St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Amy Scherzer's diary

Heart Beat: Nomadic newlyweds

Her home is in Tampa; he owns houses in Clearwater and Odessa. A month after the wedding, one or the other still packs an overnight bag.

Published July 28, 2006

[Photos from Colmer Photography]
Sim Dawson and Jan Cornelius married June 24 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Between them, they own three homes and haven’t decided where to settle down.
Cornelius and Dawson were introduced by her cousin. Both come from old Tampa families.


Lots of newlyweds return from their honeymoons to sort out duplicate dishes, extra chairs and an excess of silverware. For Jan Cornelius and Sim Dawson, the task starts with real estate.

"Our biggest issue is where to sleep on a nightly basis," said Cornelius, a Tampa periodontist who owns a home in Parkland Estates.

Dawson, an investor, lives on 2 acres on Keene Road in Clearwater and owns a home on Lake Keystone in Odessa.

"We knew we had to make some decisions but put it off until after the wedding," Cornelius said.

At issue: how to spend the most time together most conveniently. A month after the wedding, one or the other still packs an overnight bag.

"We probably should live together," Cornelius said. "When I got a stomach virus last week, I was too sick to pick up the phone. Sim didn't even know about it until I was better."

She prefers Tampa during the week, in order to be at her dental office on Dale Mabry Highway by 7:30 a.m. She doesn't see patients on Fridays, so Thursday nights in Clearwater are fine. Weekend stays revolve around their social calendar.

"Some mornings, I wake up, and think, 'Where am I today?' " she said.

Dawson's schedule is more flexible. Since his family sold National Bank of Clearwater to AmSouth in 1993, he oversees Dawson Holdings and Dawson Groves in Manatee County, which produces about 60,000 boxes of oranges annually.

One of their homes has a lake, another a swimming pool. The kitchen isn't a consideration in their living arrangements, because neither of them cooks.

"We eat out every night, or pick up takeout," Cornelius said. In Tampa, they frequent Pane Rustica, Wright's Gourmet House and La Teresita. In Clearwater, it's Hogfish Grill or Greek Island. That's where the 43-year-olds decided to honeymoon in Greece.

"Jan does have one recipe," Dawson teases, "Amazing Chicken." She adds fresh ginger and teriyaki sauce to a prepared rotisserie chicken and heats it for 15 minutes.

Their matchmaker, Hugh Farrior, who's her cousin and his wingman, introduced them three years ago at Farrior's birthday party at the Tampa Yacht Club.

The following week, he insisted they come with him to the annual Celebrate Sinatra cocktail party at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, which happens again Saturday. Cornelius was in Sarasota for an Athena Society retreat when he called.

"He flew down in his six-seater plane to pick me up," she said. "We swung by my house so I could get dressed and went to dinner at SideBern's, then on to the party."

The relationship took off from there. Both are products of old Tampa families. His grandparents, Penn and Lillian Stephens Dawson, were the third king and queen of Gasparilla, in 1906. Her grandparents, Lera and J. Rex Farrior Sr., were prominent in law and the Junior League.

While dating, the duo enjoyed fishing in the Keys, shooting at the Farrior ranch in Ocala and skiing in Park City, Utah. They celebrated holidays with his brother, Penn Dawson III, and her parents, Joe Cornelius and Finley Farrior Cornelius, of Akron, Ohio.

Everything was great until Cornelius, driving to a colleague's wedding, wanted wedding bells of her own. She gave him two weeks to commit, unaware that an ultimatum was the kiss of death.

Dawson took a year. "I just wasn't ready to settle down," he said.

Then, finally, he called her.

"I've been looking through some pictures of us," Dawson said on her answering machine. "They made me laugh."

She knew he was referring to the photos she doctored on the computer to give them both blue eyes. At Farrior's urging, she finally called back. Detecting a new tone, she invited him to dinner. Takeout lasagna from Caffe Paradiso.

In her kitchen that night, Dawson was direct: "I want to marry you. I want you to be the mother of my children."

"That got my attention," she said.

A few weeks later, early December 2005, he brought up the subject again.

"The ball's in your court," Dawson said.

"Do you have a ring?"' she shot back.

They drove straight to his house in Clearwater, where he had hidden his grandmother's diamond ring. On bended knee, he asked her to be his wife.

"I missed her," he said. "I realized life was kind of miserable without her."

The couple wed June 24 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa, on what would have been the 47th anniversary of his parents, Patty and the late William Penn Dawson Jr. A reception followed for 300 guests at the Tampa Yacht Club. The next day, they boarded a Windstar cruise to the Grecian Isles.

Now, if they could just decide where to live.

"All the options are open, and any decision is a good one," Cornelius said.

"Not the worst problem to have," added her husband.

Know of an interesting wedding story to share? Let me know at or call 813 226-3332.

[Last modified July 26, 2006, 10:53:46]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters