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Don & Jen Skinner: A Business Love Story

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Their love is the kind you’d be hard pressed to find today. Compatibility, check; chemistry, check; similar interests, check, and appreciating one another every day, check, and check.

Jennifer and Don Skinner are what true love is supposed to look like.

The husband-wife duo not only has common interests, but they also work as mortgage specialists for the same company – RBC Royal Bank - from the same office – their home. So they are literally together 24/7 whether working, or playing.

The Skinners met at work. Jennifer, 32, who has now been living in Fort McMurray for seven years, had just joined RBC. She had stepped outside for a break, unaware someone’s smile was about to change her world forever - for the better.

“It was love at first sight. He had an amazing smile. Then I heard his accent, and knew he was a Newfie. You know a Newfie when you hear one,” Jennifer shares with a smile.

She asked him where he was from, and when he asked her in turn, she said, “Do you know where Carbonear is? Not there,” she adds with a laugh.

“She had me at ‘not there,’” chimed in Don, who has been in Fort McMurray for 12 years, and is from Newfoundland’s west coast –Stephenville, while Jennifer hails from Gull Island on the opposite end.

“We would have never met in Newfoundland. We were eight hours away from one another,” Jennifer notes.

And, even though he thought it could never happen, it was love at first sight for Don too.

“There were sparks. I couldn’t get her out of my head. Her beautiful smile and outgoing personality impressed me. I knew if I didn’t pursue her, I would regret it for the rest of my life. There was no awkward dating. It was as if I had known her all my life,” he enthuses.

In fact, Don introduced Jennifer to his parents, who also live in Fort McMurray, two weeks after they met. And, they invited Jennifer to participate in a family portrait that was already scheduled.

“I wasn’t sure about the family portrait. Our relationship was so new. But, Jennifer took to my family right away. I couldn’t picture life without her,” he adds.

Jennifer felt the same way too.

“I joined softball right after I met him just to be near him. I was dating someone and broke it off, because I couldn’t stop thinking about Don, and he hadn’t even asked me out yet,” Jennifer enthuses.

The couple travelled what they dub “the super highway of dating,” and were soon doing everything together ranging from golf, and softball to pool and travelling all over North America.

Don proposed five-and-a-half months later. The couple tied the knot at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas with close family and friends in attendance; they have been married for over six years now, and expecting their first child – a baby boy due in February 2014.

The proposal came at the end of a creative scavenger hunt that sent Jennifer to 11 specific places in town – each rhyme – crafted by Don – paying homage to something specific in their relationship. And, if you are wondering what the clues were, here’s a taste:

“Today is a day that we’ll never forget, but first some clues before you are set. Here is the first so you can begin this hunt, read them carefully for this is no stunt. Wear a warm jacket, you may be outside, drive very safely and have a fun ride. Remember to smile as you normally do, and always remember that I LOVE YOU!!!”

The 11th clue took Jennifer straight to Don, or as she calls him, “Donnie” where he was all set to give her the special ring designed by Jennifer herself.

“Look across to the playground and surely you’ll see, there’s a familiar face smiling with glee. Come right on over, please don’t delay, it’s so cold outside and I’ve been here all day.”

“It took me about two hours, but it was just great,” recalls Jennifer.

“There’s no other feeling like it when you find that special person,” notes Don.

Jennifer agrees. Both knew the value of finding the right person, and not settling.

“Don’t ever settle. If you have to change for someone, it’s not worth it. Like it or lump it,” Jennifer emphasizes.

So while they play together seamlessly, does working together get competitive?

“No,” comes the reply in unison.

Don actually trained Jennifer, and he says her rapport with clients makes her incredible at what she does. And, working for a common goal – serving clients and getting them into their new home means they get “instant joy.”

“It doesn’t get monotonous. We have the most rewarding positions with RBC,” Don continues.

Nevertheless, when he walks upstairs from the home office, he does clock out mentally, something he reminds Jennifer to do as well.

“Jen takes the work to bed. I have to remind her the work day is done,” Don shares with a smile.

Life in #YMM is everything they wanted it to be.

“We owe everything to Fort McMurray. Our careers, our lives started here. We love living in Abasand surrounded by Newfie neighbours,” Jennifer notes.

“We don’t buy into the negative media hype about Fort McMurray. This is home,” Don adds.

Staying active together also keeps their relationship fresh. Whether it is travelling, or engaging in side bets during a round of golf, they make sure the fun continues.

“We always take time for ourselves. We do everything together. There’s no guys night, or girls’ night out. We wouldn’t have it any other way. We take at least three vacations. But, now we have slowed down for the baby,” Don explains.

The baby is indeed taking up all their attention now. He is even more special, because of some fertility issues.

“I had given up on being a dad. We were happy, and then we got the great news.”

“I was visiting family in Newfoundland, and called him right away after I took the pregnancy test,” recalls Jennifer, her eyes twinkling with the beautiful memory.

The nursery is ready. The crib is ready. Everything is set to greet Benjamin Oliver Skinner, who is already nick-named BOS as per his initials. It’s Don, Jen, and Ben, they want you to know.

And, at the end of the day the Skinners say it is remembering the basics that keeps a relationship strong and fresh.

“We never go to bed angry. We kiss each other goodbye, even when one goes to the store, which is two minutes away. We live for us, and the baby,” Jennifer says.


Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.