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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Internet dating proved love finds way, even at a distance

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

When talking about how they met, Penny and Don Valenta of Makiki have two different stories.

For Penny and Don Valenta, Internet dating led to trips between Texas and Hawai'i — and finally to a wedding at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Marcia Campbell

One version is that they met at a class reunion. The other, the true story, is that they met on the Internet.

Why two stories? They are both still a little uncomfortable with the idea of Internet dating, although it has worked "a miracle" for them.

Penny, who is the food-and-beverage manager at the Honolulu Club, became a widow in 2000 when her husband of 28 years died of cancer. Two years later, a friend convinced her to try Internet dating. She dutifully signed on, placing her photo and bio online at kiss.com (now called match.com). However, online dating "just wasn't interesting enough," so she quit.

On Oct. 10, 2002, she was surfing the Web and up popped a message from kiss.com. "For some reason I paid attention to it and logged on to the site." There, in a list of Penny's "Top 10" matches, was Don Valenta of Dallas. Without a second thought, Penny e-mailed him.

Don, who is now a special assets officer for Central Pacific Bank, is a born and bred Texan who "wasn't really looking for anyone outside the Dallas area. I didn't want a long-distance relationship," he explained.

On Oct. 10, he was online buying concert tickets — two tickets, one of them for a date. "I had never thought about computer dating because dating wasn't a problem in Dallas. But the nice thing about Internet dating is that you can do it at your own pace without taking time away from work. It's great for busy people."

Valenta says he doesn't know what possessed him to check kiss.com, but when he did, up came Penny McIntyre of Honolulu and he was curious.

He and Penny, who are both 52 years old, kept their relationship at the e-mail level for just two days. By Oct. 12, they were talking on the phone daily. They discovered that they had a great deal in common.

By November 2002, they were eager to meet. Thanksgiving allowed them that opportunity. Penny invited Don to Honolulu for the holiday. Her only objective, she said, was "for him to have a great vacation — his first time in Hawai'i — and to fall in love with the Islands."

Mission accomplished. Don loved everything about O'ahu. He stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. He met — and loved — her family and friends. They hiked Diamond Head and other trails, took long walks on the beach and even saw a falling star over Waikiki.

Oh, yes, he fell in love with Hawai'i. But he also fell in love with Penny.

Nightly phone calls continued, in spite of the fact that she worked nights and often called him at about 3 a.m. Dallas time.

At Christmas, it was Penny's turn to meet Don's family in Dallas. His three grown children, ages 21 to 28, and all of his extended family loved Penny immediately.

Then came the decision of where to live. Don's Dallas job "was at a natural stopping point" and his eldest son was getting married and would love to rent his father's house, so it made sense to Don to move, which he did in April 2003. He took about five months off before looking for a job, "and it was time well spent getting to know each other," he said.

They became engaged in December 2003, and had their dream wedding on Oct. 16, 2004, at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where they first met — in person, that is.

If you'd like to tell your love story, write to ohana@honoluluadvertiser.com, call 535-2410 or mail your photo and details to Love Stories, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802.