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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 5, 2006

It was magical, right from the start

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Initially, Eric Moon was hugely impressed by Marlene Ryan's unwav-ering commitment to her young son: "We're a package deal."

Family photo

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“Going Postal: One Artist’s Journey Thru the Mail”

Nov. 17 through Dec. 2

Neal's Art For Sale, Kilohana Square


Opening reception: 5-8 p.m., Nov. 17

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Married for 24 years this month, Marlene Ryan and Eric Moon have nicknames for each other.

She calls him "High Tech"; he calls her "Magic."

Yet, despite their differences — he's logical and scientific; she's passionate and creative — their relationship has worked so well, they still consider themselves madly in love.

"We often say we arrive at the same place by two different routes," quipped Moon, 60, a retired university professor and actuarial consultant. "We both learn a lot from each other because we're such different people. ... But some of her magic has rubbed off on me."

Moon felt Ryan's magic right from the start.

They met in February 1982 at a consulting firm in Oakland, Calif., where both were recent hires. Every day, the younger employees would grab lunch together. Ryan and Moon were invited to join.

The connection was immediate.

"The one thing I liked about her was the fact that she liked me — that was kind of a rare thing," joked Moon. "She was very much the type of woman I was looking for. I've had serious relationships without getting married, and nothing really fit. But the two of us really understood each other from the beginning."

One thing that stood out with Moon was Ryan's unwavering commitment to her son, Zachary.

"She had a 9-year-old son at the time, and one of the things that really impressed me was that she said, right from the beginning, 'We're a package deal,' " Moon said. "I thought that was great. I really admired that she was upfront about it."

And Ryan knew Moon was different from other guys she had dated because of how he interacted with her son.

"For me, I don't believe in love at first sight," said Ryan, an artist who turned 62 yesterday. "But I just loved who he was as a human being. People talk about family and ethics and morality, and we're not the straightest arrows in the world. But in terms of all the important stuff, you betcha we are. I was just so taken by him."

Nine months into dating, the couple got hitched in a quickie ceremony on Nov. 13, 1982, at the Silver Queen Saloon in Carson City, Utah.

"As far as I was concerned, getting married legally wasn't the important thing," Moon said. "It was the personal commitment."

They lived in her flat in Berkeley, Calif., before moving into a three-bedroom house in Oakland.

Moon began teaching economics and finance at San Francisco State University, while Ryan worked as an acting coach.

The next year, as a late honeymoon, the couple visited O'ahu. As soon as Ryan stepped off the plane, she knew she was destined to live in Hawai'i.

"We were hardly off the plane and I just knew," Ryan said. "But (Moon) wasn't convinced."

They returned to the Islands just about every year, with Ryan plotting a way to settle here permanently.

"We were lying on some beach and I looked up and I saw the freeway," Ryan said. "I turned to Beloved and said, 'Oh my God, these people are going home. What do we know how to do to allow us to move here?' "

What she knew how to do was coach actors.

So in 1989 she organized an acting workshop on O'ahu. She rented a villa in La'ie and ran workshops.

Soon, she met people who needed house sitters, and Ryan quickly started an estate-sitting business. She would live in other people's North Shore homes for months at a time.

In the meantime, Moon still taught at the university, taking every break he could get to visit Ryan.

It was during the months they were separated that Ryan started writing to her husband. On the envelopes she began drawing and painting scenes from her time in the Islands.

It rekindled a creative, artistic spirit in her.

"I just really looked forward to her cards," Moon said. "I couldn't believe she would just sit down and draw things that looked like something. It's a talent I just don't have."

Those months of writing — and drawing — led Ryan into making a career out of her artistic talents.

On Nov. 17, she opens her first art show, "Going Postal: One Artist's Journey Thru the Mail," at Neal's Art For Sale at Kilohana Square.

Some of the envelopes and letters she sent Moon will be on display.

"This show is literally an inspiration," Ryan said.

The couple, who bought a condo near 'Iolani School in 1997, moved here permanently in March.

They love going to Kaimana Beach or watching movies. On Sundays, they enjoy having breakfast together.

Really, they just love being together.

"The best part of marriage — besides the sex — is the companionship, the closeness you feel with another person you really like," Moon said. "I just can't imagine my life without her."

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