By Tiffany Hudson
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. — A phone call, old love letters, a Hardee’s dinner and 25 years later high school sweethearts Dana Holland and Benny Smith have rekindled their love.
After spending two decades apart, the pair will unite in marriage on Valentine’s Day.
Dana Holland and Benny Smith started their relationship in the summer of 1981 when Dana was only in the ninth grade and Benny in the 11th. After a chance meeting while “cruising” around South Boston one night with her friends, Dana and Benny began dating.
As tradition would have it, Benny gave Dana his class ring that night as they began dating “immediately,” and they became the “Joanie and Chachi” of their time.
Since Dana was only in the ninth grade, Benny spent most of his time at her parent’s house hanging out.
The two dated throughout high school. They attended both senior proms together; however, when Dana left for Averett University in 1985, distance and time would take its toll on the relationship.
“I noticed he wouldn’t come visit as much, and we just grew apart,” said Dana.
By the winter of 1987 the two had gone their separate ways, both eventually marrying others and having children.
Although they both lived in Halifax County, they never saw each other or spoke to each other again until two decades later.
“I would see her parents all of the time, and I would always ask about her, but I never saw her,” said Benny.
Then one day out of the blue in January 2011, Dana picked up the phone and dialed Benny’s number.
“She was calling to check on me, see how I was doing…and things just kind of went from there,” said Benny.
About a month later on Feb. 15, 2011, the two met for dinner at Hardee’s. Dana brought some tokens from their past, a box of old love letters and a pre- engagement ring Benny had given her when she was in the ninth grade.
“We ate dinner and read love letters. She was my first love…it didn’t take much to spark feelings again because they never really left. She was always in my heart,” said Benny.
However, Dana was a little hesitant to start a relationship again with Benny.
“I was afraid if a relationship didn’t work out I would lose him as a friend. However, one night while we were together, I heard a song on the radio that led me to believe it was time to be more than just friends,” said Dana referring to the song “Head Over Feet.”
The two went on their first official date (the second time around) on July 2, 2011 and have been together ever since.
“He’s always been a constant in my life. We pretty much grew up together. We have the same foundation, and that’s why we are so compatible now,” said Dana.
After 25 years apart and months of dating, Benny brought Dana’s family and everyone who meant something to her together on Christmas Eve.
Starting in front of the Christmas tree, individual index cards with messages would send Dana on a small scavenger hunt going in a circle and eventually back to the Christmas tree where Benny was standing with something very special paper-clipped to the tree.
“The last one had a message on it, ‘now you’ve come full circle like we have in life,’ and he got down on one knee and said would I make him the happiest man in the world and asked me to marry him! I started crying and said yes,” Dana said recalling the proposal.
“It just wasn’t meant to be until now,” added Benny.
After a small private Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony and a honeymoon to Key West, the couple will make their home together in Halifax.
“Our families blend so nicely together,” Dana said.
Benny, who works as a South Boston Police officer, has a 13-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, and Dana, who works as a second grade teacher at Park Avenue Elementary School in Danville, has a 16-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son from a previous marriage.
“Our chemistry has always been wonderful,” said Dana.
Although it took 25 years, Dana and Benny say they plan to spend their new life together just enjoying each other’s company.
‘’You have to listen to your gut, your voice whatever speaks to you,” said Benny.
“You have to follow your heart,” Dana said.
Reprinted with permission from the Gazette-Virginian