Ken, a new McDonald’s executive, and Sethea, a beautiful barber, meet and fall in love at the company’s headquarters.
The first time Sethea and Ken met, Ken was taking a tour of McDonald’s headquarters. The building manager stopped and introduced Ken to Sethea and Sara and mentioned that they were sisters. Ken had a walrus mustache and hair that was long in the back and parted off to one side. Sethea thought he was very handsome, and, as she would later come to find out, she immediately caught his attention as well.
“I was already spoken for, and he was already spoken for, but I turned to my sister and said, ‘Hm, he’s awfully handsome.’ And left it at that,” Sethea said.
After their initial meeting, Ken would walk by her barbershop every day. There was a candy store right next to the shop, and Ken said it was because he had a sweet tooth. He would stop and make small talk and then continue on his way. Every once in a while, Sethea would offer to give him a haircut, but he’d turn her down, saying he was very loyal to his barber. They’d laugh and go on with their days.
As he walked by one day, Sethea insisted, “Come on! Let me cut your hair!” And Ken replied, “Oh no, you’re way too intimidating.”
Intimidating? Sethea thought. What’s that supposed to mean?
Ken was incredibly attracted to Sethea. She was beautiful, bubbly, and charming, so he had determined he needed to stay away from her.
“I had this very strong pull toward Sethea, and I didn’t know why then,” Ken said. “The attraction grew, but I never wanted to go get a haircut from her.”
Ken’s barber eventually left town, so Ken relented and sat down in Sethea’s chair. “OK, I guess I’ll give you a try,” he said. Sethea began cutting his hair, and they chatted about their respective kids and their busy schedules.
A McDonald’s Romance
Around this time, the Oklahoma bombing had taken place, and McDonald’s headquarters began taking greater precautions as they had received many threats over the years. They decided to reorganize the main floor, which resulted in the barbershop being moved across the street. But Ken still came in to have Sethea cut his hair.
One day, Sethea was visibly upset.
“What’s the matter?” Ken asked. “You seem sad.”
“Oh, it’s a long story,” Sethea said. “I’m splitting up with my spouse. I’ve tried, and it just won’t work.”
Ken left and headed home. He made it to the stoplight and was about to get on the freeway when he felt a voice telling him to go back. He tried to fight it. He was not going back there. But the voice, which he would now say was the Lord, insisted. So he finally turned around.
He went back to the barbershop and asked Sethea if she would like to go out for a cup of coffee.
“A cup of coffee? What for?” Sethea responded.
“I’m just asking if you’d like to go out for a cup of coffee. I want to talk to you about something.”
It hadn’t dawned on Sethea that Ken was interested in her. She knew he was married and had three boys. He was always friendly toward her, but she didn’t think anything more of it. The two met for coffee, and Ken told her the truth.
“I have been in love with you since the first day I met you, and I don’t want anyone else to ask you out,” he said.
He asked if she would consider dating him if he split up with his wife. Sethea agreed.
“I know it was very wrong,” she said.
Ken and his wife didn’t split up right away. He had never considered leaving her before; it was the furthest thing from his mind. He openly admits that they weren’t in love. Their marriage was prearranged by people at Cenikor, and he loved her because she was the mother of his three boys. But now he was in love with Sethea and completely conflicted inside.
He didn’t want to hurt his boys. He didn’t want to let them down.
Ken and Sethea started dating, but they kept it a secret. They didn’t want to be seen in public, and they kept their relationship under wraps at McDonald’s, though Ken still made his affections known to Sethea.
“He would send me flowers all the time—all the time,” Sethea remembered. Her clients were constantly mentioning the beautiful flower arrangements in her shop.
Eventually, one of the CEOs of McDonald’s caught on. “I think I’ve figured it out,” he said to Sethea. “There’s never a name on the flowers. . . . it must be someone who works here, because otherwise he would have a name. When you can tell who it is, I want you to call and tell me first.” Sethea promised that she would.
Ken and Sethea continued dating secretly for five years. During that time, Ken got to know Sethea’s girls, and would often bring them muffins in the morning and help Shelsea get on the bus. Ken wanted to start his new life with Sethea, but he still feared the consequences.
Finally, Sethea had had enough. She gave Ken an ultimatum: make a decision by the weekend, or she would start seeing other people.
That weekend, Sethea went to a movie with her best friend, Liz, and her husband. It was a submarine movie, and Sethea remembers it being extremely loud. Ken packed all his stuff in his car and moved out that night. He came to the movie theater, snuck in a back door as a movie was letting out, and went to find Sethea in the dark theater.
“Ken comes into the movie theater, climbs over the seat, and scares the daylights out of me,” Sethea said. “He said, ‘Well, I did it. I left. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I was completely shocked and thrilled to death.”
Ken moved into a hotel at the McDonald’s campus and eventually got an apartment. One October day in 2000, Ken came over to Sethea’s condo with a big arrangement of flowers and caught her off guard. He got down on one knee and said, “I don’t have the hardware, but I can’t wait. Will you please marry me?” Sethea called him a fool and told him to get up. “Of course I will!” she exclaimed.
They picked out a ring together, and Sethea followed through on her promise to the McDonald’s CEO. He was out of the country at the time, but Sethea called and left him a voicemail letting him know Ken was behind those flowers—and they were getting married.
A Story Redeemed
Today, Sethea says the way they went about their relationship wasn’t what God would have wanted. Ken didn’t know Jesus at the time, though Sethea realized that was what he needed. Yet, God was faithful to redeem their story. Ken accepted Christ early on in their marriage, and they grew stronger in their faith together.
It’s obvious to people around them that they’re completely in love. And they’re committed to one another, to God, and to their family. While Sethea hopes her children and grandchildren will approach dating and marriage differently than she and Ken did, she’s also joyfully proclaiming God’s faithfulness in their relationship.
She said, “This was God’s plan. It wasn’t mine.”