Perfect match

Bob Nunn and Tom Harrover have been a couple for 4 decades. But it wasn’t until a near tragedy that they realized they were truly meant for each other

LIFE GOES ON | Nunn, right, and Harrover stand before a project commissioned for the convention center hotel. Four years ago, Nunn was near death because of kidney disease. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Bob Nunn agrees with the adage that the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. Nunn and his partner Tom Harrover might not look that similar on the outside, but they match in a way that few couples do.

Let’s start with some history.

The two have that classic meet-cute that began on the wrong note. As Nunn tells it, Harrover was the dullest person he’d ever met —the two just didn’t like each other. Then, following a spontaneous invitation to a midnight movie, they ended up hitting it off. That movie led to conversation and then dating.

Forty-two years later, they still watch movies — as Nunn puts it, “I couldn’t get rid of him.”

A job in Houston took Nunn away from Harrover for three months, but old-fashioned letter writing kept the newbie relationship afloat.

“Tom had been writing me letters. He’s a very good writer,” Bob boasts. “He basically proposed to me by letter.”

They committed to each other, moving in and pursuing their careers: Harrover in architecture and Nunn teaching art. For 37 years, they lived in “a fabulous house” in Hollywood Heights. Life was good.

Then their life took a sharp turn.

“When we got together, Tom knew I had a kidney disease,” Nunn says. “Nothing was really a problem until about 30 years after we met — my kidneys began to fail and I had to start dialysis.”

Nunn registered with Baylor for the national organ donor list, but the experience was frustrating:  They received little response or encouragement from the hospital.

“Bob was on a downhill slide and the frustration with Baylor seemed like they were stonewalling us,” Harrover says. “We talked about going to Asia even. It felt like they didn’t want to deal with a senior-age gay couple.”

A LITTLE DAB’LL DO YOU | Bob Nunn is officially retired from teaching art, but continues to paint.

Then Harrover suggested something novel: He could donate his kidney to the organ list, with the idea that Nunn could get a healthy one.  Sort of a kidney exchange.

In desperation, they went back to their physician, who enrolled them in St. Paul Hospital’s then-new program for kidney transplant. The experience was a complete turnaround. Nunn was tested and processed immediately while Harrover prepped for his organ donation to an anonymous recipient.

Kidney transplants require a seven-point match system; a minimum of three matches is necessary for the recipient to be able to accept the organ into the body.

The tests revealed that Harrover’s kidney matched Nunn’s on all seven points.

“We assumed I would donate mine for use elsewhere,” Harrover says. “It never occurred to me that we’d be a match. The odds for that are off the charts.”

“See what happens when you live together for so long?” he chuckles.

Just six months after entering St. Paul’s program in 2007, they were on the operating table. They were the first direct living donor pair in the program. “It was all fairly miraculous,” Nunn understates.

Four years later, both men are doing well. Although officially retired, they both continue to work: Harrover does the occasional contract job while Nunn is currently on commission for an art project at the new convention center hotel. Outside of any official work, each interjects their quips about home, life be it cooking together or working on the lawn.

The obvious question for them might be “What’s the secret?” But they don’t see it just that way. Their relationship boils down to the obvious virtues of trust, respect and compromise.

“Selfishness doesn’t rear its ugly head in this relationship,” Harrover says. “You just have to be willing to accommodate, support and encourage what the other is interested in.”

Nunn agrees. “I would not be doing what I’m doing without his support.”

Nunn says if there is a secret, it’s akin to the dynamic on a playground: Like each other and share. If you don’t share your whole life, there isn’t a relationship, he says. At this point, Harrover says it would be impossible to separate. On paper, they are so intertwined with their house and financials, he jokes they are “Siamese twins.”

They’ve witnessed a lot in their decades together, including something they never expected to come to pass in their lifetimes: Same-sex marriage. Coming from a time when just being gay conflicted with moral codes set by their jobs, they wonder over the progress made in recent years. (They were officially married in Boston in October 2009.)

“I’m confident that it will happen for everyone,” Harrover says. “I’m sorry that it’s moving at a glacial pace, but it has that same inevitability as a glacier. We’ll get there.”

But nothing compares to the bond Harrover and Nunn already have, a shared intimacy few couples could imagine. Same-sex marriage was merely unlikely; what they have experienced is miraculous.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 01.07.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Naomi Judd turns 64 on Tuesday. The country singer has been on somewhat of a comeback lately. Reuniting with daughter Wynonna, The Judds hit the road for The Last Encore Tour. The two have also launched a reality show on the new Oprah Winfrey network OWN. But her inspiration for glitzy country drag and high-to-heaven hair has never gone away.

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THIS WEEK

Mars is very happy in Capricorn where the planet of energy and action is focused productively. Aspecting Uranus and Jupiter in Pisces, and Neptune in Aquarius, he can lose focus, but if you can stay on track while examining your process you can find new purpose and methods to strengthen your efforts.

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CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Your sign improves with age, but exercising is important for staying sharp. Advice from friends should be heard, but not followed. It opens your mind to better possibilities.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Self-criticism is helpful if you don’t take it to extremes. There’s room for improvement and an honest assessment of your virtues and flaws will make you clearer on what you have to offer.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
You have to be very careful not to give too much of yourself. Have a long talk with a friend you can count on to be ruthlessly honest about your limits and how you should set them.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
If you focus, you can achieve great things. Meditation helps tame that unruly, dreamy mind and draw inspiration. Friends who want your time are a distraction. Or enlist them to help.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Ideas brewing in your head need a release. Getting yourself heard helps or hurts you. Discussing those notions with a friend will improve them and see best where and how to air them.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Explore your fantasies and bring them into your real-life lovemaking. Some of those dreams may need safety checks and adaptations to be performed in the physical world.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Your fancy notions shock or titillate your partner. A discussion of limits is in order. Even out of the sack, your sweetheart can help with reality checks to help figure which dreams can come true.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Every relationship takes work. Take up the tough issues now while it’s a little easier. You’ll be surprised at what problems can be resolved in the bedroom. It will at least help.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Your intuition is clear now. With practice you learn to use it to better purpose in teamwork, practical or romantic. Trust those hunches in healing any kind of relationship — or finding one.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
As onerous as family or community duties may feel, you accomplish a lot and gain influence. You’re creative enough to find a positive approach. Once you start there will be no stopping you.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
What you have to say is too important to be wasted. Polish those gems and share them where they are appreciated. A little imaginative probing reveals secrets or scandals.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Discuss your financial worries with a trusted person. You stumble on solutions or realize things aren’t as bad as you think. Clear your head of worry to think clearly about resources at hand.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens