Risky Business

Risky Business

Happy Valentine's Day — Two Potomac couples forged their love in dicey environs: the workplace

Dating someone from the workplace is one thing, but Michael Seay took it to a whole other level.

At age 21 Seay worked for his father at W.C. & A.N. Miller Companies in Potomac. That summer he developed a crush on the cute 16-year-old girl working in the office. This was no ordinary girl working a summer job, as Seay soon found out. No, this was Frances Miller, granddaughter of Allison N. Miller, the co-founder of the company.

“My dad said, ‘You’re going to get us both fired,’” said Seay. “I kind of had to ease back a little bit.”

“My father and his father used to talk together,” said Frances Seay. “They’d say [to each other] ‘You know all those boys want is one thing.’”

When Frances went to college that fall, the parents of both thought the issue was over with. Far from it — the two wrote to each other constantly during her first semester. When she came back for winter break it was clear to everyone that this was more than just a crush.

At the company Christmas party both of their mothers got to talking, said Frances Seay.

“My mom and his mom got their heads together,” said Frances Seay. The two women decided that if their children wanted to date, so be it, and convinced their husbands of the same thing.

“Mrs. Miller came up to me at the party and basically gave me permission to ask [Frances] out,” said Michael Seay. The couple had their first date that New Year's Eve. They were married eleven months later in November of 1976.

“Basically he married the boss's daughter and I married the man of my many, many dreams,” said Frances Seay.

In 30 years of marriage the couple has had six children — ages 15-28 who have attended such local schools as H.D. Woodson, Winston Churchill and Holy Child. The Seays recently had their first grandchild. Michael Seay is now the president of W.C. & A.N. Miller Realtors and Frances Seay has worked as a full-time mother. With the last of her children getting ready to head to college, Frances Seay said that she is beginning "the second phase" of her life, which includes work with the Smithsonian Museum's gem and minerals collection.

JOHN PHILLIPS WAS weighing the good versus the bad of his situation.

The good side was that of all the places to be stationed by the U.S. Army, he was at Presidio in San Francisco. The bad end of things was that it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and he was stuck indoors processing the paperwork that comes with the rank of a Captain and an Army Personnel Officer. Then the head of his unit, a full colonel, popped his head into his office.

“He said, ‘Phillips, we need to find you a girl,’” said Phillips.

“My girlfriend was trying to set me up on this blind date,” said Jill Phillips. She wasn’t interested, in part because she was also an Army Captain at the time and was being transferred to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. in a few weeks. Her friend insisted, saying that the guy she wanted Jill to meet — John Phillips — was a great guy.

“ ‘That’s great that he’s a great guy, but I’m moving in a couple of weeks,’” Phillips told her friend. She agreed to go on the date only if her friend told John that she would be moving soon. She went on the date and the two hit it off. The date was Feb. 7, 1984.

“She never told him,” said Jill Phillips, who didn’t tell him either.

“A couple of weeks later the colonel pops his head into my office and asks me how it’s going,” said John Phillips. “I told him it was going just fine, and he says ‘There’s something I didn’t tell you.’”

Soon the two were packed into a Porsche, moving her across the country.

“By the time we’d driven across country I’d pretty much proposed to her,” said John Phillips. The two were married before a Justice of the Peace on March 30, 1984, seven weeks after they had first met.

“He was afraid I’d be bumping into hundreds of Army colonels,” said Jill Phillips. John Phillips tells a different story.

“When you go on a date with your boss's boss's boss, you have to marry the girl.”

In truth, they both said, she was 30 and he was 33 and they both just knew that it was right. With their official marriage license in hand, John Phillips got the Army to transfer him to Ft. Richie, Md., less than two hours from his wife.

The two held a wedding ceremony with their family and friends on Treasure Island — an island that serves as the footing for the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, said John Phillips.

The couple lived in Arizona and Germany before settling in Potomac, where they raised their five children, aged 16-21. Both have since retired from the Army, John as a Lt. Colonel in 1998 and Jill as a Colonel in 2005. The two now own and operate a mobile petting zoo complete with alpacas, miniature horses, a miniature pot-bellied pig, and a chinchilla, among other animals.