Every tale of young love, especially in this age of high tech and low romantic expectations, is widely
different from the next. In the match made almost-in-Heaven of Emilee Whorton, now 30, and Michael Valenti, now 34, both Island natives, it took a while for things to click. If a rom-com were to be filmed about their courtship, it would require a full two hours to tell the tale, although we’ll try to convey it with a few broad strokes:
Michael was born, along with three siblings, on the Vineyard, dad an airport administrator, mom an office manager and, nowadays, a basket weaver. Mike graduated from MVRHS in ’98, went on to major in geology at Plymouth State in New Hampshire, but wait! Here’s the fun part! He joined AmeriCorps, bivouacking in the mountains of Big Bend along the Rio Grande, and soon thereafter following his bliss for five years fighting wildfires with the Forest Service.
“I rappelled out of helicopters,” he tells you calmly, the way other men might recount a stint at doughnut making.
He also built up a résumé of cowboy wrangling, once breaking his right hand branding a bull: “He flopped down on top of me.”
In 2008 he returned to the Vineyard, with the intention of merely visiting and, like so many before and after him, ended up staying for the long haul because, after all, this is home. Parents Peter and Patricia own a pastoral, stone-wall-studded property in Smith Hollow, Edgartown, and Michael moved into their cozy guest cottage. He learned to feed his demands for adrenaline rush by climbing poles for the electric company. He’s also a firefighter with the Edgartown brigade.
Enter Emilee, born on the Vineyard, raised in East Bridgewater after her parents’ divorce, but digging deeper Island roots with summers spent with maternal grandparents in their grand old Victorian manor on the East Chop bluffs. Emilee’s dad Everett is a Vineyard contractor, fisherman, and sea captain, familiar to anyone who regularly crosses to Chappy on the iconic ferry. Emilee’s mom, Kathy Wolfe, former biologist, then bookkeeper in East Bridgewater, is pleased to have her daughter repatriated to the Island.
In post–high school years, Emilee, in her own words, “had an educational tour of five colleges before settling at American International for a degree in medical assisting.” She also, along the way, waited tables one winter in Key West, and managed Sun Porch Books of Oak Bluffs in its final summer of 2007, which included organizing the fifth Harry Potter rollout, right down to the midnight crowds, herself clad in a tall black witch’s hat. She also followed her own bliss; in the words of the old Joni Mitchell song, she was “busy being free” before settling down as office manager at Integrated Health Care in Vineyard Haven. To Emilee too, “the Island always felt like home.”
In the fall of 2011, Emilee and Michael met at a Trivia Night at the Wharf in Edgartown. They walked out to
their cars together. Soon they were dating, but their balance was off: Michael had gelled into Early Bachelor mentality, which was inconvenient for Emilee, who had already fallen in love with the guy. How to get him to reciprocate? It seemed impossible. They broke up, dated others, dated each other again.
After a while, a routine took hold, as Emilee spent each night in Michael’s cottage. They realized it was foolhardy for Emilee to go on paying rent for her unused abode off Meetinghouse Road. She terminated her rental, and they stashed her last piece of extra gear in the former bachelor’s attic. Did this ratchet up their relationship a notch?
Not so fast.
Emilee maintains Michael first said “I love you” during a visit to Boston that happened to include the Marathon bombing.
“That had nothing to do with it,” he demurs.
So what did have anything to do with it? Michael reflects that, as time went on, living with Emilee felt “more and more comfortable.”
And then on the afternoon of August 22, 2014, the young man suddenly, impulsively — taking them both by surprise — proposed.
The mise en scène was the following: Michael entered the bathroom at the moment that Emilee emerged naked from the shower. If this sounds like Botticelli’s Venus rising from the half-shell, well, that comparison probably never entered Michael’s mind. But he was inspired.
He says today, “I just had a sudden feeling of, Oh what the hell, let’s buy a house, have kids, get married!” Not particularly in that order, obviously.
The wedding took place April 2, with their closest family members, at the East Chop Lighthouse. “It was a gorgeous day,” says Emilee.
They decided on a tiny wedding; they’re saving money for that house and kids. As the newlyweds snuggle into their present lodgings with their endearingly friendly Australian shepherd Larry, they’re eager to expand into a new addition now being built on the south-facing side of the house, replete with skylights and views of the pristine woodlands. Emilee’s influence may be seen in the turquoise living room walls, a nifty kitchen counter, and a jolly-good mattress and box springs from Ocean Breeze.
Recently Michael broke his wrist in a hot-and-heavy game with his softball team, coming in for a catch with a dramatic slide and too much gusto. Now he’s got a titanium plate in his wrist, and a bulky cast which means time out from his job, skateboarding, bicycling, and work on the expansion, as well as on his treasured outdoor furniture projects.
But happily he’s no schmo on the cerebral front. “Tell her what you like to read!” says his bride proudly as a reporter stands before him with a notepad. He’s shy about this kind of attention, but nonetheless Emilee pries from him the names of several favorite authors: Christopher Moore, Tom Robbins, Jack Kerouac, and wow! Charles Bukowski.
Meanwhile, Emilee changes into denim shorts and a lavender Smoke ’n’ Bones T shirt for her evening waitress shift. “You must get a lot of tips in that outfit!” says the reporter.
“That’s the idea!” she replies.
On the way out, she bids farewell to Larry the dog, and she stoops to kiss her new husband. “I love you,” she tells him.
“I love you,” he says back.
A happy ending. And beginning.