The Valentine’s Day luncheon guests grew silent as Homeland Center Activities Director Aleisha Connors made her big announcement.
“And the 2020 Valentine’s Day King and Queen are . . .” she paused for dramatic effect, while the crowd performed drum rolls on the tables, “. . . Mr. and Mrs. Grotzinger!”
The luncheon guests cheered while staff placed crowns on Homeland residents Colleen and Lester Grotzinger. Colleen received a beautiful bouquet.
The Sweetheart Lunch is an annual tradition, allowing married couples who are residents and those residents whose spouses live outside of Homeland to share a romantic meal. Floral centerpieces and tablecloths adorned with hearts graced the tables in Homeland Center’s unique 50s-style diner. Over lunch choices catered from Olive Garden, guests exchanged memories and kisses.
The Grotzingers were chosen King and Queen by a vote of Homeland residents and staff. Among the couples attending the Sweetheart Lunch, they had the longest marriage.
“In July, it’s 69 years,” said Lester.
The two were high school sweethearts who met in their hometown of Renovo, in northcentral Pennsylvania. They married in 1951, just after he finished basic training for the Army. She was a teacher and he was a mechanical engineer.
What’s the secret to a long marriage?
“We just always got along,” said Colleen.
Connors organized the luncheon as a way to help residents from all Homeland units to recall treasured memories.
“They get to have a special meal together, just like they’ve always had,” she said.
Mickey Jostenski, visiting her husband Bob Jostenski, recalled their longstanding annual tradition of going to Ocean City, New Jersey, for Valentine’s Day and their anniversary in June.
“It was just relaxing,” Mickey said. “It was a way to get out of ‘Dodge.’”
The Jostenskis also shared their love for Homeland. Bob enjoys a full range of activities and recently attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
“We went bowling one time,” Bob said, pantomiming a bowling-ball throw. He also unleashes his inner artist through Homeland art classes, and he presented a gift to Mickey – a painting of two wine glasses clinking, with a heart rising between them inscribed, “I love you.”
Hearts and symbols of love were everywhere throughout Homeland. A poster in the elevators reminded everyone to “Let this day be filled with memories and reminders of how much you are loved.”
On the Gathering Room mantel, photographs of Homeland couples – from their wedding days to date -- decorated large letters spelling out “LOVE.’’
At the diner, Michael Keane was enjoying the Sweetheart Lunch with his wife, Marian.
“This is very nice,” Michael said.
Like the Grotzingers, the Keanes were high school sweethearts, now married 64 years. Celebrating Valentine’s Day usually meant going out to dinner. Early in their relationship, they went to Hershey regularly to hear the big bands that came to town – and there were some very big names on the lineups.
“Tommy Dorsey,” Michael said. “Harry James. We didn’t appreciate what we had then.”
In the Valentine’s Day spirit, Michael came with a card for Marian. “Love of my life, friend of my heart, my wife,” it read. “A love like ours happens only once in a lifetime.”
He signed it, “All of my love always.”