It’s easy to see why Penny McNamee and Matt Tooker make such a great team.
Now parents to gorgeous 3-year-old son Jack, the down-to-earth pair clearly adore spending time together. And that’s the way it’s been since they first met in high school in what Home and Away star Penny laughingly describes as “a very nerdy way”.
“It was 1999 at our school music camp,” she says. “I’d just moved to the school, Matt was in the orchestra playing the French horn – if it can get any nerdier! – and I was in the choir.
“I adored him off the bat,” reveals Penny, who plays the Bay’s resident doctor Tori Morgan. “I was a ridiculous 16-year-old girl who totally thought he was dreamy.”
Clearly, Matt was equally smitten. “She was confident and bubbly,” he says.
Today, Penny and Matt’s love of music remains, with Penny having notched up starring roles in several hit stage productions.
“Even though he’s not in the industry, he adores music,” says Penny, adding, “Let’s put it this way, he never turns off the cast recordings of Broadway albums when I play them!”
After dating for two years in high school, the couple made the difficult decision to take time out from their relationship.
“We were only 19 and we both knew we had to go off and live our lives – we wanted to study and travel,” says Penny.
“Even though we really did love each other, we decided to break up, which was heartbreaking.”
Five years later, the couple serendipitously crossed paths, after which Penny decided to give Matt a call.
“I was 24, so I’d lived overseas and dated other people and he’d done the same,” she says. “We decided to meet up for dinner. It was like no time had passed.
“I pretty much knew in that first week that we would get married.”
On September 26, 2009, the couple exchanged vows in a “big, fun, loud and happy” wedding.
“My parents live on a property north-west of Sydney, so we had our wedding there,” says Penny.
Adds Matt: “I’ll always remember Pen’s big magic smile as she got close to the end of the aisle.”
Over the years, there have been some testing times, too.
“We had a long-distance relationship for about a year and a half [when Penny was starring in Wicked], which was really challenging, although it did teach us how to communicate well,” says Penny. “We also had some fertility issues, and that was quite sad and heartbreaking.
“But I think we both have a strong faith in God, so we pulled through together by praying for each other and with each other. And we always feel like there is a plan.”
Three years ago, Penny and Matt welcomed their little boy Jack into the family.
“He’s lovely and hectic and wonderful all at the same time,” beams Penny.
“There’s also something really special about seeing the person you love become a parent.”
Matt feels the same way, saying Penny is “fun, organised and moves heaven and earth to prioritise our family. She is absolutely adored by Jack.”
As for the future, the couple believe they have much to look forward to.
“I feel like we’re in sync,’ says Penny. ‘I think we both picture a very similar path for our lives.”
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - on sale now!