Love was all around Homeland Center on Valentine’s Day. Visitors were greeted with a cheery “Happy Valentine’s Day” and the sight of red streamers, balloons, and flowers at every turn.
In the Main Dining Room, a volunteer dressed in red handed out felt hearts to residents having lunch. Throughout the week, staff wore red and hosted Valentine’s Day socials for the residents.
And in Homeland Center’s unique 50s-style diner, residents who are couples were treated to a special lunch of Italian favorites – spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, Italian sausage with peppers and onions, and a bright salad of mixed greens.
It was Homeland’s way of sharing the love that permeates the building year-round, but especially on Valentine’s Day.
“We try to do things so they can enjoy the holiday,” says Activities Coordinator Latoya Venable.
About 14 couples call Homeland home. Among those enjoying the special lunch were two couples with a combined 136 years of married bliss.
Mildred and Tom Anthony met at a weekly dance in Frackville, Tom’s hometown in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region. She came from nearby Mahanoy City. Both admit that Tom wasn’t a very good dancer, but she liked his personality. One year later, they got married in Frackville. Today, they have been married 68 years.
He was a meat cutter by trade, first in his family store, and then for Acme markets. She managed a bank branch.
“It was interesting and busy, and I met a lot of people,” Mildred says.
They had an active life, raising two children and getting outdoors for adventure whenever they had the chance. They had a boat. They had jet skis. They had a lake home near Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
“In the wintertime, we had snowmobiles,” says Mildred. “We would go across the lake and up into the mountains on our snowmobiles.”
Typically, they didn’t do anything special on Valentine’s Day, other than go out to dinner. From Tom’s perspective, gifts for Mildred didn’t have to wait for a special occasion. Some of her most beautiful jewelry came from their visits to the country of Lebanon, where his family is from.
“Whatever she wants, she gets,” he says. “She sees a diamond, she can get it.”
Sitting at the next table, Colleen and Lester Grotzinger were sharing the latest in a long line of Valentine’s Days together. They were high school sweethearts who began dating “as soon as we could handle our parents,” says Colleen. They knew each other from school, but at a New Year’s Eve Party, they started talking, which led to their first date.
Today, they have been married 66 years.
Married in 1951, Colleen graduated from college, and Lester was called up for military service. After serving for two years in anti-aircraft artillery installations along the East Coast, Lester launched a career as a mechanical engineer and Colleen became a middle school teacher.
They have four children, two boys and two girls. When the Grotzingers weren’t working, they saw the world, visiting the Bavarian village of Lester’s ancestors and meeting some of Colleen’s relatives in Ireland.
For Valentine’s Days in the past, they did “nothing in particular,” says Colleen. “Maybe go to a movie.” The Homeland Valentine’s Day couples lunch was “a nice idea,” she added. For Lester, it was a chance to think back on their time together.
“A lot of years,” he says. “A lot of years.”
“Good years,” says Colleen.
“Absolutely,” says Lester.