South Charlotte

Amid pain, Ballantyne couple found happiness again

Holly Gainsboro and Joe Machicote were married July 19.

Their wedding included Gainsboro’s children, Derek, 21, and Liana, 17, and Machicote’s children, Austin, 21, and Foster, 18.

The spouses of Gainsboro, 54, and Machicote, 50, are no longer living, and each had nursed their spouse through illness.

Gainsboro’s husband, Steven, died in 2010 of brain cancer. Machicote’s wife, Rona, died in 2011.

Gainsboro and Machicote fell in love while grieving together.

The Ballantyne-area couple met in 2007, when Machicote was converting to Judaism because he and Rona had committed to living a Jewish life.

Machicote joined Temple Beth El’s Youth Committee and began working on projects with Gainsboro, who was running the Temple’s Youth Program at the time.

Shortly into their friendship and temple collaboration, Machicote’s wife was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome – a disease that attacks the nervous system – and spent most of 2007 in the hospital.

“Holly was so compassionate,” Machicote said. “She would reach out to me, and she was one of the few people I could be real with.”

Two years later, it was Machicote’s turn to offer support and counsel to Gainsboro, once her husband was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor.

Gainsboro wrote about the experience, and her role as a caregiver, on a CaringBridge website, which Machicote read.

“I was taken by how amazing she was,” he said. “Her posts were so hopeful and helpful to me.”

Just before Steven Gainsboro died in December 2010, Rona Machicote was diagnosed with liver cancer. Temple Beth El’s Rabbi Judy Schindler asked Gainsboro to give Machicote a call.

“We talked for a really long time,” Gainsboro said.

After her husband died, Gainsboro reached out to Machicote a lot because she knew how difficult the caregiver role could be. “We would meet for coffee or lunch and have really deep conversations,” Gainsboro says.

Rona Machicote died seven months later, before the couple’s 21st anniversary.

Shortly after, another mutual friend died, and Gainsboro and Machicote attended the funeral together.

“Holly was there at every point for me,” said Machicote. “He became my best friend,” said Gainsboro.

Gainsboro and Machicote formed a young widowers group at Temple Beth El called “Widows and Widowers Gone Wild.” The group would meet for dinner or drinks and support each other or hear about new ventures into the dating world. The only rule was that no one in the group could date each other.

It was Machicote who first contemplated breaking the rule.

“I realized I was falling in love,” he said. “I was missing Holly whenever I wasn’t with her.”

Gainsboro’s feelings for Machicote also had changed, but she was reluctant to act on it. “When you’ve lost someone, you have this fear of having to do it again. What if something happens?” she said.

But one night at dinner in February 2013, the two kissed.

They have not looked back.

The blended family includes many photos of the two members who are no longer with them.

“We’re both very respectful of each other’s kids and the parents they lost,” Gainsboro said, but, she said, “the children are good because they see how happy their parents are.”

Gainsboro and Machicote are incredulous that they were able to find happiness again.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve this twice in a lifetime,” Gainsboro said. “Ditto,” added Machicote.