After 48 years together, one of Rick Karp’s favourite words for his wife, Joy, is “B’shert”, a Yiddish word for destiny, or soul mate.
It certainly felt like kismet when they met on April 16, 1966.
“Joy was having a party and needed a couple of extra guys,” he says. “I got a phone call and said, ‘Maybe if I’m finished my studying, I’ll stop by.’ In the end I said ‘To hell with it,’ and went to the party anyway.”
17-year-old Joy was in her parents’ basement when she saw Rick come down the steps.
“I liked the way this guy navigated the stairs — I could tell something about his confidence,” she recalls.
She also liked the way he held her as they danced to Beach Boys and Beatles records. “I felt a feeling of real safety and that this was just a good person.”
It took her a little longer to convince her parents of his potential.
“He was so different and special — one of the few guys who actually listened to me. But my parents didn’t like him because he wasn’t a doctor,” she says. “They tried to push me to go out with someone else.”
Rick, who was 20 years old, was stocking shelves at a grocery store while taking part-time courses at Carleton University in Ottawa “for fun”. Soon, however, the pair were married and at university together, and the self-proclaimed “sports car guy” had buckled down and was getting straight A’s.
Since then, their love and belief in each other’s abilities has only grown, despite many hurdles, including premature twins when they were poor students, multiple health crises, a bad car accident, and even a kidnapping in 1992 that was turned into a made-for-television movie.
“You don’t go through things like this without going a little crazy yourself, but through all of this, Rick is still with me,” marvels Joy.
“I really believe that things happen for a reason,” Rick says. “I keep coming back in my mind — why did I go to that party and fail my course the next day? Why is it that these terrible things have happened through the years? They just brought us closer together to overcome those problems.”
But the couple has done more than simply overcome these challenges – they have managed to thrive and inspire others along the way.
When they moved to the Yukon, they made a concerted effort to work together and move in a common direction.
They opened the first McDonald’s in Whitehorse in 1986, helped shape the warm customer service ethos in town through courses and brochures, and began a new business, Hair Sensations.
Rick is also the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and this past year Joy published a book, The Power of Service. In these endeavours — and more — they are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
“Our entire lives centre around each other,” says Rick, and these soul mates would not have it any other way.