Neither rain, nor sleet, nor threat of ice or continuation of a pandemic could keep love from its appointed rounds on Valentine’s Day in Haddonfield.
On that crisp Sunday evening, more than two dozen couples stepped up before their fellow lovebirds, borough commissioners, TV cameras and passers-by to recommit themselves within their relationships. It was the third annual “I ‘Heart’ Haddonfield” event, sponsored by the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust, and held at the open heart installation where Kings Court meets Kings Highway East.
“Haddonfield is the epicenter of love today. This is the place you come to renew your vows, to eat at a nice restaurant, pick your honey up some great chocolates,” noted Mayor Neal Rochford, who, along with his fellow commissioners, presided over the event, which lasted approximately 90 minutes.
“It was a wonderful night. The weather held out for us, we’re happy about that. And the couples seemed so appreciative of one another, and to have a chance to renew their commitments. It’s a very special thing.”
Robert Turrin and Linda Wharton had a chance meeting 40 years ago at the bookstore of Rutgers Law School in Camden. Linda said the attraction was a gradual one, but she felt, from the outset, both were really comfortable with each other.
“It felt like ‘coming home’ when I met Bob,” she revealed.
The pair have resided on Euclid Avenue since the late 1980s, and chose Commissioner Colleen Bezich to do the honors.
“We’ve never done this before, but 40 years seemed like a significant milestone and we became conscious of the borough’s event last year. So we thought this would be an appropriate year to do it,” Robert added.
Together for 22 years, Frank and Debbie Troy tried the stealth route. Ostensibly out for a late afternoon walk with their four-legged companion, the couple just so happened to be downtown during the ceremony.
“We had friends who we knew were going to be involved, so we just came down to support them,” Debbie explained. “And someone actually didn’t show in their spot, so we took over and had a really nice time doing it.
Frank was more revealing, when he admitted he thought someone might be a no-show, so it was a natural thing to swoop in and take advantage of the open slot. He enjoyed the experience, and (with Debbie’s agreement, of course), plans to come back every year.
Partnerships new and old were proclaimed in the open. While borough residents Richard and Margie Morris decided to reaffirm their bond after just 2.5 years as a couple, they had nothing on Philip and Rosalie Shapiro. The pair were celebrating their impending 56th wedding anniversary and 61 years together.
“It was a gradual thing. She was at a college dance and I saw her across a crowded room as the song goes,” recalled Phil. “Then the next morning I saw her in the food line at the cafeteria and I just walked up to her and said ‘hi, my name is Phil,’ and the rest is history.”
While Rosalie wasn’t struck by the thunderbolt, she stuck with Phil through thick and thin from that point on.
“It’s very complicated,” she said about being able to grow a friendship into something more lasting. “You not only need to love somebody, but you need to be willing to work things out and compromise.”
Phil added that the work needed to maintain a relationship is “Not complicated once you start. Once you work out all the initial problems being newlyweds, the rest of it just moves along.”
“We have 60 percent of last year’s couples, and I think it’s inspiring, in spite of the virus and the weather, I think we’re doing great here,” said HOST Chairman Stuart Harting. “We have all three commissioners here doing their part.”
Adam Puff, a Haddonfield resident and President of the Haddonfield Educational Trust, added a personal touch as facilitator, handing out individual roses to all the lucky couples ahead of their turn.
“We’re pretty proud of this,” Harting beamed.
Check back for the print edition of the Sun, on Feb. 24 for additional photos from the event.