True love comes to various people in various ways.
For Ray Robinson II and Michele Dupey, it came with a call from the New York Times in 2009 asking Michele if she knew how to get a hold of Ray.
Dave Anderson, a reporter, had dug out an old press release Dupey had sent four years earlier about an appearance Ray was supposed to make at the Jersey City Public Library promoting his book Pound for Pound, about his famous father, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.
However, a snowstorm had forced the library to close early and cancel the appearance and the book signing never occurred.
A resident of San Francisco then, Robinson was in New York at the time. But he was only there for two weeks, so Dupey didn’t actually get to meet him until four years later.
Dave Anderson from the Times had come across the library’s press release while doing research on a story about the elder Robinson, and contacted Dupey to find information.
“Fortunately, I don’t get rid of emails and I went back and found his and contacted Ray,” she said.
“When I was disabled, I thought nobody would want to be with me.” – Michele Dupey
Long distance but lots of love
Robinson was living in California at the time, but the contact started again through an exchange of emails.
That was in January 2009, but it soon became clear they were connecting in other ways. Flirtations led to serious attraction and the desire to meet up with each other.
Robinson came east for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It took us 10 months to meet,” Dupey said. “I never thought I would be involved in a long-distance relationship.”
He said what attracted him was the fact that Dupey was intelligent and quick, and that appealed to him.
“She was also available and interested,” he said.
During those two weeks in late 2009, they traveled around the area, visiting places where Robison had grown up, went to a New Jersey Devils hockey game, and got to know each other.
“I laughed more in those two weeks than I have in a long time,” Dupey recalled. “Ray and I got along from the get-go, and it felt as if we knew each other for years. Meeting in person confirmed what virtual communication indicated and I couldn’t be happier.”
But there were still obstacles.
She was skeptical after years of Hudson County’s political agendas. She knew he had kids on the west coast and figured he would want to be with them.
But they had more in common than not. Both were divorced. Both had a good sense of humor and a desire for a quality life. Both were impressed by their talks and how much they shared, not just on a superficial level, but deep down they had a real rapport. Both had disabilities as well; she was in the process of seeking hip replacement therapy and he suffered from MS. Both walked with canes.
“When I was disabled, I thought nobody would want to be with me,” she said.
Both came to realize this was not an obstacle. “I thought this was good. She looked perfect to me,” said Robinson.
Dupey was set to graduate from her library studies program at Rutgers University in 2010 and Robinson came to the graduation ceremony in the spring.
Two-and-a-half months later, she went to California to visit him.
He came back the following winter. Robinson had only expected to stay one week, but extended his stay.
“That was the winter of the zillion snow storms, so he couldn’t leave,” she said.
At that point, she had to go to hip replacement surgery and did not see him for three months. Then in June 2011, she went to San Francisco. They maintained their long-distance relationship.
“Then he came here,” Dupey said. “I picked him up at Newark Airport. He intended to stay here with me but didn’t say.”
They hinted at marriage, but didn’t get serious about it until Robinson needed to renew his New Jersey ID in June 2012, and the clerk asked why they didn’t just get married.
In a rush of details, they eventually did, although even that wound up having a slight hitch, since one of the witnesses could not attend and they drafted the photographer to serve in that role.
Six months later, they live in Bayonne as a married couple, doing the day-to-day things married couples do.
What did they find in all of this?
“Trust, honesty and love,” Robinson said.
“Ray brought me out of my shell,” Dupey said. “He gave me license for me to be me again.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.