By all accounts, Valentine’s Day in 1992 had the makings of a poor night for Finton Gaudette and his then-new girlfriend Joan Payne.
As a major snowstorm brewed outside, the Corner Brook couple — who were in St. John’s attending school — headed to a friend’s party for their first official date.
“I think back at it now and it’s such a funny story,” Finton said, laughing.
“We have a great chuckle telling this story,” Joan told The Telegram later in the day.
Shortly after arriving at the party, he recalled, they realized something bigger was brewing inside, when a major argument suddenly erupted between the party’s hostess and her boyfriend.
“I ended up having to break it up,” Finton said.
They left shortly after.
Not exactly the ideal first-date night, but it didn’t seem to matter.
The couple, along with Finton’s sister and her friend — who were unable to get a cab in the poor weather — trudged through several feet of snow to Finton’s nearby apartment and stayed until the weather broke.
“I thought I was going to freeze to death,” Joan said, laughing. “I was thinking, what the heck am I doing? It was quite the night.”
It turned out to be one of the best nights of their lives.
“We stayed up partying and having such fun,” Finton recalled.
Twenty-six years later, Finton and Joan are happily married, living in Corner Brook, with their 21-year-old daughter, Katie.
They were married June 15, 1994, but they still celebrate the anniversary of their first date. “Valentine’s Day is extra special for us,” Finton said.
“We usually just relax with a bottle of wine, maybe have some friends over,” Joan said.
“After 26 years of marriage, we don’t worry about all that romance stuff anymore,” she added, laughing.
The two had met two years previously while attending the Cabot Institute in St. John’s. Joan was studying accounting, while Finton was a student in the community recreation leadership program. The two were members of the school’s volleyball teams, which travelled together to various tournaments and held many social events.
“She was so outgoing and funny,” Finton said. “We were really good friends before we finally talked about going on an official date.”
Finton said throughout the years, there have been some tough times. After losing his job with the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill in 2008, Finton was forced to take a job in Alberta, with a schedule of five weeks away and one week home, for about seven months.
“There were a few tough times, but nothing we couldn’t handle,” said Finton, who teaches civil engineering technology at the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook. “We’re pretty compatible and have made a great life together.”
“He’s just so easy-going and has a great personality,” said Joan, who works for Wajax Industrial Components in Corner Brook.
The two continued to be involved in volleyball through the years, coaching and playing. They also adopted a new, healthier lifestyle and picked up running about eight years ago. Together, they have participated in various events and marathons.
So, what advice would they give to young couples starting out?
“Laugh, have fun and surround yourself with people who like to do the same,” Finton said. “We’ve always done that, and that’s why we’ve stayed so happy.”
Oh, and never forget Valentine’s Day.