A New York City Socialite Returns to Her Southern Roots

Estimated read time 9 min read

It’s a new era for Tinsley Randolph Mortimer.

From the mid- to late-2000s, Ms. Mortimer dominated the New York social scene as a prominent guest at the most glamorous charity balls and fashion shows. She attracted the cameras in her colorful baby-doll designer dresses and was omnipresent in the papers and gossip pages. (A 2007 New York Magazine headline referred to her as “the number one it girl.”) And after some time out of the mix in the 2010s, she returned in 2017, starring in four seasons of the “The Real Housewives of New York City.”

After meeting Robert Dennis Bovard, Ms. Mortimer has happily stepped away from the drama, the big city, and the lights. She settled into a quiet, private life in Augusta, Ga., with Mr. Bovard and his three children. “I love Augusta. I love these children. I’m a housewife, and it’s awesome,” she said.

Ms. Mortimer met Mr. Bovard in October 2021 at her cousin’s wedding in her hometown, Richmond, Va. Mr. Bovard and her cousin, Mercer Ferguson, lived next door to each other during their freshman year at University of the South, and became close friends. Mr. Bovard was a groomsman at the wedding.

It was a rather large event, and they hadn’t seen or noticed each other during the ceremony and reception. But on the night after the wedding, a group of the couple’s closest friends gathered at the Tobacco Company Restaurant to watch the Atlanta Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

Mr. Bovard had known about a socialite cousin of Mr. Ferguson’s, though he didn’t know much. When he and Ms. Mortimer started talking during the game, he realized who she was.

“It was probably easy for me to talk to her because I didn’t expect she’d have any interest in a guy from a small town in Georgia,” Mr. Bovard said.

Ms. Mortimer, who grew up in the South, was attracted to Mr. Bovard’s southern accent. “Robert’s accent just kind of reminded me a lot of my dad’s accent,” she said. Her father died in 2015.

They talked about the Braves. Having grown up in Augusta, Mr. Bovard, 40, is a big fan. Ms. Mortimer, 48, knew a bit about baseball, having lived in New York and attended Yankees games, but she said she exaggerated her interest to impress him. (The Braves ended up beating the Dodgers to go to the World Series.)

The next day, Mr. Bovard drove back to Augusta with his son. Ms. Mortimer and Mr. Bovard had talked about the South of the Border, a rest stop in South Carolina advertised as a “highway oasis.” They joked about the countless billboards about the attraction along the Interstate 95. (“It’s a tourist trap,” he said, adding that the attraction is just a billboard of a man in a giant sombrero, some restaurants and a mini amusement park.)

Ms. Mortimer’s smooth move to start a conversation with Mr. Bovard during his drive home was to text him, “So, have you made it to the South of the Border yet?”

“I was not expecting to hear from her,” Mr. Bovard said. When she texted, he had been approaching the border. So he took a picture of it and sent it to her.

They started texting regularly and chatting on the phone. A few weeks later, in November, they met in Atlanta for a weekend trip with Mr. Ferguson and his wife. They ate out at Le Bilboquet and Le Colonial, which were across from their hotel in Buckhead. They explored the city and stopped in shops in Buckhead. (“I was surprised how fun Atlanta is and how much of a city it is really,” said Ms. Mortimer, who lived in New York for years. “No offense to Atlanta.”)

After their weekend trip, Ms. Mortimer was all in. However, given the distance between Augusta and Palm Beach, Fla., where she had been staying at the time, she wondered if they could make a relationship work.

Mr. Bovard is the president of Augusta Iron and Steel Works in Georgia, a third-generation family business that his grandfather and his great-uncle started. He also had three children with his previous wife, who died in June 2021.

“Neither one of us at our ages wanted to waste time,” Mr. Bovard said. “I can’t move my company and my kids to a different place.”

Ms. Mortimer had always wanted to be a mother. She even froze her eggs. “I had moments of being very sad that I felt like I should have done it in my 20s,” she said. But, she added, “I had gotten to a place in my life where I did think that I was not going to be able to have my own children. And I was OK with that. I’m still a woman, I can still love.”

Ms. Mortimer ultimately decided that she could take on the role of a mother for Mr. Bovard’s three children and build a life in Augusta.

They saw each other on weekends every few weeks on trips to Atlanta, Chicago and a hotel in Adairsville, Ga., called Barnsley Resort.

Binge more Vows columns here and read all our wedding, relationship and divorce coverage here.

Mr. Bovard graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of the South. He has an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Mortimer graduated from Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in art history.

On New Year’s Eve, Mr. Bovard traveled to Palm Beach for the first time and entered Ms. Mortimer’s world there. At a private club in Palm Beach, she brought Mr. Bovard, who is certainly not the type to be at the center of attention, onto the dance floor. They did the pretzel and other moves together. (“I like to dance,” she said.)

Then, they went to Swifty’s, a bar at the Colony Hotel. After midnight, giddy and nervous, she said, “I have something I want to tell you.” She said “I love you” for the first time, and grabbed him and kissed him. He immediately said it back.

“I felt the same way. I just didn’t know if it was too soon,” Mr. Bovard said.

“I was getting bold with him,” Ms. Mortimer said. “I feel like this relationship, I’ve been given this second chance to start over from all the other relationships I had. I feel like I’m 20 some again and I’m meeting this guy. And the way that I interact is a little bit awkward and dorky.”

Ms. Mortimer had her fair share of drama in previous relationships, including a highly publicized first marriage that ended in divorce. “I know the feeling — when you’re away from somebody, and the phone itself becomes that person,” she said. “You’re constantly staring at the phone: When are they going to text? What are they going to say?”

But with Mr. Bovard, she said, “there were zero games. It was all just so natural and fun and normal.”

In March 2022, she met Mr. Bovard’s identical twin daughters and son. In August 2022, she moved into his house in Augusta.

On Christmas in 2022, Mr. Bovard proposed. It was Ms. Mortimer’s first Christmas with children. She was so excited to celebrate with them that she didn’t sleep on Christmas Eve because she was busy getting gifts ready under the tree.

After the children opened their presents, the family was getting ready to go to dinner at Mr. Bovard’s parents’ house nearby. Before they left, Mr. Bovard said, “There’s one more present under the tree.” He asked his son to retrieve the last gift, which was in a jewelry box.

As Ms. Mortimer opened it, he got down on one knee, and she started crying. The children looked at her with a confused face, wondering what was wrong. And she said, “It’s happy tears.” They then celebrated at his parents’ place over Christmas dinner.

“It was perfect,” Ms. Mortimer said.

Mr. Bovard proposed with an emerald ring because emerald is his former wife’s birthstone. Ms. Mortimer and Mr. Bovard had established the significance of the gemstone beforehand.

“I wanted to do something that felt like I was incorporating her because I was coming into her family,” Ms. Mortimer said. “I wanted her to be a part of it because it hurts me so much that she’s not there for them. I thought that doing an emerald in some way would just bring her in.”

On Nov. 11, the couple wed in front of 150 guests at a private club in Palm Beach. Mr. Ferguson, who was previously ordained by the Universal Life Church, officiated.

Mr. Bovard’s son, Bobby, 9, was the best man, and his 6-year-old daughters, Ruthie and Mary, were flower girls. George Gambrill Lynn, Ms. Mortimer’s godfather, walked her down the aisle.

“I am so much of a calmer person now, I think, because of Robert,” Ms. Mortimer said, reflecting on their relationship. “My grandfather must be smiling ear to ear up there in heaven, because he always wanted me to come back to the South and marry a Southern man.”

When Nov. 11, 2023

Where Palm Beach, Fla.

Emerald Green The couple included the color emerald throughout the wedding in honor of Mr. Bovard’s previous wife, who died. His twin daughters wore white dresses with an emerald sash. Ms. Mortimer wore emerald shoes, and Mr. Bovard and his son wore emerald bow ties.

Wed in Style Ms. Mortimer wore a dress by Monique Lhuillier, one of her favorite designers. “I love a strapless ball gown style dress. That’s just me — I’d wear that every day if I could,” she said. Mr. Bovard wore a Ralph Lauren suit. His shoes were from Stubbs and Wootton, and her shoes were from Manolo Blahnik.

Palm Beach Everett Simon, the event planner and floral designer, incorporated the Moorish architecture and pink bougainvillea prevalent in Palm Beach into the wedding. The Florida town was the first place the couple said they loved each other. Ms. Mortimer’s family had been going on vacation there for decades, and her mother and sister live there. And the date of the wedding, 11/11, was a lucky coincidence.

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