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Monday, February 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fred and Jody Valentine: Love was in the air at the company barbecue

Fred Valentine first saw the girl of his dreams in April 1984. His attempt to find her again failed, until August of that year, when he found Jody Benoit standing next to his table at a company barbecue. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Fred Valentine first saw the girl of his dreams in April 1984. His attempt to find her again failed, until August of that year, when he found Jody Benoit standing next to his table at a company barbecue. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The first chance meeting I had with her was one day in April 1984.

The second chance meeting and memorable introduction was on Aug. 16, 1984.

I first noticed her in April while she was acting as a hall monitor guiding individuals to the company auditorium for some sort of function. Her smile and pleasant demeanor really caught my attention. After a brief casual conversation, I walked away. Forgetting to introduce myself, I thought to myself, “It should be no problem finding out who she is. I have friends in many areas of the company and most assuredly be able to identify her.”

Four months passed. She must have been figment of my imagination! The pleasant, smiling, dark haired, brown-eyed, unidentified woman was unknown to my friends and co-workers.

Then, the fateful barbecue day arrived: Aug. 16, 1984.

It was a beautiful, sunny day for lunch and outdoor seating was at a premium. To reserve a table outside, I laid my cafeteria tray on a table for four. My tray was the only one on the table. I then took my uncooked hot dog to the barbecue master and waited for it to become my lunch. Once the dog was cooked, I turned away from the barbecue to return to my table. Glancing back toward my table, my jaw dropped in utter shock and amazement! Standing at my table was the pleasant, smiling, dark haired, brown-eyed, nameless woman!

Crud! In the short walk from barbecue to table, I’m envisioning myself tripping to the ground, becoming speechless, sweating profusely, or just doing something really embarrassing.

As I walk up to the table, there she is with a female co-worker. Seeing my tray is the only one on the table, she initiates conversation.

“Do you mind if we join you?”

Wow! The woman I’ve been wanting to meet for four months is asking to sit with me at lunch! I can finally find out where she works and most importantly, who she was. So, what words come flowing out of my mouth?

“Yes, I do. I prefer to eat in solitude.”

She was quick to point out many empty tables inside the cafeteria but after a smile and admitting to a strange sense of humor, the three of us sat down to enjoy lunch and introduce each other.

I introduced myself. She introduced her friend and co-worker, Susan, and then herself, Jody Benoit.

There it was. A name. But not without complications. I knew a Barry Benoit from work. Crap! Is she his wife, sister, daughter, ex-wife, sister-in-law? How am I going to find out in an unsuspecting way to see if she is single?

“I know a Barry Benoit. Any relation?”

“He’s my brother.”

Score! We talked and laughed the entire lunch. I don’t think I even had a bite of food. That afternoon, after talking with her brother, I asked Jody out. She knew I was going to call. A big bro watching out for his little sister.

That introduction was Aug. 16, 1984. We married Aug. 17, 1985.

A true chance meeting that was meant to be! A lunch in solitude that was not meant to be!

– Fred Valentine

P.S. Having two brothers, Jody always wanted a sister. Well, she received 10 sisters when she joined the Valentine family.

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