Every day is Valentine’s Day for Pua, Robbie Kaholokula

LIHU’E — Every day is Valentine’s Day for Robbie and Pua Kaholokula.

The pair have been married for nearly 19 years, together for 27 years total, and will celebrate the anniversary of their engagement this month.

“We try to do something special for each other every day, and not just one thing for Valentine’s Day. We actually got engaged in February,” Pua said.

The couple, who were both born and raised here, hail from different sides of the island. Pua is a longtime hula dancer originally from Waimea, who eventually ran her own halau, Halau Mohala O Ka Pua Hau Hele. Robbie grew up in Kapa’a, part of a family of musicians. His father, James Kaholokula, started the group Na Kaholokula.

They laugh about how long it took for them to meet.

“It was really funny,” Robbie said. “Our families knew the same people, we would go to the same places, and for years we never knew each other, the whole time we were growing up.”

Pua would be dancing with her halau, and Robbie would be playing with the band.

One day, Pua, working as the initial contact for the halau, was setting up a performance with the band. Then finally, the two met. Pua, then 17 years old, was just graduating from Waimea High School, and Robbie, then 18 years old, was in his second year of college.

The problem was, after they met and started dating, they weren’t allowed to perform together.

“My father had very strict rules about girlfriends,” Robbie said. “We just weren’t allowed to share the stage. And we had to respect that. We just couldn’t do it. It was hard.”

They dated for a whole summer before Pua had to leave for the Big Island to go to the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

“I didn’t tell him till a week before I was supposed to leave,” she said. “I just waited to tell him. Then I left.”

Robbie said he was crushed.

“I knew she was the one, and she was leaving,” he said.

Regardless of how they felt, Pua went off to college. But the two kept in communication, phoning each other every day, and writing letters.

“We would talk on the phone all the time,” she said. “And that got expensive. We would even write each other every day. Every day. We still have all the letters we wrote to each other. I have my own box and he has his. It just seemed like nice things to keep.”

They rarely got to see each other. She didn’t really come home during her breaks, and he didn’t get to go to the Big Island.

They met midway. If he was playing in a show on O’ahu, she would try to fly in for it.

“I figured I could go to O’ahu. At least I didn’t have to fly that one extra flight to go home,” she said.

She finally came home so they could see each other more often, but they were still living on different sides of the island.

Years go by, and Pua finally pops the question.

“We were together for eight years, and she turns to me and says, ‘you’re going to marry me, right?’ Then I told her ‘yes,'” he said.

That wasn’t good enough for her, Robbie said. As soon as he answered, she looked at him and asked “when?”

“I told her to just plan it, and I’ll be there,” he said.

The next step was to call everyone in their families to spread the good news.

“She has a big family, and I have a big family. We had to tell them that we were going to have a small wedding and then a big party later,” he said. “But they all came and they all brought food.”

They got married April 18, 1987. They currently have two children, oldest son Baron, 16, who is a junior at the Kamehameha School on O’ahu, and daughter Lei U’ki, 14, at Kapa’a High School, who, just like their parents, plays music, sings, and dances hula.

Robbie is a tourism specialist in the County of Kaua’i Office of Economic Development, and Pua works in reservations for Kauai Vacation Rentals.

The two of them will be going to New York next week.

“I have to go out of town for work, but for her gift, she is coming with me,” Robbie said.

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