Love in Pirate Nation
Pirates share their ECU love stories
Pirates come to ECU for quality higher education, but some end up with a two-for-one deal. Discover how these five couples met their partner for life.
Name: Josh and Ashley Volkan
Met: Fall 2013
Where: ECU Marching Pirates. First date was at the Pitt County Fair.
The Volkans married in 2021 and entered their wedding reception to “Purple Haze.”
They live in Fuquay-Varina with their dogs Dowdy and Millie and are avid supporters and season ticket holders of Pirate football. The Volkans met thanks to the coordination of friends.
“I was in my last semester and was the captain of the ECU drumline,” said Josh. “I wanted to go to the Pitt County Fair and asked my roommate, Mike, to go with me. He was also in the drumline and I knew that his girlfriend Kelsey, who was in the color guard, would come along.”
Josh ended up asking Kelsey a subtle but important question.
“I didn’t want to be the awkward third wheel on their fair date, so I jokingly asked Kelsey to invite ‘that cute girl Ashley from color guard.’ Kelsey loved the idea and ended up inviting Ashley to the fair, saying she was going to the fair with some guys from the drumline. I guess Ashley interpreted that there’s 30 people in the drumline so there may be 10-15 people who would be at the fair, but it was just me.”
As a new marching band member, Ashley originally believed the night at the fair would be an opportunity to make friends. The night of the fair visit came with Josh driving himself, Ashley, Mike, and Kelsey to the fair. Josh and Ashley hit it off, with Josh offering to win Ashley a prize at the fair playing Bouncing Bingo.
“For me, it was an instant connection,” said Ashley. “Josh was nervous at first and I was probably hard to get so the combination balanced itself out. We took a picture together and although it’s a low-quality photo it’s a high-quality memory.
“Every fair after that he wins me a prize. We go to the North Carolina State Fair each year and play the same game.”
The two had their first official date at Hibachi Japan on 10th Street shortly after.
“We talked for three hours straight and stayed there until closing. Eventually, they started putting up the tables and chairs,” said Ashley. “At that point, I told him it was time to take me back to my dorm. We went there quite a bit when living here and still reference that restaurant anytime we go to other hibachi places or when we visit Greenville.”
Josh graduated in December 2013 but stayed in Greenville, earning a master’s degree while Ashley finished up her bachelor’s degree in May 2016.
Josh and Ashley took an important step just before Ashley graduated with the addition of a dog as a graduation present. The dog came as a promise made to Ashley that he forgot, but she didn’t.
“We made an unplanned visit to PetSmart and Josh walked in and saw one dog,” said Ashley. “He said that if we’re getting a dog, this is the one. For me it solidified a lot in our relationship and that we had a future after graduation. You never know what may happen due to jobs and moving, but we knew that we were doing it together.”
Name: Kezia and Jermaine Smith
Met: Fall 1998
Married: January 2014
Where: Gospel Choir practice at Mendenhall Student Center
These graduates included purple and gold in their wedding and made sure their little girl had a crib fit for a Pirate — a pirate ship, of course.
“We first met at the first practice of ECU Gospel Choir in 1998,” said Kezia. “Jermaine was there with his roommate, Travis, and I was there with my new friend, Lisanne. I remember asking Lisanne, “Who is that with Travis?” His roommate and my friend were dating each other and the three of them had grown up together, so I was introduced to him easily. We had our first date at The Spot in Mendenhall and fell in love very quickly.”
The two dated for over five years but ended the relationship. Life went on for both and Kezia graduated from ECU with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. After Jermaine earned a bachelor’s degree from ECU, he earned both a master’s and doctorate from New England Conservatory (NEC). He performed professionally as an opera singer before eventually leaving NEC to enlist in the Navy.
“Jermaine reached out to me in June of 2013. We had kept in touch over the years by phone, just a call or two a year, but hadn’t seen each other since 2004. That first phone call was a catch-up but soon we started calling daily and then throughout the day.”
The two knew they wanted to see each other again, but it took a bit of flexibility to make an initial reunion happen. Kezia went on a trip that would change both of their lives forever as she flew from Raleigh to Seattle and then drove to Silverdale, Washington, while Jermaine was stationed at Naval Base Kitsap.
“I knew by dinner that first day of the trip that we were supposed to be together. It was so obvious to me,” said Kezia. “He says he figured it out when I left to drive back to the airport. By the end of the trip, we both knew I was coming back and we both knew we were going to get married. We just hadn’t decided on when.”
Fittingly, Jermaine and Kezia’s wedding featured plenty of purple and gold.
“Jermaine has always been a big Pirates fan,” said Kezia. “I knew he would love to have a wedding that tied in our history at ECU. We met at ECU, how could we not honor our beginnings?”
“I wore a purple sari with a nautical star and all of our family wore purple or gold. We had a Pirate table with props for photo ops and the cupcakes were purple and gold with Jolly Roger flags.”
In 2020, the couple welcomed their daughter, Kadence Picardy Smith. Fittingly, Kadence’s room has a purple and gold Pirate theme.
“I knew I wanted a Pirate ship as a crib,” said Kezia. “I searched and found a crib that was shaped like a ship. Jermaine and two neighbors built a mast onto the wall and added many details around the room to tie it all together. At the top of the mast flies an ECU flag. There are so many lovely touches to that room with many gifted items that are treasured.”
The Smith family lives in Florida where Jermaine is stationed as a chief petty officer in the Navy Submarine Force.
Name: Evan Kidd and Arlie Honeycutt Kidd
Met: Fall 2010
Where: The ECU Mall
These Pirate graduates found themselves in the same line for Dippin’ Dots. The so-called ice cream of the future ended up giving them a future together.
“It was my second day on campus, and my roommate was in the marching band,” said Arlie. “She was playing at a welcome event on the ECU Mall hosted by the alumni association, and I wanted to go support her, but that meant going alone as I hadn’t met anyone who wasn’t in the band yet. I decided to be brave and to make a new friend while I was there.”
Arlie headed to the Mall and ended up meeting her future husband, Evan, while waiting in line for ice cream.
“When I arrived, there were tons of activities, booths and even two carts serving Dippin’ Dots. I decided I would choose the ice cream line with the friendliest looking group of girls or the cutest guy and strike up a conversation. I wound up tapping on my future husband’s shoulder,” Arlie said.
Arlie ended up making a positive first impression on Evan.
“Who is this beautiful and sweet person talking to me?” said Evan of his initial reaction to Arlie’s shoulder tap. “Arlie was so sweet I thought she was potentially trying to recruit me to join a club as the event had student organizations in attendance. However, I soon realized Arlie was actually the sweetest person I’d ever met and she just caught my heart right there. She also shared my obsession with ‘The Office’ so all the stars lined up in my favor that evening!”
“We quickly realized that we had a lot in common beyond our love for the ice cream of the future,” said Arlie. “We had both grown up in the Triangle, we were both pursuing creative degrees, we both loved ‘The Office’ and ‘30 Rock’ and so much more.”
The event concluded with the showing of “Date Night” on the lawn, and Arlie invited Evan to watch the movie with her on a new ECU fleece blanket that she brought to sit on.
Arlie was crowned the 75th Miss North Carolina in 2012 and traveled the state making appearances in big cities and small towns.
“During my year as Miss North Carolina, I had the opportunity to travel across the state speaking and performing — I was constantly on the go,” said Arlie. “Lucky for me, Evan was amazing and flexible every step of the way.”
Arlie’s reign as Miss North Carolina brought some unique experiences for both her and Evan as the two continued to date during this time.
“We had our second anniversary date over Skype after I spent the day singing the national anthem at the North Carolina State Fair,” said Arlie. “It was a romantic dinner of frozen Lean Cuisine for me and dining hall food to-go for him. He’d always answer my late-night calls to help me stay awake when driving home from various appearances, and he even kept a lookout for ghosts over Facetime once when I stayed in a potentially haunted bed-and-breakfast at the Crystal Coast that had me too spooked to sleep!”
Arlie and Evan were married in 2019 and reside in Raleigh. Dippin’ Dots were served at their wedding instead of cake, and the blanket from the movie night now lives in their son Everett’s room.
Name: Howard and Frankie Tucker
When: Fall 1979
Where: Famous American Writers English class taught by Dr. Motley in Austin Building
Through a study session, these classmates found that they had a lot in common. Their relationship started in class and has been going strong for over 40 years.
“We were enrolled in an 8 a.m. Famous American Writers class taught by Dr. Frank Motley,” said Howard. “Dr. Motley arranged our seating alphabetically and my last name, Tucker, was preceded by Frankie’s last name, Taylor, so I sat behind her. In the following weeks, I found that we had some parallel patterns to our Monday/Wednesday/Friday routines including parking in the same lot, going to classes around the same time, and mutual friends that went to the Croatan building between 9-10 a.m. We spoke to each other occasionally in general terms.”
As the semester progressed, Howard offered to help Frankie study for an upcoming test and the final exam. With both still living at home at the time, Frankie visited Howard’s home, where his father, former ECU Dean of Students Dr. James Tucker, greeted her. “My goodness, he is serious about studying,” recalled Frankie when Dr. Tucker answered the door.
The study sessions paid off as Howard maintained the A he had in the class while Frankie’s grade improved from a low C to a solid B.
“We agreed that after we finished our last exam, we’d go to Darryl’s to celebrate the end of the semester,” said Howard. “Over that dinner and the next couple of hours we learned that we shared the same birthday, our driver’s license numbers were five apart, and that we both had worked in the tobacco fields around Farmville for summer jobs.”
Howard and Frankie continued to date and by the next semester were just about inseparable.
“Aside from being a beautiful person inside and out, she had such a positive outlook on life,” said Howard. “I was, admittedly, too intense and full of high self-expectations and stress. Frankie brought a freshness into my life that allowed me to have a much better life balance and showed me that I could have fun and positives in my life while still accomplishing my goals.”
“Initially, I was attracted to Howard because of his looks; he was cute and resembled Lance Prentiss on ‘The Young and the Restless,’” said Frankie. “However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he was so much more — kind, generous, smart and hardworking. His presence in my life challenged me to become my best and still does today.”
They married in June 1982 and have one child and a grandchild. The Tuckers also fund a scholarship in the College of Education, the James H. and Virginia J. Tucker Scholarship, awarded each year to a North Carolina student majoring in elementary education.
“Our motto has always been that just being together is enough, and if we are doing something special, that’s a bonus,” said Frankie.
Name: Trent and Jordan Herndon
When: October 2015
Where: Gateway West Dorm (now Ballard Hall)
An opportunity to meet neighbors while doing a bit of dorm room cleaning brought these two Pirates together.
“We were both freshmen living in Gateway Dorm (now Ballard Hall) in October 2015,” said Jordan. “I lived on the fourth floor and he lived on the third. One night a girl on my hall told me ‘cute boys’ were giving out Nutter Butters on the third floor. My roommate and I went downstairs and one of the cute boys was Trent. We talked for a while and as the elevator door was closing for me to go back to my room, Trent asked me for my room number and I shouted it back.”
The reason for the Nutter Butter giveaway was to both declutter and meet some new people.
“I’m a big snack person. Freshman year I had a dresser drawer full of snacks and candy,” said Trent. “My roommate was allergic to peanuts so there were several Nutter Butters that had been untouched since move-in day. We decided to clear some room and meet our dorm room neighbors by handing them out.”
The two spent the next four years together at ECU earning their bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees, but moved to the Raleigh area to be closer to Jordan’s family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trent and Jordan returned to Gateway in June 2022, and Trent proposed to Jordan where their love story began.
“In one way, a new chapter of our lives was beginning, so it was nice to go back to where our last one started,” said Trent.
Jordan isn’t the first in her family to find a spouse while at ECU. Her aunt and uncle met while at ECU and have been married for 26 years. Her uncle officiated the wedding of Jordan and Trent in April 2023. The couple recently bought a house in Greensboro where they live with their dog, Penny.