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“My Most Memorable Valentine’s Day”

By Cheryl Alexander

When it comes to Cupid’s arrow, sometimes his aim is hit or miss. Some of Houston’s most recognizable sweethearts share their most memorable Valentine’s Day stories that are sure to warm your heart.


SAM MALONE, one of Houston’s notable personalities, is host of the Sam Malone Show on 700 AM KSEV “The Voice Of Texas” and weekly contributor to “Great Day Houston” on KHOU.

Sam shares:

“Denise and I have been married over 21 years and still have a “date night” at least one time per week, so… we tend to keep things romantic 52 weeks a year. Also, I have worked every single Valentine’s Day hosting my “Broken Hearts Ball,” which was designed as a place for single people to gather on the big “couples” night. Thanks to the Broken Hearts Ball and my Sammy’s Singles events, there were 27 marriages formed, and 24 kids born!

So… my Valentine’s Day has always been spent with thousands of singles! But… when I get home from the event, Denise always makes my favorite dish, pours my favorite drink and adds our favorite music: Chicken parmigiana, Scotch, Frank Sinatra. Since we’ve been married, Denise always decorates the table with hearts and candles. And there’s ALWAYS chocolate cake for dessert!

The best Valentine’s gift ever was when Denise totally knocked me over with a beautiful Cartier watch! I couldn’t believe it!

My worst Valentine memory was the year we went to the Four Seasons in Dallas for Valentine’s Day weekend. We had dinner at the Mansion on Turtle Creek… and that was it. I came down with the worst flu EVER! I stayed in the room the rest of the weekend, while she shopped!

Another fun Valentine memory is my 4th grade year when I received an unsolicited from a girl named Arleen… and we are Facebook friends today!”


DAYNA STEELE, Houston native, is a Hall of Fame radio personality, successful entrepreneur, best-selling business author, sought-after speaker and in-demand business consultant and media strategist. Reader’s Digest magazine has called her one of the “35 People Who Inspire Us.”

Dayna shares:

“Long before he was Charlie, the Wonder Husband, he was Charlie, the Wonder Boyfriend. I knew things were getting serious between us and wanted to do something really special on Valentine’s Day. I covered our sheets with rose petals—as we have all seen done in the movies—so I could surprise him later after our romantic evening out.

At first, the effect was beautiful, but I am here to tell you there is something they leave out in the movies. It’s all fine and romantic until your body touches those petals. I jumped three feet off the bed; it was like laying down on a bed of ice cubes. Then as things heat up, so to speak, so do the petals… and they start to stick to everything. It’s hard to be beautiful and romantic (again like in the movies) when there are rose petals stuck to your nose and forehead.

By this point, we were laughing so hard we had to stop. We finally gathered up what rose petals we could, threw them away and tried to conclude our romantic evening. I swear we picked up, cleaned up and vacuumed rose petals for weeks. Now, when we see this scene in a movie, we laugh. We know.”

CINDI ROSE, co-founder (with her husband Dr. Franklin Rose) of Rose Ribbon Foundation. Their organization provides free reconstructive surgery to post-cancer patients who are not able to afford health insurance. This couple’s Valentine’s memory is as unique and special as their charitable work.

Cindi shares:

“My best Valentine’s memory was when my husband and I got engaged in Aspen 30 years ago, and it was also my worst. We were en route by plane to visit his mom and dad, and he asked me to marry him before he asked them. His father was thrilled, and so was his sister, who said, “I will gain a wonderful sister-in-law.” Then, my (future) mother-in-law said, “Weddings are funerals, so I will wear a black dress.” I ran into a guest room and cried. Seven years later, after we had married, we separated and then divorced. Then, again, on a Valentine’s Day, he asked me once again to marry him! We ran to Vegas, and had so much fun getting married there, just the two of us. We have been married now over 14 more years. I must say, I now love my mother-in-law and she loves me. She was afraid of losing her baby boy, and in her mind, our wedding was a death. I can also say that love is better the second time around, and lucky me, to the same wonderful person, who is father of our only two children, Erica 28, and Ben Harwood, 26.

My funniest Valentine was when I was divorced, and wanted my children, who were then 4 and 6, to be with me on Valentine’s Day. I was 36, but found someone 10 years younger, who was like a kid himself. We went to AstroWorld, and rode the rides with my children, and some of their friends. My children thought this is what you do on Valentine’s Day — go to an amusement park, eat junk and ride rides. One of their friends ate too much candy, threw up while on the roller coaster and it splattered all over into the air.”

COURTNEY ZAVALA is an Emmy-nominated journalist in Texas and KPRC Local 2 news anchor. Though Courtney is not a native Texan, she admits she got here as soon as she could — right after college.

Courtney shares:

“My most memorable Valentine’s Day was actually a “pre-Valentine’s Day.” I had to work, so my then-boyfriend (now husband) told me we were having an early Valentine’s Day celebration.

I didn’t think much of it because we were simply going to dinner. However, the evening was well-planned. A fabulous Spanish restaurant, candles everywhere, flowers… I was thinking, “How thoughtful and sweet is he!” After dinner the conversation turned, and the next thing I knew he was on one knee and proposed! I was not expecting this at all and was blown away to say the least. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

The most creative gift I ever received hands down was the very first Valentine from my son, Connor! He walked into the room with arms full of flowers and a handmade card. It brought me to tears!”

JOHN ROSS PALMER, one of Houston’s best-loved celebrities, is a nationally known artist and author, whose beautiful Heights studio/home has been featured on the pages of Lifestyles & Homes magazine.

John shares:

“I have one very special Valentine’s memory with Ryan. We had been dating for about three years. For us, we always made birthdays and Christmases a “big deal,” but Valentine’s was a holiday where we typically just exchanged flowers and made a nice, home-cooked meal. I figured something was up when Ryan suggested that we go out for a really fancy night out on the town.

Looking back, I remember during dinner conversation that Ryan kept telling funny stories about his fraternity days at the University of South Carolina; he was a brother of SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). I thought that maybe he’d had too much wine when he even went so far to tell me about some of the tenets (not secrets!) of the fraternity — that they strove to be “The True Gentleman.”

As dinner was winding up, Ryan had a nervous look about him. He then explained to me that a tradition at his school was that when a member of the fraternity was extremely serious about a girl, he would give her his fraternity pin. “Pinning” a girl was tantamount to an early engagement promise. Often, the gentleman would turn the pin into a necklace or ring so that it could easily be worn at all times. Ryan, for obvious reasons, never got to have that bonding experience. But, right now at this moment — he was going to make up for it. From his pocket, he pulled a jewelry box. In the box were two hand-crafted cufflinks formed from his SAE fraternity pin—one which he was presented on the day he was initiated—and a second that he specially ordered from National’s to make into a cufflink for me. So, it was official, I was pinned!

Although an uncommon gift, I knew that Ryan would only honor someone he truly loved on Valentine’s Day with such an incredibly personal and unique gift.”

JOEY VALLONE, of the Vallone family of Houston restaurant fame, is probably best known for his role in the restaurant La Griglia and the restaurant which bore his name, Joey’s.

Joey shares:

“My most memorable Valentine Day ever was one night at the restaurant I accidentally sat two different blind dates with the other person’s date. Can you say, “Whoopsie!” I think the most creative Valentine I ever received would be the great year I received a pair of autographed underwear. You must see them to believe them! My most romantic Valentine day was spent in Rome dining at the Piazza Navona. That’s Amore’! The most disappointing Valentine’s Day was the time I had to miss a romantic dinner to work a packed restaurant — bittersweet!”



NEAL HAMIL, one of Houston’s most celebrated citizens, is probably best known as the founder of the Neal Hamil Modeling Agency.

Neal shares:

“I hope that my most memorable Valentine’s Day will be the one coming up. I think the most creative Valentine’s gifts I ever received are still the hand-cut, colored and pasted ones from grade school, and truthfully, I’ve not ever had a super-romantic February 14; I guess I’ve had the wrong sweethearts all these years! I did once receive an unsolicited Valentine, which I LOVED, but unfortunately could not act on. I’d also have to say that unfortunately, most of my Valentine’s memories have been kind of disappointing since I was in grade school!”


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