A wise person once said “love is not something that you find, love is something that finds you.” For Ryan and Bonita Dearbone, love took the scenic route when it went looking for this unlikely pair.
Ryan’s story began in Hopkinsville. He was raised by a single mom, who graduated from Western in the 1980s with a degree in Art. When it came time for college, Ryan followed in his mom’s footsteps and chose Western Kentucky University. Ryan liked Western’s close proximity to home and family. He was also planning for his future. Ryan wanted to study broadcast journalism, and he knew WKU would be a good fit because, “I had the chance to study…at a top ranked school in that field.”
For Bonita, life in South Africa couldn’t have been more different. A world away, she lived in Cape Town, a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast, and the home of the South African Parliament. Bonita was the oldest of four children, three girls and a boy. She was recruited by a family friend to run cross country at Western, but never made a campus visit prior to enrolling in the university. Thus, when Bonita left South Africa to attend Western, she traveled alone, leaving her family and siblings on another continent. It was not only her first trip to campus, but also the first time she would ever leave home and South Africa.
Once on campus, Bonita studied exercise science and ran cross country. Ryan pursued his dreams in broadcast journalism. They lived busy undergraduate lives, but their paths never crossed. “We went to Western the exact same years, but never met,” said Ryan. Eventually, Bonita and Ryan graduated from Western. Both remained in Bowling Green. For years, they lived in the same community but never knew each other. Love was clearly taking its time finding these two.
Fate finally stepped in after four more years. By this point, Ryan was working for a local television station. He was doing a story on fitness for moms and needed to interview a local fitness instructor. Ryan called the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation offices to see if anyone was available to talk to him. He was given Bonita’s name and class information.
When Ryan arrived, he quickly realized that Bonita was not going to be an easy interview. In fact, he probably had no idea that his entire future stood before him. She “literally ran and hid from me,” he said. Undaunted, Ryan persevered and obtained footage of Bonita teaching a class. Unfortunately, though, love did not find the couple in the halls of Parks and Recreation. However, luck, and maybe cupid, were still on their side. A few weeks later, Ryan and Bonita’s paths crossed again, and this time, love brought them together forever. Or in Ryan’s words, “the rest, as they say, is history.”
Like many love stories, Ryan and Bonita’s journey continues, with many twists and turns. Ryan and Bonita were married and now consider parenting their daughter to be their favorite activity. Ryan had a career change, too. He left broadcast journalism and returned to Western, where he serves as the Assistant Director of College Advancement. “I’m a fundraiser who primarily works with alumni and friends of the university.” He also finds time to serve as an adjunct faculty member and serve as the co-advisor for the Black Student Alliance. Ryan and Bonita are especially proud of their work with students because, “they can hear stories about our relationship and sometimes see it on display and hopefully serve as an example of a strong, loving Black relationship.” Bonita continues to help keep the community in shape at Bowling Green Parks and Recreation, where she now serves as the Aerobics Coordinator for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation. She also teaches Silver Sneaker classes and is a personal trainer.
Ryan and Bonita admit that marriage is full of “ups and downs.” Reflecting on their unlikely journey to each other, and the life they are building, they gave this sage advice to newlyweds, “ Keep God first in your marriage, keep the lines of communication open, be willing to apologize, and know that you will never have a flawless marriage. Everyday of your marriage is different; no two days are the same. Since that is the case, you have to work at it every single day.”
And, of course, when Love finally finds you, remember that you can run, but you cannot hide!