Austin Bell hoped to have a wonderful experience during his internship at the History of Diving Museum in the Florida Keys in the summer of 2011. He was not expecting to meet the love of his life, Erin Wolfe, during the ten-week program. In fact, he was an hour late on his first day!
“Despite keeping her waiting, she was warm and welcoming - and even took me out to dinner that first night,” Bell said.
This warm welcome lead to a friendship that was supported by their shared passion for the arts and history.
“Getting to know each other over home-cooked meals” matched with their natural chemistry made it easy to quickly become friends, Bell said.
One of the turning points of their friendship came after the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo found a sick pilot whale beached and stranded. Austin and Erin volunteered to help, jumping in the water to support this whale for four hours at a time. Looking back, Austin considers this to be their first date.
“It was one of the most moving and memorable experiences of our lives,” he reminisced.
As they continued to spend time together outside of work, their friendship quickly blossomed into a relationship. Austin had to return to Gainesville at the end of the summer, but the couple decided to continue their relationship, despite the long distance.
“It was a challenge, driving seven hours each way on long weekends every few months, but we never gave up on each other,” he said.
In 2013, Austin was hired for a job on Marco Island, moving four hours closer to Erin. A year later, Austin and Erin were finally reunited in Naples, Florida, where they both currently reside.
Austin proposed to Erin in December of 2015 at the historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
“We’ve have been looking forward to our wedding day ever since,” he shared.
“It all goes back to that fateful decision about which internship to accept while a graduate student at the University of Florida,” he said. “As a Seminole, Erin might cringe at the thought, but I am so happy to be a Gator, because not only did I get a great education and amazing college experience, but I also found the love of my life when I was least expecting it.”