottom line is that we really love each other and enjoy each other’s company.”

Kent has spent his adult life working in libraries in Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio.

They felt right at home when they moved to Stark County 10 years ago.

“We love the people, the diversity and the Midwest feel,” said Dianne. “We have developed many wonderful friendships in the 10 years that we’ve lived here.”

Kent said he is proud that the Stark County District Library has been able to move forward during the last 10 years.

“I’m really committed to the idea that libraries make a huge difference in the lives of people,” he said. “It’s one of the most democratic institutions in our society. Regardless of what is or what they need it for, we don’t prejudge. That’s my intellectual freedom background, I guess.”

The couple also is active in the arts community, with Dianne having served on the Arts in Stark board since 2004 and lending her talents to the grant process. They enjoy collecting paintings and glass works of local artists.

“We’re not artists ourselves,” said Kent. “We just appreciate the creativity that goes into it.”

Shawnee Mission North High School in Mission, Kan. Bachelor’s degree from Saint Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. Master’s in sociology with an emphasis in quantitative research, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

CAREER: Owner and operator of Dianne Oliver Consulting since 2001. Works with nonprofit and public agencies on strategic planning, program development and performance management.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Arts in Stark board member since 2004. Helped design the special-projects grants process. Served as chairman of the Grants Committee for four years. Rotated off the board in October. Little Theatre Troupe of the Stark County District Library; past member and officer of the Friends of the Little Theatre Troupe board of directors; Stark County District Library Foundation Special Events Committee; Aultman Women’s Board prospective member; Church of the Lakes, active member of the Women’s Exchange. Former Sunday school teacher and Girl Scout and PTO volunteer.

Topeka West High School in Topeka, Kan. Bachelor’s degree from Washburn University and Master of Library Science from Emporia State University.

CAREER: Executive director, Stark County District Library.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Member and past president of the Rotary Club of Jackson Township. Assisted in development of and volunteers for the club’s annual fundraising event Vintage Jackson. Active volunteer with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, past Canton Museum of Art board member, Leadership Stark County graduate and volunteer, Advisory Committee member for the Leadership Stark County Government Leadership Academy, and member of the Stark County District Library Foundation board. 2011 winner of the Stark County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award. SCDL’s winning the National Medal for Museum and Library Services in 2009 was an achievement for the entire library and community.


John and Dixie Park

Although each is in a challenging profession, John and Dixie Park have a deeper common bond that they believe makes them a successful couple.

“We are first-generation Americans,” said Dixie, a judge in the Probate Division of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. “John’s parents emigrated from Korea after the Korean War and my parents emigrated from the Philippines.”

John, a gastroenterologist at Clinical Gastroenterology in Jackson Township, and Dixie said that because they both grew up as the children of immigrants, they share a deep love for this country.

“Both sets of our parents survived war along with deprivation of the freedoms that we are blessed with in America,” said John. “Our faith, love for our community and country, along with a strong work ethic have fueled our relationship, as well as our involvement in the community.”

The Parks have two daughters and one son. Their oldest daughter is a special-education teacher, the youngest daughter attends John Carroll University and their son is a student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

Dixie grew up in St. Clairsville, while John was in Lima. The couple met as students at Kent State University and say it was love at first sight. Stark County, they agree, has been a wonderful place for them to work and raise a family.

“What we love most is that from one end of the county to the other, we have met people of different ethnic heritage, families and faiths who have such a generous spirit. The Stark County community responds generously to those in need,” Dixie said.

While they have much in common, they say it is their different strengths and weaknesses that allow them to overcome obstacles in their personal and professional lives. When they have a disagreement, they said, they sit down and have honest and open discussion about why they disagree.

“It is through these discussions that we learn why one or both of us is at odds and this has allowed us to grow together,” John said. “We still remember what the priest told us when we went through our pre-Cana (premarital) counseling. He told us that no matter how long you are married, you will still be able to learn something new about your spouse.

“We have found that some of the assumptions that we make about each other can be the root of our disagreements. This is the spice that makes our life together so much more interesting, richer and better.”

The couple say their children have been their focal point, but they will become empty nesters soon. They both enjoy cooking and entertaining family and friends at home. And while Dixie is supportive of John’s involvement in Boy Scouts, John and their son have not been able to convince her to go camping with them yet.

EDUCATION: Fort Shawnee public schools (Lima area); Kent State University; Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (now known as Northeast Ohio Medical University).

CAREER: Internal medicine training, Summa Hospitals in Akron; two years of subspecialty training in gastroenterology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., where he was the chief fellow.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: With Boy Scouts of America: committee chairman,Troop 101 in Alliance, and Sandy Beaver District health and safety officer; member, Youngstown Diocese Catholic Committee on Scouting and religious awards counselor; member, Alliance City Board of Health; eucharistic minister, with Dixie, at their home parish.

EDUCATION: St. Mary’s Catholic School in St. Clairsville; Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling, W.Va.; bachelor’s degree, Kent State University; law degree, University of Akron School of Law.

CAREER: Served as a judicial clerk and magistrate in the General Division of Stark County Court of Common Pleas; also served as an assistant law director in Alliance and as an acting judge in Alliance Municipal Court; elected an at-large member of Alliance City Council in 2003; in January 2004, appointed judge of Stark County Probate Court; elected in November 2004 to complete balance of unexpired term; elected to a full term of office in November 2008.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Member, Ohio Association of Probate Judges, Ohio Judicial Conference, American Judges Association, Ohio State Bar Association and Stark County Bar Association; second vice president, Ohio Association of Probate Judges, chairing its Probate Forms Committee; chairwoman, Subcommittee on Adult Guardianship of the Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Courts of the Supreme Court; member, Ohio Judicial Conference Probate Law and Procedure Committee; served as a jurist-in-residence at University of Akron School of Law; serves on advisory board of National First Ladies’ Library.


Todd Walburn and Brennis Booth

Walburn and Booth met in 1986 through mutual friends and have been a couple since 1991. They held a commitment ceremony in 1992 and have owned and operated 2nd April Galerie since 2002.

The pair were working together in the downtown Canton arts district well before the arts explosion hit a few years ago.

Working well together, they agree, is easy because of their mutual respect.

“We have been together for so long that, for the most part, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we respect those,” Walburn said. “Fortunately, most of my weaknesses are Brennis’ strengths and vice versa. We also have a lot of respect for each other, and, quite honestly, we both have a great sense of humor, which is essential not only for working together but also for owning your own business.”

Booth agrees, and adds that he trusts Walburn, another necessity for success.

As for disagreements at home and at work, the two also agree that arguing is not their solution.

“I think we have just learned the strengths and weaknesses of the other and have learned gentle ‘reminders’ are oftentimes the best course of action,” Booth says. Walburn says they are masters of compromise.

“Nothing is ever solved by arguing. We generally agree on most things, but on the off chance that we have a huge disagreement, we can pretty easily negotiate a solution somewhere in the middle,” he said.

The two come from large families, and Booth says both are very supportive of the couple. They count their colleagues and clients in the art world among their family as well.

“We have treated our business and our personal life very much the same. Each of these people we meet are very special to us,” he said. “In many ways, we are very blessed to have such a big and diverse family.”

A native of Brecksville, Walburn said he felt immediately at home in Stark County when he moved here in his 30s.

“This is by far the friendliest place I have ever lived, and now I can’t imagine living anyplace else,” he said. “It’s also a very affordable place to be a creative person.”

Booth, a Canton native, said that while they enjoy their time in the gallery, they prefer to be home.

“We are true homebodies,” he said. “We spend so much time at the gallery that it is truly a pleasure relaxing at home and doting over our adopted child, Chance, a rescue Lhasa apso from the Stark County pound.”

Walburn agrees.

“We really enjoy spending so much time together, though at the end of a long day, we can often go the entire evening without saying more than a couple of sentences to each other. It’s not a negative thing,” he said, “Just a way of having some alone time even though we’re still together.”

Brecksville High School; degree in art history, Kent State University.

CAREER: Co-owner, 2nd April Galerie, since 2002, and the Kathleen Howland Theatre; series of jobs in retail galleries, bookkeeping and management.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service events and food drives. “We have used the gallery as a community space for people to do fundraisers for various organizations that we support,” said Todd. “We feel that local social service agencies are essential for the community, so we try to help them out whenever we are able. The Stark County Hunger Task Force is particularly important to us and they are wonderful to work with.”

Heritage Christian and McKinley Senior high schools; attended Kent State University Stark Campus.

CAREER: Retail manager, merchandiser and buyer; co-owner, 2nd April Galerie and the Kathleen Howland Theatre.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Trustee, Canton Museum of Art; board member, Coming Together Stark County, Mayor’s Literacy Commission, Camp Committee at Christ Presbyterian Church for Camp Wakonda.