A local art gallery owner dishes on battling a debilitating disease, pursuing a creative career and keeping her marriage strong


More than two decades, three kids, a battle with a debilitating disease, and a new creative career later, Hannah Blanton—owner of Sozo Gallery in uptown Charlotte—dishes on how she and her husband, Charles, keep their marriage going strong.

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. The couple met in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Carolinas Medical Center (now Levine Children’s Hospital). Hannah was a nurse, and Charles was a resident at the hospital.

“He thought I was really stuck up at first,” she says, laughing about it now. “I thought he was good looking and smart, but I ignored him because I was trying to be professional, and I always said I would never date a doctor.”

Once she started to open up to him and explored their common interests—love of children, medicine, science—Hannah gave in.

The two were married on July 29, 1995, in Dilworth at Covenant Presbyterian Church with a reception that followed at the Mint Museum on Randolph Road. Art, it turns out, would play another major role in Hannah’s life later on.

Now full-time owner of Sozo Gallery in uptown Charlotte, Hannah says the couple works to manage full-time careers, three children (two of whom are teenagers), a family dog, and generally busy lives.

Use technology as a tool

“It only gets harder the longer you’re together and the more additions you make to your family,” Hannah says. And now with teenagers, she says she relies on technology tools to make it easier.

“We synch our calendars so we can keep up with each other,” she says. It’s one way to ensure they know what each other is up to each day.

Keep it fresh

Go on different dates. Try new things. “Lunch dates are great,” she says. “Honestly, because we’re so tired by the end of the night!”

Or try a different production uptown—“Blumenthal, Charlotte Ballet—there and so many more!” she says. Or maybe even share something together—like Uptown Crawl—that neither of you knows a thing about. These experiences will bring you closer.

You’re in this together

Remember you are on the same team always, Hannah advises. So even when things seem bad—“and some days I really don’t like him and vice versa,” Hannah says, laughing—have a sense of humor. She also swears by love languages, referencing “The Five Love Languages,” a book by Gary Chapman. “It’s unbelievably helpful in effectively giving and receiving love.”

Honor your vows

In sickness and in health: real-life vows that often don’t come into focus until something scary happens. In 2003, when Hannah was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome—a rare disorder causing your immune system to attack your nerves—and was paralyzed from the chest down for three months, Hannah says Charles was remarkable. “When something devastating happens, you either pull together or drift apart,” she says. “Seeing how much he physically and emotionally cared for me during that time—literally changing my diapers, feeding me, dressing me—deepened our love to a level I never imagined.”

This story first appeared in the April/June 2018 issue of Carolina Bride.


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