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Love & Luaus

Because their marriage was such a long time in coming, Tony Hardy wanted to make sure the honeymoon would be as special as his romance with his wife, Cindy. 

Tony and Cindy grew up together in Seven Springs, N.C., a town where family friendships go back generations.

“My dad and her mother were even high school sweethearts for a little while,” said Tony. 

While they were acquainted, Cindy and Tony never dated and their lives took different turns. They married, moved away and raised children. Several years ago, both found themselves back in Seven Springs, both divorced and both helping care for their mothers, both of whom had Alzheimer's. With much in common, the two reconnected, fell in love and decided to marry.

“We often say 'Why didn't we see this 40 years ago?'” said Tony, 59, who believes divine intervention played a role in a romance that was meant to be. 

“We even found out that our grandmothers went to high school together and that my grandmother introduced the man to Cindy's grandmother whom she eventually married.”

One day, as he accompanied Cindy to the Wilmington AAA office to discuss combining their memberships, Tony surreptitiously slipped into the travel office. He told AAA Travel Agent Teresa King the story of their late-life love and his dream to take Cindy to Hawaii on a surprise honeymoon.

King started planning a luxurious nine-day Maui honeymoon that included a one-day visit to Pearl Harbor. Then she went a step further, wrapping ten little gifts that Cindy, a retired kindergarten teacher, would open at her wedding reception. Each was a clue to the honeymoon. 

“It was so much fun for me to do,” said King, who typically creates ornaments or other keepsakes for her clients. “It made them feel special and made me feel good.”

Cindy's best friend was in on the surprise, making sure Cindy had beach wear to pack for the next day's departure. Meanwhile, Tony was ready with a Hawaiian shirt for himself and a dress for his bride that he had made from the same fabric.

As Cindy unwrapped an orchid, a lei and then more hints she found that they were not headed on a camping trip as Tony had said. She guessed Hawaii after unwrapping the fourth box and cried with joy.

King was instrumental in making the honeymoon — from the surprise unveiling to the return home — a success, said Tony.

“As we got closer to the date, she would call me and keep me informed. I think she was as emotionally attached to the idea as I was. How are we going to pull it off? How are we going to unveil it? She came up with the whole idea.”

The couple's honeymoon had so many unforgettable highlights that Tony, who teaches truck driving at a community college, gets emotional thinking about it. 

“We took the 13-hour road trip to Hana and the tour guide was wonderful. We saw beautiful waterfalls, ate fresh pineapple and watched sunsets. I'm in the Coast Guard reserve and it was important for me to see Pearl Harbor, and we did that. We just enjoyed it all so much. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”      

Romance and travel are the perfect combination. To plan your romantic getaway, call 800-750-5386 or visit your local AAA office and speak with a AAA Travel Agent.