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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sparks at bus stop forged lasting love

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

After 25 years together.

Erica Kunimura

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Darrell Rawlins and Pegge Grupen on their wedding day in 1981.

Family photo

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On a summer morning in 1980, Darrell Rawlins drove past a bus stop in La'ie and saw Pegge Grupen.

He didn't know who she was but decided he would stop and pick her up anyway after he got some gas.

By the time he returned to the bus stop, Grupen was gone.

He had no idea that Grupen lived on La'ie Point, within walking distance of the house he was renting with a roommate.

And Grupen had no idea that Rawlins even knew she existed. She had been waving at the guy driving the sporty red pickup truck for months.

One day Grupen met Rawlins' roommate on La'ie Beach. He told her they were looking for a third roommate and asked if she'd be interested in moving in.

Knowing that this guy lived in the same house as the owner of the red pickup she had seen the truck parked outside Grupen took the opportunity to finally meet the driver.

"It was really my excuse," said Grupen, now 49 and an executive assistant for Knight Corp. "He was cute and he had a hot car!"

She went over and Rawlins answered the door. He immediately recognized her as the woman from the bus stop.

They started talking he had no idea of plans for another roommate and invited her back for dinner. She accepted.

After a meal of eggplant Parmesan "To this day it's still one of my favorite dishes," Grupen said the two were inseparable.

"He was down-to-earth and independent," Grupen said. "I knew he was someone who had a future, and I could see myself with him. We just clicked, and it felt right."

A month later, they were thinking marriage. By October, they were engaged. And on Feb. 14, 1981, the couple wed just eight months after meeting at Kaimuki Christian Church. (Their formal reception took place in May at Ha'iku Gardens.)

This Valentine's Day marks the couple's 25th anniversary and they'll likely spend it at the sandbar in Kane'ohe, because, despite a whirlwind courtship, their marriage now is a lot more laid-back.

Late nights dancing at The Point After have been replaced with evenings on their deck in Kane'ohe with a glass of wine.

Instead of lounging at the beach, now they fix up their home; instead of listening to music, they tailgate at football games.

"The best part of marriage is having someone to share my life with," Grupen said, "someone you are so comfortable with that he becomes part of you, that without him you'd feel empty."

Their marriage didn't start out like most.

After getting engaged he dropped the ring in her margarita at Horatio's during dinner the couple moved into a small apartment in Punchbowl.

A few months later, with a May wedding in the works, they decided to make it official.

"We had been living together and wanted to make that right in God's eyes," Grupen said.

So without telling anyone except close friends who served as witnesses they exchanged vows on Valentine's Day.

Three months later they held the official ceremony at Ha'iku Gardens with 100 guests. They honeymooned on the Big Island. Highlights were a quick walk through a lava tube and a memorable horseback ride.

A year later, Rawlins decided to go back to school and get a degree in electronics. The couple left for Phoenix, where Rawlins enrolled in DeVry University.

They spent those 18 months in Arizona hanging out at the community pool and driving to Sedona. Grupen became pregnant with the couple's first child, Noe.

"It was such an adventure," Grupen recalled.

After graduation, they moved to Utah, where they had another child, Garrett. In 1991 they returned to O'ahu.

Raising two kids and working full time with a daily commute from Waipahu to town took a toll on their marriage. The couple found it hard to make their relationship a priority.

"That period in our life was very stressful," Grupen said. "You can get distracted by other stuff, but you can't give up on the relationship that brought you together."

So three years ago, the couple decided they needed a change.

They put their house on the market and moved to Kane'ohe and a better quality of life in 2004.

They love taking their 19-foot Boston Whaler to the sandbar, eating out, watching movies and spending time as a family.

Even after 25 years, Grupen remains amazed by her husband, who's funny, romantic, adventurous and still a great cook.

"I have been married half of my life," she said, "and I can't imagine being without him."

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