The Free Press proudly presents its annual Valentine’s Day feature that shares the Love Stories of five Richmond area couples.
2/8/2024, 6 p.m.
The line into the bookstore wrapped around the building. Angela had been standing in line for nearly an hour. Out of nowhere comes this bow-legged guy wearing a cowboy hat, suede coat, a tank top and Timberland boots…in AUGUST. He spoke and gave “dap” to just about everyone in line until he vanished inside the bookstore. He would later come out of the bookstore with all of his books while giving salutations to everyone.
Angela was still in the same place but “Mr. Popular,” as she described him, was on his way to his dorm to enjoy the rest of his day. Angela didn’t know his name but remembered his face and was not a fan.
That was until early one morning before class. Angela was walking with a friend, BJ, who also was friends with Devon. Devon was waiting in front of the library at 7:55 a.m., again because “Mr. Popular” knew everyone and everyone knew him. BJ told Angela, “Let’s go over and speak to my man Devon real quick.”
Angela soon realized that Devon was the guy who cut the entire line at the beginning of the year. She was not enthused, in fact, she barely wanted to look at him. It was quite difficult because Devon’s personality makes you want to laugh and be around him. They exchanged pleasantries and moved on with their day.
Angela’s work-study job was in the library, and there was always a line of guys acting like they were looking for books but really trying to get her attention. Soon after they met, Devon literally was in the library every day trying to get Angela’s attention. Finally, she gave him her phone number with the caveat, “Don’t call me on the same day.” Devon called her that evening at 12:01 a.m. because it was “technically not the same day.”
They talked until the sun rose and have been smitten with one another ever since. They married in 2002, welcomed their first child in 2003 and a second child in 2008.
It has been 21 years of love and laughter with God being at the center of it all!
Angela Henry is president of Pennant Solutions Group. Devon Henry is CEO and president at Team Henry Enterprises LLC.
It was February 1978 and classes at City College of New York had started late due to a snowstorm. I was a Trinidadian Brooklyn high school senior taking a course for free at the college. I nervously walked into class and took a seat up front. About 30 minutes later, a super cute, bearded guy, wearing a silver mylar jacket with NASA patches, walked in carrying a Samsonite briefcase.He took my breath away.
A Jamaican, he was a third-year, electrical engineering transfer student who lived in the Bronx and worked in the college math lab. This was important because our paths would never have crossed if we hadn’t taken that class.
After class, several of the students introduced themselves. Somehow Kaestner, the cute Jamaican, and I ended up walking to the bookstore together. After leaving the bookstore, he walked me to my subway stop and along the way, he shared shelled peanuts, something he always carried in his jacket pocket, and offered to tutor me in calculus. Long story short, this was the beginning of our whirlwind romance.
Over the next months, we laid the foundation for what was to become a decades-long relationship. Highlights of our first months together included pizza and movies and St. Patrick’s Day at the Empire State Building.
In April, Kaestner met me on the steps of the iconic Midtown New Public Library and presented me a bouquet of daffodils! New York’s Hayden Planetarium, nighttime walks in Central Park and a late spring walk through Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Cherry Walk rounded out our relationship. The following September, I left for Northwestern University. The following May, Kaestner moved me back to New York and, five months later, we were married.
We now reside in Richmond’s Highland Park, where our romance continues and where we have the good fortune to live on the same street with one of our two sons and his family, my mom and a host of relatives.
Jackie McDonnough is an emerita professor of science education, VCU School of Education. Kaestner McDonnough is retired but worked at Philip Morris USA as an instrumentation electrician.
We met because of our ancestors.
It was Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019.
My best friend, Nikki, was in town and Eric was solo, seated in a packed Library of Virginia auditorium with an empty seat beside him and a new local acquaintance of mine seated on the other side. Nikki and I scooted in and got the last two spots just behind my new friend and Eric.
At a certain moment I noticed a photo opportunity. I reached for my phone and took a picture, framing the back of his head and his hands grasping the program that read “Truth & Conciliation in the 400th Year,” and more words that described the all-day symposium “…History of Africans and people of African descent in Virginia from their earliest days to the present …” I locked all of that in, never thinking beyond that click.
We never imagined Richmond would draw us back to live and definitely not the place we would find the love of our lives.
We believe our parents — his mother, Ann Lee Clay, and my father, Raymond H. Boone, who both passed from pancreatic cancer — had a hand at guiding us back home, not only to our other parents and siblings, but for ourselves.
During the symposium, a break came. My friend and I left. I took her to the airport. Eric left, too. That could have been it.
I returned, hoping to catch another panel. Eric also returned.
After standing, because there were no more seats, another break arrived and I made my way to say hello to a few folks before being approached by a handsome man — asking if I attended UVA since he said he spotted me speaking to a mutual friend who also attended UVA.
I quickly said, “No, I went to Spelman.”
The conversation moved fast — learning we were recent Richmond returnees, we both had lived in Baltimore and, at this point, is where we learned our parents had died from the identical cancer.
The symposium continued. We left for a restaurant and exchanged information before I left for an assignment.
As much as we thought we had come to a symposium to learn about our history, and thought we returned to Richmond for others, ultimately our ancestors called us home for another reason.
Fast forward to now. We married nearly five months ago. We survived many things — dating during the pandemic, my work schedule documenting the 2020 uprisings, the dismantling of the Confederate statues and recently standing together as we fought my breast cancer as a team.
We realize we were being prepared for these moments. We are forever thankful to our ancestors.
Regina H. Boone is a staff photojournalist for the Richmond Free Press. Eric Clay is the director of health equity at the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond.
Our love story began in 1974. But before I unfold the pages of time, let me tell you about this man. Before I knew him or who he was, he apparently knew of me.
We used to have a Country Fair in Louisa, Va., my hometown. I was at the fair one night with some friends. Apparently, he was there, too, eyeing me from a distance. To this day, he can tell you what I was wearing that night.
Then there was another time on a Saturday afternoon while I was out shopping and enjoying the day. Unbeknownst to me, he spotted me and was eyeing me again. I still didn’t know him nor saw him or knew what he looked like.
When the time was right, it happened. Our love story began one July evening not too long after the County Fair ended. We were introduced by a beautiful young woman who turned out to be his sister, whom I knew from work. She’d never told me about him, but they eventually came to my family’s home and, boy, he was so good looking!
To this day, 49 years later, I still ask myself, “What did he see in me, a country girl, who never dated nor really had a boyfriend?” My father, bless his heart, didn’t allow his daughters to have boyfriends or date at all! It still baffles me why my father allowed me to see Archie but not the other boys who came to our house.
Growing up, our county lines were unbelievably close. Archie lived in Spotsylvania County and I lived in Louisa County. We were so close to one another yet we didn’t know one another. It had to be destined by God to bring our lives together. I can’t explain it any other way.
After a year and a half of dating (or courtship back then), we were united as husband and wife on Oct. 25, 1975. Our lives since have meant living in various states, overseas and other places that my husband’s job took us.
Today we still enjoy and love each moment God gives us. Our advice to every couple and everyone: Love from your heart and not from what you see on the outside, for it all will change over time.
Linda Comfort recently retired from Dillards. Archie Comfort is retired from the U.S. government.
"You’ve got mail!” Remember those days? You can almost hear the line if you listen closely.
Back in the (recent) day, the digital way to start up and hold a conversation with a new person was to ask for their email address and wait until later in the night for them to have time to respond — if they did. In true millennial fashion, our love story started similarly, but in a much more instantaneous way: Instagram.
What started one day as laughing emoji replies back and forth to Instagram stories turned into several hours of nonstop conversation. Neither of us initiated the replies or conversation with the intention of starting a relationship, but from that night on our lives would be forever changed.
Now, I’m a bit more direct than Levar sometimes, so I told him if he wanted to continue the conversation any further, he’d have to do it via text or call — IG was not about to hold me captive. I gave him my number and said goodnight.
Of course I then had to update my mom on how quickly life can change from when she and I spoke earlier in the day. She worked at City Hall for many years and kept up with the politics of the city. She’d been a big Levar fan, and advocate over the years, and constantly was trying to put it in my universe that one day we’d eventually connect and start dating.
Well, her manifesting it somehow worked, and after that night of our hourslong conversation, I told her that if we connected the same way in person, Levar and I were going to get married. I knew right away that my forever person had just stepped into my life. Two days later, we went on our first date and we have been inseparable ever since.
Now, we are married and just a few short weeks away from having our baby girl to add one more chapter to our love story. We are still inseparable besties, and the bond from that first night of talking is even stronger. The best part? We still send plenty of laughing emojis to each other.
Brandy Stoney is chief movement officer with Beee Squad. Levar M. Stoney is mayor of the City of Richmond.