BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
VALENCIA AND ROGER MALONE
Married: Oct. 2, 2008
Met: August 2006, at Martha Gaskins Middle School, in Birmingham. Valencia was a special education teacher, and Roger the school’s resource officer.
“I was in my office and I noticed someone coming down the hallway, and I said ‘Oooh, who is this coming down the hallways like that’, and it was Valencia. I said, ‘hi, how are you doing?’ Roger recalled.
“I had a troubled student and I needed assistance from [Roger] and that was how we started talking,” she said.
Valencia and Roger remained professional for the remainder of the school year and got to know each other as coworkers.
First date: The following summer of 2007, Roger invited Valencia for a drive.
“We were really talking futuristically about where we each wanted to be in the next 5 to 10 years,” Roger remembered. “It was a nice long drive and we stopped to explore some unfamiliar territory on East Lake Blvd. near the back of the airport and watched the arrival and departure of airplanes and the drive ended with a stop at her house [in Center Point] and she prepared dinner.”
“I offered to prepare dinner because it was better than going to a restaurant, and I wanted him to know that I could cook,” Valencia said.
“She made fried chicken and spaghetti, and it was good. I enjoyed the conversation along with the meal. Conversing over a homecooked meal was the idea, and it [allowed me to see] she had skills,” Roger said.
The turn: Summer 2007. It was over that home-cooked meal “that we started taking each other seriously because we had talked and realized we wanted the same things,” Roger said.
The proposal: Spring 2008, at Valencia’s home. “I left work and I had it in my mind how I was going to propose, and when I got to her house she was sitting in her bedroom watching television like she usually did, and I started talking to her explaining how we had been dating for a while and I was ready to take the [next] step. I took out the ring and asked her ‘will you marry me?’ and that’s when McKayla [Valencia’s daughter, who was 6 at the time] told me I had to get down on one knee. She said, ‘You didn’t do that right, you’re supposed to get down on one knee’ and I honored her wishes because that is her mother,” Roger said, “and Valencia said, ‘yes’ and started crying and she hugged me and gave me a small peck on the lips.”
The wedding: At the Monte Carlo Casino, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Valencia wore a chocolate-colored fitted dress, and Roger wore a cream-colored suit, with chocolate accents. “It was just the two of us, it wasn’t an elopement, everybody knew we were going to get married, but we decided to get married that way. It was an adventure, it was something different…” Valencia said.
“I had been [to Las Vegas] once and had watched several couples get married on television at the Little White Chapel and at the Monte Carlo, so it was my idea to go to Vegas and get married and she agreed,” Roger said.
Most memorable for the bride was their gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel and Casino after the nuptials. “…we had gone on a ride that evening and [we were riding along] and I was looking at my ring and looking at him and just knowing that I was married, that was a memorable moment,” Valencia said.
Most memorable for the groom was taking in the scenery just before saying ‘I do’. “Walking out and looking at all the lights and the glitz and glamour of Vegas, and realizing we were about to make it official and that we were there to add our own bit of history [to Las Vegas weddings],” Roger recalled. “And seeing her walk out wearing that chocolate-fitted silk dress, she was stunning.”
Honeymoon: In Las Vegas, at the Monte Carlo Casino Hotel. “We dined at some of the finest restaurants there, we enjoyed toasting with champagne, and we put on a good movie and enjoyed being newlyweds,” Roger said.
Words of wisdom: “The first thing is communication, and it’s important because you allow an individual into your mind to let them know how you’re thinking and why you believe what you believe. That’s important in order to live together in harmony and look forward to a fruitful life together. And to keep the spark alive, you have to be open to trying new things… do the things that you used to do when you dated throughout the marriage and continue to thrive to make it better,” Roger said.
“You have to choose each other daily,” Valencia said. “Another thing that helps with marriage and staying married is realizing that you are two individuals so you still have to have your own identity even though you’re married. I’m in a sorority and I like to hang out with my family and friends sometimes because you need those outside [interests and outlets] as well. I know that I’m a wife and a mother, but you can’t be so consumed with each other that you don’t have a life outside of your marriage, and you have to have an understanding spouse as it relates to those individual needs,” Valencia said.
Happily ever after: The Malones have five adult children: Dana, Roger Jr., Tyler, McKayla and the youngest Jacob, 13, and their ‘fur-baby’, Stella.
Valencia, 52, is a Tuscaloosa native, and a Central High School grad. She attended Alabama A&M University where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in special education, and The University of West Alabama where she obtained an Ed.S. in special education and a master’s degree in school counseling. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and works as a school counselor at Barrett Elementary School in East Birmingham.
Roger, 61, is a Birmingham native, by way of East Chicago, Indiana, and a P.D. Jackson Olin High School grad. He attended Miles College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Jefferson State Community College where he obtained a certificate in Funeral Service Education and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in educational ministries online from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., a full-time pastor at New Pleasant View Missionary Baptist Church, in Ensley, and a Deputy for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. He also retired from the Birmingham City Police Department in 2019 after 27 years.