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Love letters: Contest seeks sweet stories from Big Island couples

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Renny and Sam Simeona are celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary today on Valentine’s Day.</p>


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Love at first sight? Or was romance a little slower to develop?

Everybody has a story about how they met their valentine, and the Tribune-Herald has been collecting them for its “How We Met” contest to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Entries are due by this afternoon, then it’s our readers’ turn to select the best tale of romance. More than 60 local couples have already submitted their stories in 40 words or less and are already posted.

Starting Friday, it will be up to readers to decide which story’s the best. Just go online at and click the “How We Met” banner, register, and cast your vote. Every story submitted will be there for you to read. And the winner will receive a handsome prize package, so get your friends and relatives behind your favorite entry.

Perhaps the sentimental 40-word favorite comes from Sam Simeona, happily married to husband Renny:

“We met on a blind date. His friend was dating my friend. The guy who they set me up with did not show up so he stepped in. I’m so glad he did—15 years later, still happily married!”

What she couldn’t fit into the 40-word limit is that today, Valentine’s Day, is actually the Hilo couple’s 15th anniversary.

Entering the contest was a “spur of the moment” decision, Sam said.

“I saw it in the paper on Sunday. It was hard in 40 words. You have to be precise and get the point across and have it make sense,” she said. It took two years from the blind date to their marriage. Four kids later, they’re celebrating their 15th anniversary.

More than one entry was poetic in its brevity. For example, Daina Saiki wrote:

“A daring, young new-hire; he noticed me.

We met “in the air.”

He was my Captain- a smitten Hilo boy, with flair.

We played it cool.

Storybook romance ensued.

Tenacity, laughter, excitement filled twenty years, so far.


After 20 years, “we thought, what can we do to make it exciting?” said Daina. So she wrote her version of the story and husband Dan’s is still to be submitted.

“Either way, I’m a winner with him,” she said.

He’s still a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines and that first happy flight together brought forth a union resulting in two boys and a girl.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom,” Daina said. “For fun, I love words. It’s kind of exciting.”

Monica Nishimura was looking for something else on the Tribune-Herald website. “When I saw the contest and thought it would be a cute thing to do. It took me a while to get it down to 40 words,” she said, but she came up with this:

“He missed class, asked to borrow my notes. I was reluctant to love, he didn’t give up. Gave me lilies, I baked him cookies. Eight years and one baby later, he still makes me smile just like that first day.”

That was at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Tyler, her husband, is from Hilo; she’s from Oahu.

“He would always sit next to me in class,” Monica said. “He invited me out, but I wasn’t sure. It took a while, but eventually I went.”

Tyler’s now a Hawaii County firefighter and she takes care of their baby.

Nanci Guartofierro, a teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, found her valentine with this approach:

“He was assigned to be my Genius at the Apple Store. I returned for weeks, making up ‘problems’ with my computer just to see him. I finally asked him out. Now we’re happily married in Hawaii! Who’s the Genius now?”

Nanci said she entered the contest because, “It was an unusual, cute, fun way that we met and everyone I tell it to thinks it’s hysterical.” The Apple store was in New York, but Andy used to live in Kona and wanted to return. He accepted an Apple store transfer to Oahu, which was awkward while she finished her teaching job in New York.

“He really wanted to move back to this island,” she said, and it wasn’t long before they ended up together in Hilo, where he’s currently building their new home.

Maybe the most local-style tale of romance comes from Ivy Kuoha:

“I’m from Hilo, he’s from Oahu. We met on Maui. We were eating Hawaiian food & he offered me some chili pepper water. He said, ‘Put some hair on your chest.’ Thirty-eight years, 4 daughters & 5 grandchildren.”

It happened when Ivy headed a crew from Hilo going to Maui for work at an E.K. Fernandez show where Aaron, whom she didn’t know, was working on the ride crew.

“I said ‘hi’ but he wasn’t interested,” she said.

Later, she and a friend were having dinner at the Hawaiian food booth and Aaron came by, still surly.

“I told my friend, ‘I’m leaving now or I’m going to knock that guy over the table,’” she said.

The next evening their bosses planned dinner for the employees, but Ivy let her crew go while she stayed behind in the hotel room. But her friends had let Aaron into the room where he was waiting when she came out of the shower. They talked story some and went out to dinner and she recalls him trying to throw her in the pool.

“Well, this guy’s a little too persistent,” she thought. “But you know, when I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”

These are just a few of the entries, all of which are available to read on the “How We Met” contest page at The one with the most votes by Tuesday will receive a prize package including such romantic enhancements as dinner for two on the Shipman House Bed & Breakfast’s lanai, a $50 Floral Mart gift certificate, foot massages for two and more, all provided by local businesses co-sponsoring the “How We Met” contest.

So which East Hawaii couple’s tale of romance is your favorite? Let us know, but be fair. Only one vote per registered account, and only one account per voter. Any attempts to vote from more than one account, or any automated voting, will be detected and those votes will be deleted. All the rules are posted at

The winner will be notified on Feb. 20, and announced later in the Tribune-Herald.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Email Hunter Bishop at


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