Rebekah Headen fell in love with Tony Hernandez years before she met him. Not only that, it was love at first sight.
“Where did you get that beautiful painting?” Ms. Headen, 57, known as Becky, recalled asking a neighbor who moved in 2001 from Atlanta to Charlotte, NC, where she lives.
“It’s a Tony Hernandez,” the neighbor said of the painting of a World War I plane with a fishing hook hanging from one of its wings. “He’s an extremely talented performer living in Atlanta.”
Ms. Headen’s interest in Mr. Hernandez, 56, as an artist grew significantly when he rose to prominence following the release of “Drops of Jupiter”, the second album produced by the rock band Train, which featured his artwork.
“That was huge for him,” said Ms. Headen, who holds a bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and works as a talent strategy manager for the Hendrick Automotive Group in Charlotte.
“I fell in love with his style,” added Ms Headen, who was married at the time and raising two young boys. “I was like OK, I’m going to get one of those paintings someday.”
In 2002, she did just that, commissioning a painting by Mr. Hernandez through Hidell Brooks, an art gallery in Charlotte, as a Father’s Day gift for her then-husband. (Entitled “Inhook,” it was completed in 2003.)
Ms. Headen followed suit with her very first phone call to Mr. Hernandez, with whom she confirmed the details of the transmission before learning that he is a history buff who has been inspired by the lives of children growing up during the Holocaust, as well as those struggled through the Great Depression, especially in the Bronx ghettos where his grandparents lived.
An Atlanta native, Mr. Hernandez attended Georgia Tech before dropping out of college to pursue a career in painting. His works, primarily by children during the Holocaust and the Great Depression, are currently on display in numerous art galleries, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
The two got together again in 2004, this time in person, at a gallery opening in Charlotte.
“He was such a nice guy,” said Mrs. Headen, “although he seemed to mutter a lot.”
After that, they wouldn’t see each other until 2013.
Early that year, Mrs. Headen, then divorced, went to Chicago with several friends, one of whom said she had a friend who was single and talented and that his name was Tony Hernandez.
“I thought to myself, ‘This could be very interesting,'” said Ms Headen.
Mr Hernandez, also divorced, reached out to Ms Headen in June 2013 at the suggestion of their mutual friend. They eventually struck up a conversation that led to a first date to watch the September 1 episode of Breaking Bad, their favorite television show. .
Mr. Hernandez rode his Harley motorcycle in the rain from Atlanta to Charlotte to meet Mrs. Headen for the date.
“I had no negative thoughts about why I wouldn’t go, which is rare for me,” said Mr. Hernandez. “So I thought maybe it was meant to be.”
In February 2018, after years of traveling long distances, Mr. Hernandez moved to Charlotte to live with Ms. Headen. (Her two sons were living on their own at the time.) The couple became engaged about three years later, on February 14, 2021.
“I thought Becky was the sum of so many beautiful things,” said Mr. Hernandez. “She was beautiful, smart and understanding, especially about the fact that I spend more time with my painting than with her.”
The couple married on October 29 at the home of their friends Kim and Ed Seeger on Little Stono Island, in Charleston, SC Lauren Stines, a Unitarian Universalist minister, performed for 10 fully vaccinated guests, including Mrs. Headen’s sons, Franklin, 27., and James, 24.
“We connect on so many different levels,” the groom said of the bride a week after their wedding. “She fell in love with my art long before she fell in love with me, and I don’t think we could have happened any other way.”