A chance meeting has turned into four decades of love and family for Sharon and Tero Paavola

Heart of our city: Love at first sight for Sharon and Tero Paavola

For Prince Rupert’s Tero and Sharon Paavola, an initial connection has flourished into four decades together.

For Prince Rupert’s Tero and Sharon Paavola, an initial connection has flourished into four decades together.

Neither Sharon nor Tero were born in Prince Rupert, but they have called the North Coast home since their marriage in 1971. It it here that many of their most cherished memories took place — where they raised their three daughters and where they first met.

Tero was born in Premier, British Columbia, a large gold mining camp that existed from 1918 to 1953 near Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, Alaska. But when he was approximately five-years-old a need for carpenters brought his family to Prince Rupert.

Years later Tero would meet Sharon, the love of his life, while her and some friends made a brief stop in the community.

Sharon, who was born and raised in Victoria, and her friends and fellow-teachers were journeying to Alaska, and had some spare time in Prince Rupert while they waited for the ferry.

One of Sharon’s friends had worked in Prince Rupert previously and knew Tero through mutual friends. This chance stopover is how the Paavolas first laid eyes on each other on July 1, 1970.

“She had arranged for us to go out on a fishing boat and it was his fishing boat that we went out on,” explained Sharon.

A commercial fisherman with his own gillnetter, Tero and some of his friends took the group over to Digby Island for a picnic. He and Sharon began talking and immediately hit it off.

“He took me for a walk on Digby, and he had told me there were bears on the island so I stayed really close,” laughed Sharon.

While their first encounter may have been short, it wouldn’t be the last. Sharon sent Tero a number of postcards after arriving in Alaska, with the two continuing their communication through letters and telephone conversations.

“We kept the post office and the phone company in business for that year,” said Sharon.

Tero was on the board of directors of a fishing boat insurance company around that time, which required him to travel to Vancouver every month or so. He began taking the opportunity to see Sharon on these trips as she was still residing in Victoria.

Exactly one year and one day after they first met, the two would be married. It had become too hard for the couple to be away from each other, with Tero travelling to Victoria to marry Sharon on July 2, 1971.

Sharon returned to Prince Rupert to start a new life with her husband. The newlyweds were welcomed home with a “gift” from some of Tero’s friends.

“They had decorated his boat up with flags, balloons, confetti … we went out fishing with it looking like that,” Sharon laughed, with both agreeing some of their favourite memories together took place on the gillnetter.

In the years to follow the Paavolas started a family and three daughters over the years: Cheryl, Janette and Christine.

Tero and Sharon provided their girls with all they could while they were growing up, including a holiday in Disneyland when they were teenagers and yearly trips to Alberta to visit Tero’s family on their farm.

“The kids picked vegetables, sat on the tractor and stuff like that. They used to really enjoy that,” said Sharon.

Outside of their family life, Tero and Sharon kept busy with their jobs. On top of commercial fishing, Tero took on carpentry during the off-season. After relocating to Prince Rupert, Sharon continued on with her teaching career, working mainly at Conrad Elementary but also teaching at Pineridge and King Edward.

Since retiring a number of years ago, the Paavolas have remained active through their hobbies and volunteering.

The pair partakes in several of the many activities offered by the Prince Rupert Seniors’ Centre, including floor curling. The Paavolas will test their skills against other seniors from across the province at the 2014 B.C. Seniors Games in Langley next week, joining approximately 20 other Prince Rupert seniors in the competition.

“It’s not hard to find something to do in town. If you want to do something there’s all kinds of stuff to do,” said Sharon.

But their involvement is wide reaching, with Sharon helping out in the seniors’ centre kitchen for a number of years, and Tero helping with dishes and upkeep tasks.

They have also been active members of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church with Tero being part of the church’s council for many years, a duty Sharon has also taken on in the past.

Sharon volunteers her time to the Quilting for Canadian Lutheran World Relief program run at St. Paul’s, and with the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital Auxiliary.

You never know what any given day will bring. Had Sharon and her friends not had some time to pass while waiting for the Alaska Ferry and had her friends not had the connection with Tero, life may have been very different for the Paavolas.

But showing that life is what you make it, Sharon and Tero have created a life filled with love, family, friends and community spirit out of a single day spent together on July 1, 1970.