By Diane Ako
June is a special month for Richard Soo. That's the month the former Honolulu Fire Department captain met the woman who would come to mean everything to him, Barbara Arincorayan.
"We were high school classmates at Kamehameha," he recalls. "After all those decades, we reconnected on Facebook last year."
Initially, it wasn't more than a platonic conversation with a schoolmate as their class geared up for their reunion. He didn't remember her, and had to look up her photo in the annual.
She remembered him as "a stuck up smarty in the advanced classes." She was a boarder, and he was a day student. At Kamehameha, the two groups of students don't usually mix.
The Facebook chats were friendly and interesting, and on a weekend when Soo was having a staycation in Ko`olina he invited Arincorayan to lunch. It was June 2013, and "there were sparks between us" he says. "We hit it off."
After their second date, Soo says he knew she was The One. "We can just sit and be together, and enjoy each other's company. We can talk freely," articulated Soo on what he loves about his lady friend.
"We have so much in common," adds Arincorayan. "He's easy to talk to. It just clicked."
This autumn romance is an unexpected blessing for them. Soo was long divorced, and had been raising two sons by himself. "I've been single since my younger son was in second grade. That son is now 19 years old!" says Soo.
Arincorayan had been widowed for five years and had not had children. On finding new love: "I was lonely, but I figured, if it happens, it happens. The time has to be right." She let fate take its course.
Neither says they expected to find love again, at age 63.
That's where the month of June comes into this story again. It was on a June day three years ago that Soo had gastric bypass surgery. "I went from 265 pounds to 160 pounds. I was overweight and had health issues, and had a family history of obesity. I was tired of struggling to bend over and tie my shoes. I decided to have the surgery and make a move towards wellness," he reveals.
In the first month, Soo lost 40 pounds. It took him two years to finish losing the rest, and to stabilize the weight. He had to learn a new lifestyle: New eating habits, new nutritional choices, new exercise routines. "I was bodysurfing and going to the gym. I felt really positive. I think it made me open my mind to the possibility of having love in my life again," he analyzes.
Just two months later, another event would occur - one that would open his heart, too. Soo says, "I had a devastating house fire. It really made me realize I should love what I do and who I do it with for the rest of my life, because life is short and fragile."
Fast forward to 2013, and a romance growing as fast as a wildfire. Within a few months, Arincorayan - or Honey, as Soo has taken to calling her on all his mushy Facebook posts - had moved in to his Papakolea house. A couple months after that, Soo proposed, in early 2014.
"We have a Crying Couch, where we sit, drink wine, and bare our souls. We were sitting on the Crying Couch when I told her I'm in love with her and want to marry her," he shares. Except nobody cried this time, and Honey said yes.
The wedding date's been set: August 16, at their house. The Crying Couch is ready.
The two have their Kamehameha Schools class of 1969 reunion this summer, too. "We'll be the hit of the '69 table!" he chuckles. A wedding and a reunion - and a lot to celebrate.