Valentine’s Day, love the second time around

Kupuna Life

In the love-laden hallways of 15 Craigside in Nuuanu, some would say fate drew them together. 

Six months after Eric moved in seven years ago, Gladys “Pepper” Hartness moved into the unit above his.

“I don’t think I’d been here a month yet and I was invited to sit at this table and Eric happened to be sitting down at lunch. Lost his wife here, and his mother, his father, his sister. Who else?”  Pepper said, “All of them within a period of, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

Eric Chang recalls the day he couldn’t stop thinking of her. 

“And then I’m standing there, waiting for the elevator door to open. The door opens and she’s right in there. And I said ‘this is shocking.’ Coincidental but shocking. I said, ‘wow, my heart is beating fast.’ I said, ‘is this for real?'”

“And then Helen comes to me and she says ‘Pepper, Eric’s going to ask you for a date.’ I said, ah, come on you’re kidding,” says Pepper. 

And did you ask her on a date.

“Yes, but it was about a month or two later. But in May which was three months after I met her, I started to grow more fond of her and loved her. And I did express my love for her,” said Eric.

And by the holidays, ballroom dancer, yoga practitioner, world traveler Pepper had Eric, who was once voted most shy, performing on stage with her. And kissing under the mistletoe.

Do you laugh a lot.

“Oh yeah. Oh yes. I love his laugh. Laugh for them,” Pepper tells Eric.

“I’m a very serious person usually and sometimes an introvert, most of the time. But then I have my moments and I pick some kind of line that makes both of us laugh. And we enjoy those moments together,” said Eric.

Now Eric joins Pepper in her travels, like here to Alaska where they got together with Pepper’s family. She has five children with her husband who passed away twenty years ago.

Not everyone was thrilled with their relationship at first.

“Anyway, that was the beginning of bringing it all together. And now he’s family. S.O., significant other,” said Pepper.

Eric is 74, he has no children. Pepper is 93 and love personified. 

“I look at the birds in the trees, the clouds. I love life. I like people,” said Pepper.

“That’s another thing that attracted me to her. Very positive. Outgoing, smiling and even if you’ve had a bad day, with aches and pains, like most of us do. She overcomes that, that kind of adversity,” says Eric.

“And there’s good and bad in everything, but you look for the good and you got to be happy. You got to be happy,” says Pepper.

What do you love about Eric.

“I make him happy.”

Do you think you’ll ever get married?

“No, I mean,” Pepper says.

You were going to say yes, weren’t you, Eric?

“I was going to say, it’s still in the discussion,” said Eric.

They share their faith, their backgrounds in education. And they too work at it

“Work at it means not losing your first love for each other. And passion,” says Eric.

Is there passion?

“Oh, of course. Why not,” Pepper says.

“Well, I bought some flowers yesterday. Ahead of the crowd for Valentine’s and I presented it to her.  In fact, I bought two bouquets of flowers. I couldn’t decide which one,” said Eric.

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