Toby Finestone Grubman & Joel Grubman

Joel unpacked his suitcase, then walked down the hall of the former Catskills hotel that had become a camp for adults with special needs, where he would spend most of summer 1972 as a counselor.

Joel had spent the previous two years teaching math in Philadelphia public schools, and the two prior to that fulfilling draft board orders to serve in the Vietnam War. He was working on a Temple University master’s degree in counseling psychology and thought Camp Limelight could teach him things that books could not. Joel was not expecting what was about to happen.

“I looked into a room and there were three people sitting there, one of whom was Toby. ‘Oh my God, is she gorgeous,’ I thought. I couldn’t wait to meet her. For me, it was love at first sight.”

“It was not love at first sight for me,” said Toby, who was from Cheltenham and had just finished the first year of a Temple bachelor’s degree in education. “He was very flirtatious and very silly at first. Everything he said was a joke, and I think I heard every joke in his entire repertoire. I did not give him the time of day.”

But seeing the way Joel treated the campers caught her heart. “He was so patient with these older guys, and so sweet with them,” she said. “Nothing shook his chain. Sometimes I get like aggghhh! But he was so even-tempered. He laughed a lot. He made me laugh and made me relax, and we just had a good time.”

After camp activities were done for the day, the counselors would gather and talk. That was how Toby and Joel discovered they both value family, supporting the underdog, and helping others. They began holding hands. And there were smooches.

“I was pretty blunt about what I wanted,” Joel said. “I told her I would love her to be my girlfriend for the summer, and would she be OK with that? She said sure, and that’s how we started.”

In the first few days at camp, Joel had found a necklace with a tiny diamond — a diamond chip, really. He turned it in to the camp owners, who surmised it was left behind by some past hotel patron. When no one claimed it by the end of the eight-week camp, they gave it to Joel. He gave it to Toby, who still wears it.

Back in Philly, he took her to see Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys at the Main Point in Villanova.

Pairing with Joel brought balance to her life, said Toby. “I am the typical oldest child — worrier, planner, neurotic. Joel is the baby. He likes to have fun. He’s a free spirit. For me, the glass is half empty. For him, it’s always half full.”

Joel said falling in love at first sight was fun, but that love grew deeper the more he learned about Toby. “I respect her intelligence. I admire all the things she can handle,” he said. “I love the way she works with me and always supports me.”

Toby loved Joel. Her parents, however, did not.

“I was a 19-year-old doctor’s daughter. He was a 26-year-old Vietnam vet who also had long hair and a beard, and drove a motorcycle. My parents thought I would marry someone more like them.”

Toby’s mother said she could date Joel, but she couldn’t live in their house.

“So I left,” said Toby. “I moved to a furnished apartment in the basement of a house in the Northeast.” Toby’s mother wanted her to marry someone who could afford to take care of her. Toby, who was already working as she went to school, planned to take care of herself — she wanted an equal partner who shared her world views. Having found him, she would stand her ground.

Joel applied his patient persistence to Toby’s parents. Despite the difficult beginning, they learned to love him.

His parents liked Toby immediately, especially his father. Nathan had severe MS and lived in an institution as a ward of the state. Some of Joel’s family members hadn’t seen his father in years, but Joel visited every Sunday, and Toby did, too.

A wedding

By the time the couple wed at Toby’s family’s synagogue on Aug. 18, 1974, her parents considered Joel a family member, even if they didn’t always understand him.

His wedding attire included desert boots, a beige suit, and a funky shirt. “I was looking like a hippie,” he said. “They stopped me from going in with ‘Who are you?’ and I was so nervous that I said, ‘I’m the bride.’ ”

When it came time to break the glass, the soft sole of Joel’s boots failed him several times. He aimed with his heel and the thing finally cracked.

The reception for 100 took place in a big tent in Toby’s parents’ backyard. It was a low-key affair — brunch with a band, and it was nearly perfect except for the absence of Joel’s father. He had died the month before.

The life they’ve built

Toby, who is now 69, became a Philadelphia special education teacher and then a school counselor. She retired from Widener Memorial School eight years ago.

Joel, now 75, was a math teacher and a school counselor who retired 15 years ago from Ellwood School.

The couple has four children — twins Melanie and Nicole, now 41; Eric, 39; and Matt, 37. Three of the four started life in the NICU. “We had our hands full with money, stress, worry. It was hard to sleep,” said Toby. One night, she crawled into bed and turned out the light, then realized Joel wasn’t beside her.

Where was he? She found out when he jumped up right next to her, having Army-crawled across the floor so as not to spoil the surprise. “He scared me, and he made me laugh so hard,” she said. “He told me he didn’t want me to go to bed so sad and worrying.”

To bring in a little extra money, the couple hosted an after-school day care in their home through a local agency and worked at a summer camp.

Toby and Joel encouraged their children to get involved with many school activities, including baseball, softball, soccer, and orchestra. Joel coached.

The couple’s Cheltenham home was always crowded. “Our house was always open to all of their friends and all of their friends’ families,” Toby said.

One summer when the twins were preteens, the couple packed them and their brothers into a van for a summer-long, cross-country trip to explore amusement parks, national parks, and museums.

The nest empties

When their children went to college and launched lives of their own, “I was a little worried,” Toby admits. “But one of the things that has kept us going is we have all of these interests.”

A big shared interest is their grandchildren: Ezra, Judah, Ayza Lee, Liza, Miranda, Winner, and Daniel. Daniel died two years ago at age 18. The others range in age from 2 to 10 years.

The couple love to travel, including to the family getaway they built in Vermont, where two children and four grandchildren live and the others like to visit.

Closer to home, Toby belongs to book groups, volunteers at the library, coordinates a synagogue tutoring program, quilts, and cooks.

Joel teaches chess to senior citizens, is a member of the Jewish War Veterans, and is the president of the Olney High School alumni association. He is a Little League umpire, and the couple recently traveled to Florida so Joel could compete in the Roy Hobbs World Series in the 70+ and 75+ divisions.

Most of the time, the two enjoy each other’s company.

“When we don’t, thank God, we have a relatively big house, and I can say, ‘Go to your corner!’ " Toby jokes.

Arguments tend to be over what to keep and what to toss, but even with that, Joel says they’ve found a decent solution: “It’s cheaper to have a storage unit than to go to therapy to figure out why I won’t throw anything away.”