Harlem-born John Edward Ross III met his beloved at a mall in Atlanta through his cousin. The meeting, however, was uneventful for Michele DaVon Marable (born in Rantoul, Illinois). With John wearing questionable styles that day, she didn’t think he was her type at all.
“John had on a red and orange jacket, and pants that I believe was leather! The hat looked like Rudy from Fat Albert.” It, too, was red and orange, with a New York flare, she says. Michele continues, “He also had an earring in his nose. I politely said ‘hi’ and went about my business.”
A year later: Michele is looking at her friend (and now business partner) Shannon’s wedding album. “I asked her about the tall, dark, handsome man who was a part of her wedding party. She said ‘Girl, that’s John! Remember Clay’s cousin who you met in the mall?’ I was floored. He was so attractive in that suit and he had the most welcoming smile.” Michele would ask her friend about him once in a while. And he was asking about her. Shannon gave John her number without Michele’s knowledge.
One day—or rather, morning—he called Michele about of the blue. “He said he called to say hi. I looked at the clock and it was one a.m.! I politely told him he’d called way too late and I would talk to him some other time.” Michele hung up the phone thinking, This guy is as crazy as that red and orange outfit he wore a year ago.
However, with his warm smile in mind, she called him the next day and apologized if she was rude. John asked her out. “We had a great time talking about our lives,” she remembers. “He made me laugh and I felt comfort from the onset. Like we just fit. That night, he said ‘I’m going to marry you.’ ”
Family members describe John, a UPS driver, as a “cool, stand-up dude.” “I knew Michele was the one,” he says. “We dated for a year. Within that time, I moved my daughter—Rachel, now 21—with me to Atlanta from New York. Once I got her situated, I proposed to Michele.” A mere month later, Ms. Marable became Mrs. Ross.
Michele and John live on the outskirts of Atlanta in Tyrone, Georgia, with their children: John Edward IV (9) and Trinity Pearl (3). John IV, better known as L. J. (Little John), is described as highly creative, with a quiet strength. Michele says, “L. J. is a caring child. When we have gatherings or parties at the house, he goes around and makes sure everyone is having a good time and has what they need.”
L. J.’s dad agrees. “My son is a lot like me, but sweet like his mom.” Trinity Pearl is another story. John says his baby girl is a big talker. Michele chimes in, “Trinity is a firecracker. Headstrong. She’s loving, but she tells it like it is!”
Michelle chuckles when she thinks of her mom as a grandmother. “She’s very different from the mom I grew up with! She is very sensitive to their emotions.” Michele describes John’s mom, who now lives in Atlanta, as a lot of fun. Michele’s father (who passed away three years ago) owned properties and served as a role model for John. “My father respected my husband’s work ethic,” she says. “John would often ask my father about the properties he owned and how he accomplished it. Although my dad was a man of few words, he would go on and on talking to John about how he did it.
“One of the things that I found out about my father after he passed is that he paid for different family members to go to college or helped them out in some major way financially. I never knew that about him.” The beauty of that lesson for Michele: “When you do something for people, you do it from the heart and you don’t have to tell people or brag about it.”
Fatherhood is a privilege that John takes seriously. “I didn’t grow up with my father,” he shares. “I met him when I was 12, and he died when I was 16.” John credits his grandfather as his father figure exemplifying how to work hard and maintain a home. “I always felt if my father had been active in my life, I would have been able to recognize real love,” John says. “I never felt that anybody really loved me before I met my wife.”
When Michele decided to start her own business, John was apprehensive initially, but his unwavering support for his wife and belief in creating goals posited him quickly in her corner. Ultimately, “John makes feel that there’s nothing I cannot do,” she says.
“My business partner (and matchmaker) Shannon Collins and I worked for this small hospice company and we loved it. We didn’t want to do anything else,” Michele says. However, as the company they worked for grew, they didn’t like how it changed. “It wasn’t about the patients and the families anymore.”
Michelle goes on: “Shannon said ‘I’m going to start my own hospice company. You with me? We can do it!’ We took a year to develop the business plan. And then we started the company.” Michele, Shannon and their partner Cynthia River opened Heritage Hospice, Inc. in 2011 in Marietta, Georgia.
“One of the reasons we call it Heritage is that everybody has a story to tell, everybody has a heritage,” says Michele. “People deserve after living their lives to die with compassion, dignity and respect. We meet them where they are, not where we think they should be.”
John balances Michele out “by helping me see the reality of situations. He helps me cut to the chase with the hard decisions. John is also affectionate, attentive and a good provider. As his wife, I want my husband to say that I motivate and encourage him.”
As a parent, “I’m proud that I’m instilling compassion and that John and I are healthy examples of a good work ethic.” Michele says that the Ross family is cool because everyone in the house has his or her own identity. “Despite our differences, we care for one another deeply, we can live and cry together and conduct our family as a loving, cohesive unit.”
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at [email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.