By Anita Debro
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 who would, please send nominations to Erica Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
ANTONIO AND PAQUITA POOLE
Married: September 20, 2014
Met: Antonio and Paquita were both in high school— Paquita a student at Holy Family High School and Antonio a student at A.H. Parker High School— in 1998 when they crossed paths. The two Birmingham natives had mutual friends. “He was asking about me,” Paquita said of Antonio. Antonio said the same. “She saw me in a cool car with some rims and she was asking about me.” Antonio went looking for Paquita at her job at a fast food restaurant in Midfield and that is when they formally met. “He came in and asked her co-workers ‘Who is Paquita?’” she said.
Antonio and Paquita said they liked one another instantly when they spoke briefly at her job and they became friends talking on the telephone often.
First date: After that first meeting, Paquita and Antonio said they hung out a lot during high school but did not go on a real date until years later. The kept in touch via telephone calls and sometimes hung out with family and friends. Antonio said he would take Paquita to see the fireworks every year on Fourth of July. Paquita said it was after she had graduated from high school and gone off to college at Auburn that they started getting serious.
“Maybe in 2005 we finally went on a date,” she said. “We went to Red Lobster.”
Perfect pairing: “We had a lot in common,” said Paquita, who pointed out that both grew up in two-parent homes with a “solid foundation.” Antonio said they were both very social and enjoyed hanging out with friends and family. “We just enjoyed each other’s company,” he said.
Paquita, at that time was living in Birmingham but commuting back and forth to Auburn. While she was in school, Antonio received his commercial driver license and began working as a truck driver. Paquita said Antonio often drove her to Auburn for her classes and waited in the car until she finished and then drove her back to Birmingham. And Antonio would often Paquita late night pork chop dinners after a long day of classes and commuting, while she studied.
The proposal: Paquita graduated from Auburn in 2008. Antonio proposed to her at her graduation party at her parent’s home in Belview Heights. Paquita said she was expecting a surprise but not the one she received. “I thought I was getting a car,” she said. Antonio said just about everyone at the party knew about the proposal except for her. He proposed at first with a ring pop and then gave Paquita the engagement ring. “I was shocked,” she said.
The wedding: It would be six years before the two would tie the knot. The couple first moved to Tennessee for work. In 2014 they returned home to get married at the Bessemer Civic Center. The wedding was so large that it was standing room only. They had 10 groomsmen and bridesmaid and had invited at least 200 people. Paquita said she remembers fondly having a large wedding with many friends and family. “I just remember being so happy with us being together,” she said. “It was nice being the couple to bring so many people together.” Antonio said he was nervous that day but also happy. “It was one of the best days of my life,” he said.
Words of Wisdom: Antonio said he has learned many things during the couple’s 14-year courtship and marriage. Most important, he said, is to “really commit to marriage.” He also said: “You have to listen to one another,” he said. “Really take time to hear one another.”
Paquita agreed and added that couples should understand that there will be difficult times in any marriage.
“You have to know that marriage is not always going to easy,” she said. “So you need to be strong for one another and understand that it’s the small things that matter, just being with each other and getting that energy matters.”
Happily ever after: Paquita works for a pharmaceutical company and recently opened an online clothing boutique, Rena’s Couture. Antonio is a steelworker and truck driver. They have two children, a 13-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter and a fur baby— an English bulldog. The couple enjoy dining out, traveling and getting together with family and friends.