A husband's gift to his wife for 22 years of happiness
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
Note: Garrett Sullivan doesn’t think he’s romantic, at least not by typical standards. No one was swept off their feet during courtship, and he didn’t make a lavish proposal. But that never meant his feelings for Janis Loo, his wife of 22 years, weren’t filled with the kind of love that influences poetry.
Today, Sullivan wants to try his hand at romance. Loo celebrated her 51st birthday two days ago. This, a story honoring their love, is her birthday gift from Sullivan.
Whenever Garrett Sullivan and Janis Loo are asked how they met, they respond:
"We ran into each other."
Not literally, but there is some truth in that.
The two avid runners met more than 20 years ago at a breakfast held by the Garden Island Road Runners Club.
Both had recently moved to Kaua'i for new jobs.
Impressed by her credentials — Loo, a marathoner, won a 50-mile ultramarathon — Sullivan decided he would approach her at the next race.
"I was just so impressed that she ran an ultramarathon," said Sullivan, 52, president of Kaikor Construction Associates Inc. "It's a feat to just run a marathon. I thought to myself, 'That's a very determined woman there!' "
The next race came around, and the two started talking. Not wasting any time, Sullivan asked Loo on a date.
Wanting to impress her, Sullivan offered to cook dinner for Loo, a dietitian, at his home. She agreed.
But on the evening of their date, Loo, who grew up on Kaua'i, got lost finding Sullivan's house in Kapa'a. She was nearly two hours late.
"She claimed that my directions were horrible and she had been driving around for the last two hours looking for the house," Sullivan said. "Not the best way to start a relationship."
But start one it did.
The two quickly became a couple, hanging out on the beach and visiting Loo's favorite childhood spots on Kaua'i.
A talented baker, Loo whipped up goodies for Sullivan during their courtship, dropping off homemade cookies and mango bread to his job site in Lihu'e.
Sullivan's co-worker used to joke that Loo was baking him into marriage.
Sullivan started to think maybe that was true.
Months later, Loo went to Europe with her family and wrote to Sullivan every day. (She got teased endlessly by her sister.)
That was the nudge Sullivan needed.
"I felt if she was going to write to me every day, then she must be interested," Sullivan said.
Soon after her return to Kaua'i — and after she took second in a 100K race — Sullivan proposed.
On Aug. 20, 1983, the couple married at St. Clement's Episcopal Church in Honolulu with a reception at the Hawaiian Regent Hotel for 200 guests.
Twenty-two years and three children later, Sullivan considers himself blessed.
"My greatest accomplishment is that I've been married for 22 years and I still consider myself happily married," Sullivan said.
He's still in awe of his wife's unconditional generosity and kindness.
"Once you meet her," he said, "you have a friend for life."
Loo sends out hundreds of Christmas cards and letters every year. She takes food to sick friends. She's even donated her kidney to a stranger — just because he needed it more.
"She's such a giving person all the time, to everyone," Sullivan said. "It's such a contrast to how I've grown up. That has had such a profound impact on me."
Then two years ago, the couple decided to adopt a special-needs child from China. It was something Loo had always wanted to do, and Sullivan felt it was the right time.
After months of paperwork — all done by the highly organized and determined Loo — the adoption process was under way.
In June 2005 Sullivan and Loo traveled to China to pick up 12-year-old Rose Xiao Hua, afflicted with chronic ear infections and abandoned at age 3.
They arrived with mixed feelings. While they were ecstatic to be taking their new daughter home, they were torn about leaving behind five of Rose's friends, the girls she had lived with for the past nine years. This weighed heavily in their hearts.
Shorting after returning home, it hit them. They had to go back.
They are now in the process of adopting 12-year-old Zhi Hao from the same orphanage.
"It's been an adventure," Sullivan said.
When they're not enjoying their growing family, the couple loves trying new restaurants and traveling when they can.
Though they don't run marathons anymore, they both still get plenty of exercise: Sullivan walks from their Punchbowl home to his company office in Kalihi; Loo works out at the Nu'uanu YMCA every morning and rides her bike on weekends.
And even after 22 years, Sullivan said, his admiration for Loo hasn't changed — only grown.
"As time progressed ... our relationship matured, but in many ways, it remains the same," Sullivan said. "Janis is still my best friend and the person in whom I confide my deepest thoughts ... We've been blessed in every way."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.