They get the same question every time they meet someone new: If you’re married, why do you have different last names after all these years?
Fred Johnson usually speaks on his wife’s behalf.
“If your name was Liz Taylor, why would you ever want to change it?”
Yes Fred is married to Liz Taylor, although this one was a middle school science teacher and elementary school guidance counselor in her prime, not starring in Cleopatra and frequently getting married (eight times).
This Liz Taylor got married exactly once, to Fred, in 1968; which puts them a little more than a year out from half a century of wedded bliss. The pair are originally from the East Coast but came to Florida and got involved in the state education system.
Fred became a college dean at East Florida State College, the third-largest community college in the state, while Liz took on junior high science and elementary school guidance counselling.
The couple had a pair of daughters, who grew up to be teachers themselves, as well as three grandchildren.
When the couple began planning retirement and beyond, they did something quite unique- they approached it logically.
“We had been retired about five years or so and it seemed like everyone in town was working for us,” Fred said. “We had guys taking care of the pool and guys taking care out of the yards and everything else. It got to be a hassle instead of a joy.”
The pair lived on the eastern side of the state but was enamored with Tampa, taking several trips there for the weekend or a quick getaway.
“We were in the position to go anywhere we wanted to, and we started looking all over the state,” Fred said. “We liked Tampa more than anything else.”
At 71 years old, Fred and Liz are well aware that they are among the youngest residents living at Aston Gardens at Tampa Bay, but they rather relish the fact.
“Everybody who is here admits people wait too long to move,” Fred said. “It’s always after a fall or a spouse dying or something. They advertise this place as carefree living, and it absolutely is.”
Still able to drive and travel like they wish, the pair now feel like they can go and do whatever without wondering who’s going to be watching over their stuff or watering their plants.
“It was too good to be true, they absolutely take care of everything,” Fred says. “They give you the time and the wherewithal to do exactly what you want to do. We take advantage of the arts and the entertainment that they offer, and we simply do whatever we want to whenever we want to.”
Even as they enjoy things, they realize their needs will change in time, but also value that Aston Gardens will change with them.
“The community offers a lot of services that we don’t take advantage of, but some day we will,” Fred says. “We live downstairs with a garage and the apartment is open to the community. There are no steps and no curbs. It’s easy access to the apartment and very safe getting in and out.”