As Ron walked toward Pat's front door on the May 2012 evening of their blind date, his friend handed him a bouquet of flowers.
"Take these to her," she said.
Forgive Ron, a mostly retired insurance executive from St. Davids, for not thinking of the flowers himself. He was a little rusty.
Ron, now 72, had been married to Maggie for 44 years. They raised Mimi, David, and Michael, and were enjoying semiretirement, grandchildren, travel, and golf when Maggie became ill. She died of lung cancer in 2011.
Pat, a retired obstetrics nurse from Glendora, N.J., who is now 67, had been married to Joe for 42 years. They raised sons Joe and Chris and were enjoying travel and gourmet dining when Joe became ill. He died of lung cancer in 2009.
Pat and Joe had often dined with gourmet dinner club members who shared their first names: Patti and Joe Gunn. Pat and Patti have been friends since 1967, when both were nurses at Delaware County Hospital.
The Gunns frequently golfed with Ron and Maggie, as all belonged to Glenhardie Country Club in Wayne, where Ron is president.
It was Patti Gunn who asked Ron in spring 2012, "Are you available for dating? Because when you are, I have someone special for you." It was also Patti who handed him the flowers, and cautioned him to have only one drink to keep his talkative exuberance from overwhelming Pat before she got to know him.
Everyone enjoyed dinner and conversation at Anthony's in Haddon Heights. Afterward, standing in Pat's front yard, Joe offered Ron another dating hint: "Are you going to give her a hug?"
In front of his friends and likely Pat's neighbors, Ron kissed her instead.
Their second date was a big country club event. Knowing it would be crazy, Ron suggested that Pat come to his home to meet friends first.
Pat was thinking if they became friends, she could help him work through his sorrow, since she'd lost Joe two years prior, and he'd been without Maggie less than a year. But after Ron showed her a painting of two stick figures and a gorgeous red flower done by artist Maggie and granddaughter Ruby the day before Maggie died, it was Pat who burst into tears, and Ron who comforted her.
Both knew that night they would have a significant role in each other's lives.
After the hours of car-ride talking they did on their third date - a day trip to New York for dinner and a show - they knew that role was romantic.
"We laughed all the way up," Pat remembered. "He is lighthearted in many respects, but serious about things that are serious, too."
Ron wasn't looking for a second Maggie, but he did want a companion who, like her, shared his love of family, friends, and faith. "We have the same values," he said.
During the play - The Best Man - Ron put his hand on Pat's knee, and a couple who saw smiled at him. His diary entry for that day reads: "The day I fell in love."
How does forever sound?
On a plane ride to Berkeley to visit Ron's daughter a year ago, Ron suggested that he and Pat soon have a talk about their future. They could continue to drive back and forth between St. Davids and Glendora. They could move in together. "Or we could do the M-word," he said.
That December at a concert at the Kimmel Center, Ron brought up the airplane conversation. "Do you have a preference?" he asked. "I would prefer The M-word," said Pat.
They planned a May engagement in Paris. But while on a Caribbean cruise that February, they found a ring in St. Thomas. In front of their cabin's open doors and the ocean, he knelt. "I want to ask you to be my wife," he said. "Of course," Pat replied.
They left their room for a piano performance, and the first song they heard was the Beatles' "Michelle," the same song that played when Joe proposed in 1967. "It was Joe telling me, 'It's OK,' " Pat said.
In Paris, on a boat on the Seine, she gave him back the ring so he could kneel a second time. "Will you marry me, again?" he asked. "You have one more chance to get out of this!" Pat smiled at the joke, but answered seriously: "Of course I want to marry you!"
It was so them
They were wed at St. Catharine of Sienna in Wayne.
The music-loving couple hired a harpist, trumpet player, organist, and singer to perform a Celtic hymn in honor of her late mother, Celine Dion's "My Prayer," and "Canon in D" when her sons walked her down the aisle.
The Gunns were their matron of honor and best man.
Pat's wedding band features six small diamonds: Two from a ring her father had given her mother; two from diamond earrings Joe had given her; one from her former father-in-law's tie tack, and one new one from Ron. She loves having all those special people with her always.
The reception was held in a tent on the country club lawn. The couple and their four attendants arrived on golf carts as the Rocky theme played. Their 112 guests roared when they stopped for a putting contest before joining the celebration.
Two days before, a 14-foot dawn redwood tree had been planted between the tee of Hole 3 and the green of Hole 4. The plaque beneath it reads: "Maggie Vogrin, 1940-2011, loved family -art -golf." Her grandchildren had their picture taken beneath it.
Before the ceremony, both Pat and Ron were overcome at the sight of all their family and friends there to celebrate with them.
But once they were at the altar, "It felt so private," Pat said.
"There was this gleam in her eyes," Ron said. "Everyone else had disappeared."
This wasn't expected
Insurance guy Ron is always supercautious. But he was looking at the guests when it was time to head back up the aisle and missed a step. Pat helped him catch his fall.
A bargain: A member of the country club who just launched a floral business charged the couple just $1,200 for flowers they estimate would have cost $4,000 elsewhere.
The splurge: Bargain-hunter Pat originally planned no more than $800 for her dress. Including alterations, it was $1,600.
Ten days in Venice and Rome.
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