Happily Ever After in Irvine

by TOM BERG

For Ray and Catherine Wong, love began at the pool. Their paths first crossed when they were both on the Irvine High School swim team in the mid-1990s. Catherine had a crush on Ray and thought he was cute, but they didn’t connect until after graduation.

In 1997, Catherine cared for two little girls who swam for the Colony Red Hots in Irvine. Every day, she would sit on the grassy hill during practice. One day she recognized the coach was Ray Wong, the cute boy from high school. They chatted, became good friends and started writing letters while Catherine was away at college in Indiana.

On their first date in the summer of 1988, they ate at Milano’s Italian restaurant in Heritage Plaza, went mini-golfing at Boomers, and then watched the movie “Armageddon” at The Spectrum.

“I don’t know how we fit it all in,” Catherine says.

They had many more dates and collected momentos from each one, including pictures, tickets and movie stubs. After spending the day at Disneyland for Catherine’s birthday, Ray surprised her with a collage of date souvenirs. In the middle was a picture of an engagement ring. Before she could ask about the meaning of the picture, Ray was down on one knee.

Ray and Catherine still Iive in Irvine and have enjoyed raising a family of their own. Many of their old haunts are still their favorite places to spend time together. In 2015, Ray became a coach for the Colony Red Hots swim team once again, but this time he coached his own daughter. Today, Ray is the head coach of the Irvine High School swim team, the team where he and Catherine first met. The couple that once took romantic walks around Woodbridge Lake still enjoy the same walk with their two kids.

“It’s all about balance,” Catherine says. “You’re a team. It’s important to work together.”

As they went from swim teammates to married couple, Irvine has been the setting for Ray and Catherine Wong’s true love story.