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Voices from the Valley: Valentine stories of love’s first bloom

Yvonne Lewis Langlois

Valentine’s Day approaches and our thoughts turn to love. This year has been a tough one. The pandemic has placed extra stress on many relationships and we have all heard breakup stories. But here at The Gleaner, we want to celebrate love, especially on this strange Valentine’s Day amid the second wave. As we share these inspiring stories of love, we like to think that fairy tales do happen.

Sonia Paquette and Jonathan Wilson: Together 11 years, married for 5

They met when Sonia Paquette started working in Jonathan Wilson’s family greenhouses in Saint-Rémi. They often spoke at work and when Jonathan looked at her, Sonia says, “I was so shy. I’m a redhead, so my face goes so red! I just couldn’t control my emotions.”

As often happens, life got in the way and Sonia had to take some time off work to be with her sick father. Jonathan made sure he was there when she punched her card to leave work that last day and he asked for her telephone number. During her absence he often called and sent text messages. Eventually, two months later, he asked her out. After that they were like “Scotch and tape,” meaning that they were always together. At a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day party, they decided that they were officially a couple.

Two years later, when Sonia returned from a trip to Europe, Jonathan suddenly announced that he wanted to take her on another trip. They went to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where Jonathan booked them on a group excursion on a catamaran. When the group landed on a beach to toast the sunset with champagne, Jonathan told Sonia that he had brought her an early Christmas gift in his backpack. Sonia reached in and pulled out a teddy bear that held a heart.

 

White lace and promises Is it fate that navigates you to that special someone PHOTO Yvonne Lewis Langlois

 

When she pressed on the heart, a pre-recorded message from Jonathan told her how much he loved her. He got down on bended knee in the sand. Sonia hadn’t quite put it all together and wasn’t reacting to what he was asking — but the rest of the group was. “I was thinking, how did he do all this? — instead of living the moment,” she says. Hidden within the bear was an engagement ring. That was when Sonia understood that he was proposing. Jonathan declares: “You are the worst girl to propose to, ever!”

Ariane and Eric Pritchard: Together 42 years, married for 40

As romantic tales go, this is one of the best. Ariane Pritchard remembers the day they met: March 9, 1979. She was on a train travelling from London to Paris. Working as a travel agent based in Montreal, she had just dropped off 300 students and their teachers in London and was on her way to reach yet another group of students in Paris. “I had my airline ticket in my hand,” she says. But at the last minute she instead took the midnight express train with a friend and that friend’s boyfriend.

On the train, the couple wanted to go for a drink and tried to entice Ariane to accompany them to the bar car, which she declined. Her friends left but a while later returned to her carriage. “Come and meet this wonderful British guy in the bar car,” she remembers them saying. Ariane finally agreed. “I was a bit aloof because I was extremely tired,” Ariane recalls, so she was less than enthusiastic when Eric offered to buy her a drink. Eric laughs as he remembers: “I never met anyone in my life who refused for me to buy them a drink.” At the time, Eric was living in London but was planning to holiday in the South of France. When the train reached its destination and Ariane boarded the ferry at Dover, Eric altered his plans and accompanied the group to Paris. “He never left me in Paris that week,” she says.

When the week was over Ariane returned, once again, to London. This time she had arranged to meet up with Eric at her hotel. Unfortunately, she misspelled the name of the hotel. Eric recalls, “I went through the phone book, the London phone directory, and started calling all the hotels,” and finally tracked her down. “Otherwise,” Ariane adds, “we would have lost each other completely!”

In the following months, Ariane and Eric would meet when they could as Ariane travelled across Europe with different groups. Six months later, Eric got a job in Montreal and immigrated to Canada to join Ariane. They got married on Dec. 9, 1980, and in 1983 moved to the Gore Road, Ormstown.

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