Though running his family’s clothing store on St. Armands Circle requires him to follow changing fashion trends, Tom Maus has traditional ideas when it comes to marriage and family. Despite his active social life as a supporter of the Ringling Museum’s Fan Club and other worthy causes, as he was approaching his 40th birthday last year, Maus had to admit he wasn’t even close to finding a mate who shared his approach to life.
Then his friend Robert Livengood decided to do some matchmaking. "I knew Tom and Jean de la Cruz separately and I believed they’d be good together but getting them to meet and go out wasn’t easy," he remembers. "It took about five tries. Jean is shy; and besides, at the time she was dating someone in California. Tom was reluctant to do the blind date thing, but finally I arranged for four of us to attend a Christmas party."
Tom and Jean, both Catholic and both from close-knit families, immediately realized that they had almost everything in common, including a sense of humor and an interest in cooking. But they didn’t move fast. Jean, who moved to Florida from Manila at age 10, didn’t even want Tom to kiss her for the first three months of dating. "I was able to negotiate that down to a shorter time," reveals Tom.
On Valentine’s Day of 2001, Tom reserved a table at Noah’s restaurant in downtown Sarasota and advised the chef of the importance of the occasion. Tom had already selected the diamond ring (with the help of Jean’s sister, Len Rodkey) and had driven to New Port Richey to formally ask Jean’s parents for permission to marry their daughter. When the meal reached the strawberries, chocolate and champagne stage, Tom got down on one knee, declared his devotion and asked Jean to be his bride. Jean recalls the event as a complete surprise as well as totally romantic and right.
The couple was married at an evening nuptial Mass at St. Martha’s Church on Oct. 19, Jean’s 32nd birthday. The wedding was a big blended family reunion. It was the same night of the museum’s UnGala Gala, an annual fund-raiser that Tom has chaired in the past. When their reception at the Ritz-Carlton wound down, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Maus wandered over to the UnGala Gala afterparty in another part of the hotel and continued the celebration. With so many single people at the party, you’d think Robert Livengood, who was a groomsman at the wedding, would have been analyzing his next big fix-up. "No way," he insists. " I’m retiring with a record of 100-percent success. But I’m glad I persevered with this match. It’s perfect."