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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, January 23, 2005

Shared feelings helped them build permanent relationship

By Tanya Bricking Leach
Advertiser Staff Writer

It happened slowly at first.

Patti Junkman and Derek De Los Santos

Stefanie Riedel Photography/

Patti Junkman first noticed Derek De Los Santos 12 years ago at Grace Bible Church. But it wasn't until after De Los Santos' mother died of a heart attack a while later that he sought her out as a "neutral" friend a little outside his close circle. He thought she might lend an ear when he needed to vent.

He was right.

They would share the details of their lives, such as when De Los Santos' grandfather died soon after his mother, and when he broke up with a girl he knew from high school.

She found him charismatic; he found her charming. She went to him for advice, and he shared what was going on with his feelings about love and loss in his life.

Five years ago, with a little nudge from Junkman, it dawned on De Los Santos that Junkman wanted to be more than just friends. So they officially began dating.

"From there, it just sort of grew," De Los Santos said. "I think one of the benefits you get from starting off as friends is you get to understand them and know them for who they are, what they like and what they don't like. It just gets deeper."

By November 2003, De Los Santos had fallen deeply. He happened to be on Maui for a construction job, and made arrangements for Junkman to come and meet him. He remembered 10 years before he had walked on the beach near the Kea Lani Hotel in Wailea, and he thought, someday, it would make a perfect spot to propose to the woman of his dreams.

He took her to dinner at Nick's Fishmarket Maui at the Kea Lani Hotel, and then he asked her to go for a walk on the beach. He carried her to the edge of the water, bent down on his knee and proposed.

"Just the ocean sound and her saying 'yes', it was just the most powerful thing," he said.

It was a dark and starry night, and when they hugged and looked up to they sky, they both saw shooting stars.

"That was the sign," De Los Santos said. "This is too right."

Heartbreak followed joy when Junkman's mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Junkman and De Los Santos set Dec. 3, 2004, as their wedding date. Her mother died about six weeks before the wedding.

And then De Los Santos lent an ear to the woman he loved when she needed it most, just as she had done for him.

"He's just a big support to me," she said, "because I've gotten through a hard time with my mom being gone."

They wed at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii and released doves as a tribute to their mothers.

"It felt like our moms were there," the bride said.

They got away for a Neighbor Island honeymoon at The Lodge at Koele on Lana'i, and they took the ferry to Maui to spend some time at the spot where they had gotten engaged.

"I just feel like the luckiest guy," said the groom, a 34-year-old carpenter and painter. "Patti brings a lot of joy to my life. And love."

And for Junkman, now Patti De Los Santos, a 31-year-old registered nurse, her husband has been the one to heal her heart the same way she healed his.

Tanya Bricking Leach writes about relationships. If you'd like her to tell your love story, write to tleach@honoluluadvertiser.com, call 525-8026 or mail your photo and details to Love Stories, Tanya Bricking Leach, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802.