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Photos by Shane Wynn
When Amy and Jack DeLeo work together, it's magic.
When Jack DeLeo met his wife, Amy, 27 years ago, he was an advertising executive on the rise, wielding a curling iron mornings before work, primping his two daughters’ hair with spiral locks and pink bows. Amy was Jack’s drop of sunshine, his colleague and friend. When the pair married in 1992, Amy left her job as an advertising account coordinator to become a full-time stepmother.
“They are my two best friends,” says Amy, referring to her stepdaughters, Stephanie and Sarah, who introduced Amy, at age 27, to the world of parenthood tout de suite.
As Jack rose up the corporate ladder — he retired in December 2013 as president and chief executive officer of Hitchcock Fleming and Associates after 41 years with the agency — Amy launched a home-based business, Creative Catering. The venture allowed Amy to be at-the-ready for her stepdaughters and, synchronously, to unleash her artistic side. Tables dressed with lemon leaves and topped with home-crafted salads, fruits, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and entrees placed in ornamental ware — TJ Maxx treasures— delighted Amy’s clients with art exhibit-style edibles.
“We would stagger arrangements at different heights before the trend,” says Jack, Amy’s catering wingman at the time and an artist at heart.
Before he became an ad executive, Jack aspired to be an illustrator. But when he knocked on the door of Akron Advertising Art in 1973 in search of a position, the agency’s three illustrator spots were filled. No matter. Agency chief Bob Fleming, to whom Jack refers as his second father, scooped up the 19-year-old and made him his go-between with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
“I was a gopher,” says Jack, explaining how his role transitioned over the years, as he strengthened the agency’s (now Hitchcock Fleming) business bonds with the rubber giant: one late-night delivery, one firm honest handshake, and one met last-minute deadline at a time.
Amy’s flair for catering shined in Jack’s advertising world, where entertaining clients often sealed deals. “Amy was an important part of business. I think we work off of each other very well,” Jack says.
After having hip surgery, Amy closed Creative Catering and replaced it with JuJu Beads Handcrafted Jewelry. She hatched the business in 1998 after visiting her sister-in-law Julie in Los Angeles, where the two popped inside a bead shop and, well, the rest is history. Amy’s beaded jewelry business soon shifted from making bracelets, earrings and necklaces for friends to selling her pieces at juried invitational shows, including Ohio Mart at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.
As beaded jewelry trended among masses of self-made jewelers who began to fashion their own handmade adornments, Amy revived the ‘70s spoon ring. Punched, hammered, black patina-washed, pickled and dotted with Swarovski crystals, Amy’s pieces celebrate sterling silver flatware in fresh, exquisite forms: the small shallow bowl of a sterling silver spoon becomes a hip cuff bracelet or the textured pendant that graces Amy’s neckline.
In addition to taking yearly weeklong classes in jewelry design to stay atop trends and techniques, Amy does a good share of experimenting in her studio, the basement of the DeLeo’s Munroe Falls home. This is no man cave. Here, the couple spends eight or more hours a day, working side-by-side: Amy amid a plethora of neatly organized, colorful glass beads and beside her tool cabinet, custom-made by Jack; and Jack, alternating between his two sewing machines. Jack, a tailor in his own right, points to a rack of dress shirts, each altered with crisp back-panel darts, trousers hemmed with precision stitching, and a white-and-black pawprint-patterned fringed fleece scarf for the couple’s pup, Zoey.
“Sewing goes back to my Mr. Mom days,” says Jack, recalling his years as a full-time single father, caring for his young daughters and making their house a home with handmade curtains and pillows.
Aside from swapping advice with each other as they sew and solder, or asking each other to pass a tool or a spool of thread, the DeLeos say they work hours on end in silence, enjoying the quiet presence of each other’s company.
“We’re together all of the time,” Amy says. “We’re crazy about each other.”
In blue jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and round-rimmed eyeglasses, Jack shares an easy smile with Amy. They read, seemingly, from the same page.
After a whirlwind of recent celebrations — the 96th birthday of Jack’s mother, “Vi”; Jack’s receipt of the Silver Medal Award from the Akron chapter of the American Advertising Federation and the Ambassador of Service Award from the Akron Rotary, both in February; and a trip to Mexico — the DeLeos don’t hint at slowing down.
Jack says he plans to continue his philanthropic community service, including work with Greenleaf Family Center, which honored him with the Betty Dalton Community Service Award last August; the John S. Knight Center, for which he has served as a board member for the past several years; Akron Rotary Camp; the Arthritis Foundation; and the Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop in Akron.
Offline, the DeLeos say they will continue their regular treks across the country for gatherings with Jack’s brothers and their families, otherwise known as Quattro Fratelli (Four Brothers), in celebration of family and their Italian heritage. Perhaps the DeLeos will whip up a batch of their favorite homemade pasta and sauce for the clan — from recipes, most certainly, as original as themselves.
“I always say, ‘Never forget where you came from and where you could have ended up,’” Jack says. “And, ‘Be yourself 24/7.’”
/ Denise Henry is a public relations representative and writer living in Stow.
Comments? Email them to managing editor Abby Cymerman at email@example.com.
What is the most creative gesture you or your partner ever displayed to express your love? We asked some akronlife readers and friends that same question. Here’s what they said:
Last New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend, Curtis, and I each got a Mason jar. Every day, our goal was to write one very simple sentence expressing how much we appreciate each other (i.e., I appreciate how he always takes my arm in a crowded place. He tells me it’s because he doesn’t want to lose me. Or, I love the way he knows exactly how to cook my eggs. Silly little things like that.) We each did one every day. This past New Year’s Eve, we opened each other’s jars. I can’t tell you the love I felt reading these little snippets of everyday life and realizing I had a full year of love and appreciation for my guy.
— Jane Luckage
My “hubby” drives me down to Florida, JUST so I can unwind from our hectic life during our busy season.
— Kathleen Case Drabeck
In 2011, I had knee surgery on a Friday. My wife went out of town on Sunday for business for the week. On Monday, Valentine’s Day, I drove 175 miles to take her out for a Valentine’s dinner.
— Wally Hamaker
Damon, the most non-domestic person on earth, made me some homemade soup the other day, as that’s the only thing I can tolerate eating after chemo. Also, when I had my long, thick hair cut to about 1/4 inch in preparation for it totally falling out, he said, “You look sharp!” I did not look at all sharp; I looked bald. But it was such a sweet thing to say.
— Maryann Hammers
From a different perspective, Deb said my most endearing [gesture] was the fact that I never fell asleep before her. That way, I always knew she was safe.
— Michelle Kovach
My sweetheart came over one spring and washed all my windows while I was at work. He always does thoughtful gestures, like picking up batteries or something he knows I need and leaves them on my counter for me to find. It shows he’s always thinking of me. Those little things mean so much more than what he does on a specific day. It really touches my heart.
— Rose Baughman Rose