Bart and Mary Fair both share their stories of how they originally met more than 50 years ago.
Bart: It was 1967. I was 18, a high school senior, and working after school at a small business named Dento in West Philly when I first met my future wife, Mary. She had just taken a secretarial job in the office. I thought she was quite the looker, and I wished I was older because I thought she’d make a great girlfriend. Seems normal enough except she was 25 years old, married and had a child.
Mary: It was October of 1967. I was 25 years old, had a 5-year-old son and was in an unhappy marriage. I answered an ad for a secretarial position with a small business called Dento Medical Tapes. I desperately needed a job. So, I interviewed and got the position. Two young brothers worked there, Bart and David. They were both so nice and very polite, but extremely shy, especially the older one, Bart. David left Dento about a year later.
Bart: During the next three years, Mary had another child. After a difficult divorce, in early 1970, Mary left for another job. I had become very fond of her during this time and was disappointed when she left. I gave her a Camelot soundtrack record as a going away gift because she loved the movie and Richard Harris who played King Arthur. I felt like I had lost a great friend, and I knew I was feeling a different kind of loss that I couldn’t identify. It ended the closest relationship I had ever had with a member of the opposite sex who was not my mother or one of my five sisters.
Mary: I had a second son in 1969, but the marriage was still an unhappy one. In 1970, I got divorced and was suddenly a single mother of two boys. I decided I needed a job that paid more money. My biggest regret was that I lost my day-to-day contact with my co-worker Bart. As a going away present, he gave me the soundtrack record of Camelot, a movie I loved. I was very surprised and moved by his caring and thoughtfulness.
Bart: At this point in my life, I was 21 years old and had one date, a blind one, that one of my best friends arranged for me. We went to a Flyers game, and it not go well. I didn’t know how to act and there were a lot of quiet moments. I shook her hand at the end of the date. I had been described in my high school yearbook as quiet, shy and unobtrusive, and it proved to be the case that night.
Mary’s new job did not work out for her and she returned to Dento a few months later. As a bonus, she rented the apartment above the office for her and her two sons. I was so happy to see her. As time went on, we would talk often, and our friendship got deeper. I was clueless as to what was happening. All I knew was how I felt when I spent time with her, and that I wanted to spend as much time as I could in her presence.
Mary: During this period, I dated very rarely. The men, while being nice, seemed to be interested ultimately in only one goal.
I was not happy with the new job and returned to Dento after a few months. I rented the apartment above the office. I was happy to see Bart again and our friendship deepened. I really felt comfortable ad happy when I spent time with him. He was very special to me, this 21-year-old kid, but he was the same age as my baby brother.
Bart: I’m not sure when the friendship became love. I knew that the woman I was falling in love with was seven years older, significantly more mature and experienced, and had overcome many challenges in her life. But at the same time, she was kind and soft-spoken, vulnerable and naïve. I was convinced that she was just being nice to me, and that we could never really be romantically involved because of our age difference.
I started doing things for her. I stored her Christmas decorations at my mother’s house. I took her to Kiddie City to look for a toy that she wanted for her oldest son. One Saturday morning I walked four miles to her apartment and pretended I had left a textbook at the office. Actually, I wanted to knock on her door and say hello, hoping to spend some time with her. I hinted that being as shy as I was, I’d probably never have a date unless the girl took the lead and asked me. She told me that wasn’t the way it worked. I wanted to ask her out, but I didn’t know how to do it. I was afraid she would tell me it was nice of me to ask, but I was too young for her.
Mary: He would do things for me and find excuses to stop by. He told me on one occasion that the girl would have to ask him for a date because he was too shy. I told him that wasn’t the way it worked. My feelings for him were changing from being friends to being more than friends.
Mary and Bart: Then the calendar turned to Jan. 29, 1971. God looked down on Mary and Bart and said, “I like these two.”
Bart: In what I thought was a small talk conversation as Mary was leaving the office that day, she commented that she really wanted to see the movie “Love Story” but figured she wouldn’t get to do so. In the spur of the moment, I said, “I can take you”. Mary’s response was a double “What?” I was caught off guard and said I would call her when she got up to her apartment. I did so, and I started to hem and haw when she asked if I was serious, and her response was, “Well, either you do, or you don’t .” I said I did want to take her, and I would call her later that night when I got home.
I didn’t want any of my family to hear my conversation, so I went to my older sister’s house since she was away for the evening. I called Mary, and started the conversation with “I think I have a crush on you.” She concurred with the thought. We spoke for a long time. At the end of the conversation. I closed with the comment, “If it works out the way I want we’ll get married”. Four months to the day later, we were married. I was 22, she was 29. I became a husband and the step-father of a 7- and 2-year-old on that day. Within the year, I adopted both boys and proudly became their father.
Mary: We were discussing the movie “Love Story”. I said I wanted to see it but that I probably never would. I had no spare time and no car. When Bart said, “I can take you,” I was truly shocked! So much so that my response was “What? What?” In retrospect, given Bart’s shy personality, it was the worse thing I could have said. I thought I had scared him off. He said he would call me when I got up to my apartment.
I was 95 percent sure he was romantically interested in me but not 100 percent. When he called, he not surprisingly began to hem and haw about whether he wanted to take me to the movie. I said, “Well, either you do, or you don’t.” He said that he did, and he would call when he got home.
When he called, he started the conversation with “I think I have a crush on you.” I replied that was good, because I had a crush on him, too. We talked for two hours and he ended the conversation by saying “If it works out the way I want, we’ll get married.”
On May 29, 1971, we were married. Within a year Bart adopted both boys.
Mary and Bart: This May, we will celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary. We have four wonderful children (three boys, one girl), four in-law children, and nine grandchildren (seven boys, two girls).
Bart: We’re still as playful and in love as we were that day in 1971.We will forever be each other’s always. Our love deepens every day. Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with each other.
Mary: Life is good, and we are still very much in love. I will never forget that Bart was the “light” in the darkest period of my life He was always there for me. God truly blessed us when he brought us together!
Bart and Mary Fair