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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 30, 2006

Chance plays love card later in life

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Alan Hadama and Cassandra Aoki, center, tied the knot in Alaska in 1997 with help from the Rev. Bobrowski, left; Joe Amato, second from left; and Pauline Bobrowski, right.

Hadama family photo

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It only took a business card to bring Cassandra Aoki and Alan Hadama together.

One morning in 1992, Aoki was on her way to work when she realized she had forgotten her medicine for a throat infection. Walking back toward her apartment near the University of Hawai'i, she passed an elderly man who stopped her, asking why she was retracing her steps.

Aoki explained the situation, and the man handed her a card for the International Foundation of Bio- Magnetics, a touch-healing center in Kaimuki. She took the card but didn't call for nearly a year. Coming across the card one day, she decided to check it out. She went for treatments, then became a practitioner.

While volunteering at the center, she met Hadama, now her husband.

"If I hadn't accepted that card from a stranger, we probably would never have met," said Aoki, 58, who recently earned a master's degree in higher education administration from UH. "I like to think of us as two slightly used hearts who found each other when we least expected to."

Next month, they will have been married for nine years.

When they met, Aoki had just ended a long-term relationship and lived with a daughter from a previous marriage. Hadama, who wasn't married then, lived alone in Kahalu'u.

One Saturday, they were talking in the center's office when Aoki casually mentioned that she was house-sitting for her boss at UH. As it happened, Hadama, an avid hiker, was planning a three-week trip to Glacier National Park and needed a house sitter.

Aoki volunteered, on the condition that Hadama let her use his car. He agreed. To thank her in advance for house-sitting, Hadama took Aoki to dinner at Ha'iku Gardens, but they didn't hit it off yet.

The morning of his flight, Aoki drove Hadama to the airport, but he left his jacket in the car. An hour later, Aoki found it and rushed back to the airport to drop it off.

"I think he was really impressed by that," Aoki said.

For three weeks, Hadama trekked across Montana and Canada. He didn't call, but a few days after his departure, Aoki received a card in the mail. Hadama had sent a thank-you note from the airport when he landed, writing that he appreciated her bringing his jacket to the airport. That got Aoki's attention.

"That was what sparked an interest in pursuing more than just a friendship once he came back," Aoki said. "It showed that he was considerate and could take the time to show it."

Apparently, the feelings were mutual. When Hadama returned, he brought her back a pin and asked her to stay the weekend. She did.

"I could talk to her really easily," said Hadama, 56, a retired industrial hygienist. "It was just comfortable."

"Yeah, like old shoes," Aoki added, laughing.

A few months into the relationship, Aoki had to move out of her apartment. Hadama suggested she move in with him. But after a failed live-in relationship, Aoki was very reluctant.

As they were talking about her situation in his kitchen, Hadama blurted out, "I don't just want you to live with me, I want to marry you."

Stunned, Aoki asked, "Is this a proposal?"

Hadama stepped back and replied, "Yeah, I guess it is!"

In their late 40s, neither of them questioned the idea of marriage. To them, it felt right.

"He was just so easy to talk to," Aoki said. "I wasn't walking on eggshells with him. He's a very warm person, and he listens. I guess I did a lot of talking!"

The couple lived together for about two years before heading to the altar on May 22, 1997, in Ninilchik, Alaska. (They decided to wed and honeymoon at the same time.)

The year after their wedding, the couple moved to Yokosuka, Japan, where Hadama had worked.

In 1999, Hadama's father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died. Soon after, the pair moved back to Honolulu to care for Hadama's aging mother, who died in late 2003.

Aoki and Hadama are back in Kahalu'u, where they now live with their cat, Pua, two dogs, Sanoe and Montserrat.

With Hadama retired and Aoki looking for a job, they're spending a lot of time at home together. They go to the gym and catch movies when they can. (Neither practices BioMagnetics anymore.)

Communication has been the key to their success for nearly 10 years, Aoki said, even though they enjoy spending quiet time together, too.

"When we do talk," Aoki said, "we have really good conversations."

Being an older couple has its advantages, they both said. And they're glad they found each other later in life.

"We are ideally suited to each other at this age," Aoki said. "There is a maturity to this marriage that I did not bring to my first marriage ... We take turns in finding ways to make our life interesting together."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.