Naia, Danielle, Rome, and Gavin Hicks are settled into the Haliburton Highlands for good now. PHOTO BY Eleanor Dobbins.

Love through the ages

By Emily Stonehouse

True love isn’t always linear. Even if the love exists as a tiny seed, sometimes it takes years to blossom into something bigger. 

That was the case for Gavin and Danielle Hicks. The couple were engaged in 2013, and married in 2014, before having their first child in 2016, and second in 2018. “I have my dream family, dream husband, dream house, dream job, what more could I ask for?” laughed Danielle, as the couple sat with the Echo during a rainy Thursday afternoon; sipping steamy coffees and reminiscing together. 

But it wasn’t always easy. Gavin and Danielle first met thirty years ago, when they attended Archie Stouffer School together. “I don’t remember this, but my mom says I came home the first day I met Gav, and said to her, ‘mom, I am going to marry him!’” shared Danielle. 

Gavin echoed a similar sentiment. “I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with her in Grade 6. When we first started having dances at school. She would always be running around, dancing with everyone, and every so often she’d pop over and ask me to dance with her.” 

The two laughed that while they both knew they loved one another, even from a very young age, they were completely different people, and still are. “I am outgoing and kind of had a wild chapter,” shared Danielle, “and Gav was always quiet, but he is so good. Just one of those people that’s genuinely so good, right down to his soul.” 

After being the best of friends from kindergarten to Grade 12, they finally had their big chance to click as a couple during prom in high school. “I remember sitting in health class at Hal High, and I passed Gav a hand-written note that just said ‘who are you going to prom with?’ and he sent me one back that just said ‘YOU!’ in all capital letters.”

While they shared a small kiss at prom, their lives started to shuffle around shortly after as they prepared to move on to post-secondary education, and leave the comfort of the Highlands behind. They both attended Algonquin College, Danielle for photography and Gavin for electrical engineering. During this time, they stayed best friends, and spent all their time together, but both alternated having different partners and priorities. “We still knew we loved each other, but also knew the timing wasn’t right,” said Danielle. 

In 2009, after college, Danielle traveled to Australia to continue exploring. During this time, the friends stayed in touch, talking daily and realizing more and more that they missed one another.  

Upon returning to Canada in 2010, Danielle was surprised when Gavin picked her up at the airport. “I wasn’t expecting it, but he just looked at me, pointed, and said ‘You and me. We’re doing this,” she shared. “I knew I had to do it,” Gavin echoed, “I knew if I didn’t, I would lose her again. And I knew I didn’t want that.” 

The two naturally shifted from best friends, to partners, and began to take life head-on together. “It was such a relief to just know we were together,” Danielle said. “I could finally just tell everyone how much I really loved him.” 

After getting together, the two moved back to Ottawa to return to school, before settling in Toronto for Gavin to do his electrical engineering apprenticeship. It was here that their relationship continued to be tested. “I knew I didn’t want to be in the city. I had this vision of what I thought we could have there, but I was miserable.” Shortly after getting engaged, Danielle moved back to Haliburton to plan the wedding, while Gavin stayed in Toronto to finish up his apprenticeship. 

The two were married at Gavin’s family home, and celebrated the wedding at Sir Sam’s Ski Hill. Yet, Gavin was still working in Toronto, and Danielle was in the process of developing her own business, Danielle Meredith Photography, out of Haliburton. 

“There were some tough times,” she shared, “I was going back and forth to the city on weekends, and for the first little bit, after we had Rome [their son], I was doing the parenting on my own through the week.” 

Yet, the two held strong; adamantly supporting one another’s dreams, goals, and overall happiness. After a few years of long distance, Danielle and Gavin have now settled into the community for good, and have no plans of leaving any time soon. Their two kids – Rome and Naia – are involved in hockey and dance, and they have a support system who they rely on for many things. “We couldn’t do this all without our core friend group and families,” said Danielle, “we are lucky to have them here.” 

When asked about advice for other couples, Danielle and Gavin both highlighted that communication is key. With two businesses, young kids, and constant changes, they shared that trust and open dialogue make their relationship tick. They also identified that their support groups – families, friends, and colleagues – make their lives a lot brighter. 

Throughout the duration of the interview, the two held eye-contact; laughing at one another’s jokes, and celebrating how far they’ve come together. While it hasn’t always been easy, it’s clear that it’s always been love for Danielle and Gavin. From the early seeds of love thirty years ago at the Archie Stouffer playground, to full lives as parents and business owners here in the Haliburton Highlands, their love has only continued to blossom and grow, together.