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.
SHUN AND WOAQUIN HUNT
Married: Sept. 7, 2001
Met: Shun and Woaquin were born and raised in the same church, Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, in the North Birmingham/Acipco area. One Sunday morning in 1996, Shun recalls watching Woaquin enter the sanctuary.
“I saw him come in the church, and I told two girls in the choir stand with me that I was going to marry him. I was 15, and he was 19 at the time,” Shun said. Woaquin remembers the girlish games Shun would play. “At our dinners at church she would always say little crazy things to me and call me names and I used to wonder what was wrong with this girl,” Woaquin laughed. “She always stood out to me, but it didn’t evolve into anything [at that time].
“It was a crush,” Shun admitted. Due to their age difference, there wasn’t anything serious until 1998 when Shun was about to graduate from A.H. Parker High School.
“My eyes were just fixated on her that day, and while she was walking down from the choir stand our eyes locked and something told me she was gonna come sit down next to me, and she did,” Woaquin recalled.
He asked Shun for her phone number but “since I was 17 at the time, my mom made me wait two weeks until I graduated and turned 18,” she said.
It was a waiting game, Woaquin remembered, “because after that Shun went on her senior trip so I had to wait another week before we were able to go out on our first date. …but I was willing to wait because she always stood out to me.”
First date: A Saturday evening in the summer of 1998. Due to Woaquin’s unexpected late stay at work, they were not able to have the date he had planned and had to settle for chicken sandwiches from a fast food restaurant on Center Point Parkway and a walk around East Lake Park.
Shun said she was initially disappointed by his tardiness and the change of plans.
“Mind you, he was [21, going on 22] and making serious money so I had an attitude because this was our first date, and this [fast food] is not what I do, I don’t even eat that fast food [from that place by myself],” Shun laughed. “He was super late, and I had to beg my mom to still let me go out with him because my mom was very strict… But when he explained that he got caught at the barber shop [cutting hair, she had a soft spot for him and decided to let me go. He was dressed to the nine’s, he was smelling good, and had gotten his hair cut.”
The night was unforgettable for Shun. “I didn’t want the date to end,” she said. “We walked the entire park and just talked. It was surreal because we grew up in the same church and now we were on this date and the water was pretty, and we were sitting underneath a gazebo, it was a summer night, it was just perfect…”
“The connection was undeniable. We had waited all this time to go on a first date and it gave us an opportunity to show those feelings. And that night we shared our first kiss,” Woaquin said.
The turn: Even though Shun was headed to college at Alabama A&M University, they started dating exclusively that summer which “gave us the opportunity to get to know each other romantically, and every evening when I got off work [that summer], I already knew where I was headed [to Shun’s parents house in Avondale],” Woaquin said.
“He dated me heavy, and he was really intentional that summer,” Shun said, “There was not a restaurant or theater in Birmingham that we had not gone to. I would get in the car, and he would have a gift for me, or my favorite candy, or a card and some flowers, but it was his words for me… [in one of the cards Woaquin said] ‘Hunstville is not that far away, and even if it was, I would drive to you. Wherever you are is where I’m going to be’,” she said.
Shun left for school in the fall and the pair would see one another on weekends whether Shun came to Birmingham for a visit, or he went to Huntsville. Her focus and academic excellence also encouraged Woaquin to finish the degree he had begun earning at Alabama A&M University a few years prior, and in 2000, he re-enrolled in school and moved back to Huntsville.
The proposal: Thanksgiving night of the year 2000, in Woaquin’s parent’s driveway in Pratt City. Both were home for Thanksgiving break.
“I had been saving up for the ring for about a year, and I kept that ring on me like every day before the proposal because I was nervous, but that particular night I decided that it was the night I would propose.
Woaquin set the mood– “I was playing ‘For You’ by Kenny Latimore… I made my way over to the passenger side and I remember opening the door and grabbing her hand and getting down on one knee and the whole while it felt like my heart was about to beat out of my chest. And finally, I was able to come up with the words and told her how much she meant to me and asked her would she spend the rest of her life with me. When I heard ‘yes’ all of the anxiety was replaced with joy. I was overjoyed,” Woaquin said.
Shun said she did not see the proposal coming, “I was like this is real, he is about to propose to me. I was excited about what the next chapter looked like and I was anxious to see what the ring looked like too,” she laughed. “This was my childhood crush and now I’m going to be his wife and he’s going to be my husband. I thought the ring was spectacular and I thought to myself how was he able to afford it?
“It all came together because even though he was still dating me, he was more cautious about the places we went. It was a custom ring, he did his research… he even [took into account] my nickel allergy, it was the thought that stood out, going to a jeweler, looking at the metals, it was amazing, and I said ‘yes’,” Shun said.
The wedding: At the Justice of the Peace in Huntsville. “We didn’t have a wedding, it was just he and I. We’re going to do a big vow renewal for our 25th anniversary in 2026,” she said.
Most memorable for the bride was exiting the courthouse as husband and wife.
“It was seeing Woaquin’s face, the way he looked at me. He would always smile at me, but that day I knew he was happy about the decision that we made. We were both convicted in our spirits about cohabitating, and we had prayed about it. It wasn’t a forced decision, it was about our principles and our morals and we were happy with moving forward in the way that God had planned and I felt like he is definitely who God has for me. I was exactly where God wanted me to be with whom God wanted me to be with,” said Shun.
Most memorable for the groom was their vow exchange.
“I just knew that this was going to be the day that changed our lives. There’s a quote, ‘What a difference a day makes’ and I knew from that day forward our lives were going to be different. The marriage and our vows were bringing us full circle. We were not going to just be cohabitating anymore, we were now going to be right under the sight of God and be a complete family,” Woaquin said.
They honeymooned in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and stayed in the honeymoon cabin. “We stayed up there for four days, and they had everything set up in there, rose petals on the bed, the jacuzzi tub, we just enjoyed each other and being in love,” Woaquin said.
Words of wisdom: “Communication is key, and being a man, I had to really learn that from Shun… Keep things honest. You have to know with this person you have a safe space to divulge your feelings. Be real with each other, it’s not always cookies and cream, but being real with each other works for us. We give each other time to process and come back and we try it again, but we’re going to work as a team. It’s just me and her, and we figure we’re all we got. Teamwork is big for us when it comes to taking care of the kids and running a household.” Woaquin said.
“Trust the process to get to the promises. God’s promises don’t falter and they stand forever, and even when circumstances change remind yourself and show your spouse that you love them, and show your mate grace… Know that being in love is a willful act. You have to give it your very best effort even when you have none to give. When you go through hardships you’re constantly reminded of what God wants for you. We always say we’re all we got, but we’re all we need, we keep it moving and we give it our best,” Shun said.
Happily ever after: The Hunts attend Rock City Church, in Hoover, and have daughters, the late, Haileigh [died at one month old due to complications from preeclampsia], Sicileigh, 15, Kingsleigh, 7, and son, Finnleigh, 5.
Shun, 43, is an Avondale native, A.H. Parker High School grad, and attended Alabama A&M University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communicative sciences and disorders. She is a realtor at eXp Realty, in Hoover, and owns an online children’s clothing store called ‘For Leigh Boutique’ www.forleighboutique.com.
Woaquin, 47, is a Pratt City native, A.H. Parker High School grad, and attended Alabama A&M University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He works in Utility Maintenance, for Warrior Met Coal, and has a transportation company titled, ‘Fidelity Transport’ based out of Birmingham.