By Joe Roberts @JROBERTSJOURNO
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
Tom Crutchfield is 70 years old and has been with his 37-year-old beloved, Stacey, for almost four years.
The couple got to know each other when Stacey began working on Tom’s reptile farm in Homestead, Florida, where the pair now live and work together.
Tom told Barcroft TV: “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in a long long time. I’m super happy.
“We know we won’t have as much time as some others would have together, but we will make the best out of whatever time we have.
“There is only one way to live and that’s a day at a time. I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living enough while I’m alive.”
The retired professional herpetologist grew close to Stacey when she came to work on his farm after switching from a 10-year career in the medical field.
Stacey initially contacted Tom through Facebook in 2010 when her Iguana needed medical help, but it wasn’t until several years later when she came to visit.
Stacey said: “I just really needed a change and Tom needed help around the farm and stuff and within a week I just packed up whatever fit in my little car and drove from Connecticut to Florida.
“Originally I was going to stay for few months, get my stuff together, work here, help out and then apply for jobs and go back into the medical field, and it just ended up where I stayed with the animals.”
Despite Tom thinking Stacey was too young for him at first, the relationship grew from a close friendship to a romantic partnership, and the pair were married in May 2018.
“We kind of fell for each other over a long period of time,” said Tom.
Stacy continued: “First we were kind of against it because of the age difference, we kind of tried to shy away from it.
“But we really, really liked being with each other and we started to have feelings and after a point we just said ‘why fight it?’”
They now spend almost all day together, working with the thousands of reptiles on the farm, going on dates, and exercising together.
Stacey said: “I tell most people that most couples go out to work separately in the day and see each other in the evening but we are together 24/7.”
With all that time spent together, some might wonder how the two manage to stay on good terms, but Tom and Stacey have figured out the key to happiness.
“We sleep in separate bedrooms,” said Tom. “It’s fantastic. She has her bedroom and I have mine. We watch movies in my bedroom and she will go back to do cross stitch. We’re together 24/7 so it is nice to have our privacy.”
Stacey added: “We have the choice if we want to stay in the same room at night there are some nights when we do, and the other nights if you want to watch separate things on TV, we have the option.”
The couple now live a happy life together on the farm, and enjoy the full support of each other’s families, including Tom’s ex-wife who has become friends with Stacey.
Even Tom’s four daughters, the eldest of which is 48, all love Stacey and have embraced their father’s latest relationship without reservation.
Stacey’s mum, Susan, who is four years younger than Tom, explained how she was initially wary of her daughter’s new-found love.
“I was a little upset about it,” she said. “I did not know who Tom was so it was hard for me to just pack up and come down but once we came down and we met Tom we knew he is a great guy. He is really nice.”
Dad, Jeff, who is five years younger than Tom, added: “In the beginning I did have concerns because he was an older man. We did not know who he was and she just met him online, so you never know.”
But the family quickly came around to Tom after meeting him, and Jeff now says he’s actually eager to tell people about his daughter’s relationship.
“I am proud of it,” he said. “I like to tell people that he is famous now so I am proud of it and it makes me feel younger.”
Still, Tom and Stacey encounter their share of judgement when out in public
“We had a lady come up to us once and started hitting on Tom,” said Stacey. “She said ‘you have such a beautiful grandaughter.’
“People mistake Tom for my dad quite a bit but I have just learned not to care what other people think. I’m not going to let them ruin the love of my life and being happy.”
Tom, who has had a successful herpetology career, and even provided animals for use in such films as the Indiana Jones movies, is equally proud of Stacey, who learned to care for his beloved reptiles very quickly.
“What I really appreciate about Stacey is her incredible love and understanding of animals and animal behaviour. She gets it and not that many people do.
“it’s not something you can teach people. They are either born like that or they are not. It’s as simple as that. But it works for us.”
There are certain considerations for the couple, such as whether Tom will require a carer in the future, but Stacey says she’s happy to take on that responsibility.
Her medical experience means she’s fully prepared, and she’s already had to tend to her husband when he was bitten by a crocodile monitor lizard.
For the time being, Tom and Stacey are happy to enjoy their time together on the farm and say they have never been happier.
“What really makes the difference is with whom you have the relationship, not how old they are,” said Tom.
“She is beautiful inside as she is outside. She has a wonderful heart, she loves animals, she loves people, she loves helping other people, she means no harm to anyone and I love her a lot for that and she loves me.”
Stacey added: “I just love Tom for who he is.”