Patrick and Kimberly Dooley on their wedding day.
Patrick and Kimberly Dooley on their wedding day

By Elisabeth Woody

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Berkeleyside is celebrating love in by looking at how one Berkeley couple met and fell in love.

Kimberly and Patrick Dooley are prominent figures in the Berkeley theater world — she is a director at Berkeley Playhouse and he is the founding artistic director at Shotgun Players. Their life and love are grounded in Berkeley. They shared their first kiss on the benches of what was then Ozzie’s Soda Fountain in the Elmwood. Patrick wooed Kimberly with cherry cornbread scones from the Cheese Board, and their favorite dates include long walks around their neighborhood and up in the Berkeley hills.

Kimberly and Patrick first met in 2000, when both were working at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts on College Avenue. Each had come to Berkeley in their early 20s in search of a vibrant, tight-knit theater community. After brief stints in larger theater cities (she in L.A., he in New York), they quickly realized that Berkeley was the perfect fit.

When asked what they first thought of each other, Kimberly says, “Well, I had heard around that he was a bit of a player.” But, she continues, “he is a really fun and interesting and exciting human being, and I was drawn to him right away.” Patrick, who had already been living in Berkeley for eight years before they met, remembers being impressed that Kimberly had gone to L.A. and had specifically chosen to return to Berkeley. “She was much more interesting to me that she didn’t like L.A,” he said.

By 2001, the two were working together at Shotgun Players, and the attraction was undeniable. For the next year, they charmingly refer to their status as “un-dating” — together, but unwilling to admit it to themselves and others. Then, on May 31, 2002, everything changed.

Patrick had a close friend getting married the next day, and he and Kimberly had been working together to help plan the wedding. Up until this point, Patrick had avoided serious relationships, but with Kimberly he realized he had found “the one.” “I knew that Kim had everything that I could possibly imagine that I would want to have for a life partner,” and he was willing to risk it all to not lose her. So the night before their friend’s wedding, Patrick went to Kimberly, “I want to be totally honest about my 34 years before you met me, and all that that meant.”

Kimberly explains, “It was an honest opening – here are my weaknesses, here’s what I struggle with, here’s the real person that I am.” And then, she laughs, he asked, “And are you still interested?” She was, of course, “It was a big process for him. Me, not at all.  I knew the first time we kissed, that’s my guy.”

Kimberly and Patrick Dooley carved their first initials around a hear to declare their love.
Kimberly and Patrick Dooley carved their first initials around a heart to declare their love

From then on there was no question they were together. Soon, Patrick decided to propose. He started to work with a Solano Avenue jeweler to design a ring, he made sure the two of them took some rare time off, and he booked time at nearby Piedmont Springs.

But he was almost thwarted by Berkeley real estate.

A day before Patrick was set to ask Kimberly to marry him, the couple happened to stop by an open house and fell in love with the property. They decided to make a bid – which meant quickly finding a realtor, pulling together loan documents, and making an offer – activities that are hardly conducive to romance.

By the time they made it to their date that evening, the spa was a welcome respite from the whirlwind of navigating Berkeley real-estate negotiations. Relaxing in the hot tub, Kimberly suggested they play a favorite game that she calls “The Question Game,” where one person asks a question, the other answers and then throws back the next question, with no repeats. Unbeknownst to Kimberly, this gave Patrick the perfect opportunity to ask the question. In the midst of their back and forth banter, he asked, “Will you marry me?”

She said yes.

Later that week, they found out they had won the bid on their house, and two months later  – on May 31, 2003, a year to the day they first professed deep love to one another, they were married in Big Sur. Kimberly laughs, “And then we had lots of children!  There goes the last ten years…”

They are now busy raising their three daughters and will celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary this spring. When asked if they had any sage advice on marriage, Kimberly shares how they found inspiration when they moved in to their beloved home in Berkeley:

“Well, we had a really magical moment. We’re ready to move in, nothing is in the house. And when we walked in, there was one piece of paper that had a quote, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back…  the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.””

That whole quotation was on a piece of paper in our house.  It was on a shelf, and we asked the owners and they said, “Oh, I don’t know where that came from.”

They read that quotation at their wedding and the original paper is now framed in their living room, with a picture of Kimberly and Patrick exchanging vows.

Kimberly: “And I think that’s it. You’ve got to commit.”

Patrick:  “And then everything works out.”

As we end our conversation, Kimberly and Patrick reflect on what has made their relationship work over the years:

Kimberly: “I’d say like most couples, we’ve had our hard years, and I think surviving them has strengthened us. And three kids and two jobs in the theater is no joke.”

Patrick: “And when I think about Kimberly, I love that I love hanging around with her. I really just enjoy doing stuff with her.”

Kimberly: “And he thinks I’m a great kisser.  I think that’s what’s gotten us through… It’s cheaper than therapy, we’ve got to do it more.”

They both laugh in agreement.

Elisabeth Woody is owner of 11stories, based in Berkeley. She interviews couples celebrating a wedding or anniversary and creates custom books that capture their life and love story, in their own words.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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