More than a year had passed since Dan lost Linda, his wife of 27 years, to ovarian cancer. He was spending a 2004 Saturday with a group of her friends and told them he was planning to join a singles group - the Valley Forge Walkers - the next day at the park.
One couple said they knew a wonderful woman, Diana, who was a Walker, and suggested he introduce himself.
Diana wasn't there the first week, but Dan found her the next time. They walked and talked together for an hour.
Diana and her husband Joe had been married for nearly 30 years and raised four boys - Joe, Ben, Adam, and Jake - before he died in a hunting accident in 2000.
On the walk, Diana, now 61, and Dan, 64, discussed their love of family and places they had traveled or hoped to travel.
"I want to go to Italy some day with a woman I love," said Dan.
Diana was the Walkers' party planner and host and was putting together the Halloween celebration. Diana suggested Dan join in the fun.
Dan traveled to Spain, and then Diana went to Prague and Budapest. Dan had continued with the walks, and met other women, one of whom he invited to the Halloween event. He RSVP'd for two, but then just before Halloween, Dan's date told him she couldn't make it.
Dan e-mailed Diana to let her know he would be attending solo. "There will be plenty of women here. You'll still have a good time!" Diana wrote back.
He couldn't see the little happy dance she did.
The night of the party, Diana was busy hosting when Dan approached her. "So, when are you going to dance?" he asked. "When somebody asks me," she said. He asked. They danced.
At the end of the evening, Dan offered to help clean up. When they got to the pots and pans, Dan noticed one on the stove still had tomato sauce in it. "What do you want me to do with the gravy?" he asked.
Diana stared at the man who just used her Italian family's word for the red stuff.
"He had me at gravy," she admits.
The next day, Diana sent out an e-mail thanking everyone for making the event a success. Dan wrote back: "Can I give you a call so we could go out some time?"
Diana felt like she was in a movie. "When somebody my age starts dating again, you become a young person, a teenager again, and it is horrible and exciting all at once," she said.
After consulting with coworkers on a response, she kept it simple: "That would be nice."
That Sunday, Dan drove from Broomall to pick up Diana at her North Coventry home. They saw a play at the Arden Theatre, walked around Philadelphia, and then had dinner in King of Prussia.
She really loved his sense of humor, his gentlemanly ways, and that they shared the same values.
As they left the restaurant, Dan took her hand. "Oh, my gosh, he likes me!" she thought.
How does forever sound?
Dan, who then was in computer software sales, sure did like her. And it didn't take long for like to grow to love, he said. "She has a great sense of humor, and she is adventurous," he said, noting it was Diana's idea to go parasailing in the Dominican Republic.
In September 2011, the couple went on a family cruise to the Caribbean with Dan's 92-year-old mother, Carrie, his two sisters and their husbands, and a cousin. Diana and Dan were in a jewelry store when a tanzanite and diamond number caught Diana's eye. Dan asked her to go outside and bought it. Diana knew this was her engagement ring.
Three months later, family was gathered at Diana's place for Christmas. She was fretting over scorched gravy and burned croutons even as holiday soup was served.
As guests ate their soup, Dan pretended to drop something. On his knee next to Diana, he took the ring from its hiding spot. "Diana, will you marry me?" he asked.
Spoons froze midair. One of Diana's sons stopped in his tracks halfway to the kitchen.
"Finally!" said Diana's granddaughter Faith, now 12.
"Get the cameras!" someone yelled.
Granddaughter Graci, now 8, said she was too excited to eat. She got paper and pencils from the cabinet where Grammy keeps them and began drawing wedding dress after wedding dress.
It was so them
The couple, who now live in North Coventry, held their ceremony and reception for 120 at the Kimberton Inn, where they love the food and the fireplaces.
Niece Gina was a bridesmaid. Granddaughters Faith, Lily, and Graci were junior bridesmaids. Cierra was the flower girl. Grandsons Bobby, Beppy, and Griffin were groomsmen.
Diana's sons walked her down the aisle.
Dan's friends John and Guy were best men.
The couple said traditional vows, but then read words they wrote for each other. "While we cherish the memories of our individual pasts, I look forward to creating a new experience and memories in our new life together," Diana said.
"Since I found you, I found a new life," Dan told her. "The decision to commit to that life with you is something that I make happily and with full faith in our love."
At the reception, the band started playing "Friends in Low Places" and Diana's sons and one grandson surrounded her, ripped off their dress shirts to reveal bright blue T-shirts with faux suits and red ties printed on them, and burst into song.
This was unexpected
Diana and Gina got partly ready at home to save time. Diana was putting on the special foundation garment she needed for her open-backed dress when she heard a terrible sound.
The tear was small - but Diana feared it could grow into a real disaster.
Reached by phone, the owner of the lingerie shop said Diana should sew it. "I don't have time! I'm getting married in an hour!" Diana said.
Diana left for the inn, and sent her son to the lingerie shop. He was given Plan B and Plan C undergarments, but by the time he arrived with them, it was too late for Diana to get re-dressed. She prayed the tear would behave, and it did.
While Diana still loves hosting a good party, planning her own wedding stressed her out. She told Dan more than once they should have eloped. Then she saw her sons, who took their places beside and behind her, and she was so glad the wedding was happening. "They opened the doors, and I was just overwhelmed with joy."
Dan saw her crying, and how beautiful she looked in her gown. "It made me think, 'This is right. This is the one. This makes it all worthwhile, just seeing her.' "
A bargain: The wedding cake from Susan's Cakes of West Chester was included in the price of the reception, but Dan and Diana still got to choose their flavors. The top, banana-flavored layer, meant to be saved for their one-year anniversary, never made it to the freezer, they confess.
The splurge: Hiring a seven-piece band instead of a DJ.
The couple spent a long weekend in the mountains. But next spring or fall, Dan will get that trip to Italy with the woman he loves.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The Rev. Kathleen Spicer, www.revkathleen.com
Kimberton Inn, Kimberton, Pa.
Clint Gilbert, www.clintsprints.com
Sound Investment DJ Service, www.soundinvestment.com
Kati Mac Floral Designs,
Smale's Printery, Pottstown
The couple and Jeff Effgen, Kimberton Inn proprietor
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