Working at Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry was an emotionally intense experience that forged strong bonds among the staff, and in the mid-1980s, social worker Janice and music therapist Marty were among them.
On the women's ward, the hospital's softball team, and during Friday happy hours, Marty and Janice became great friends. "She had good manners, which is really important," said Janice, who grew up in Rydal. "She had a fabulous sense of humor, and a joie de vivre."
"She was one of the best social workers I knew. She was professionally awesome, and I admired her," Marty said of Janice. Marty was a Harrisburg native who moved east to attend Immaculata University.
Their friendship stretched beyond coworker gatherings, and then Marty realized she was attracted to her friend - feelings she figured would lead nowhere. The decade gap in their ages seemed bigger back then, but that wasn't the main roadblock. Janice, single for years after her 10-year marriage ended in divorce, was straight.
Marty eventually felt she was keeping too big a secret from her best friend, and decided to tell Janice that she's gay. That was scarier in the 1980s than it would be now, Marty said.
"Tell me something I don't know!" Janice said when Marty told her. Her acceptance was a huge relief.
That relief turned to surprise when six months later, Janice found herself attracted to Marty. "I was dating men, so it was awkward, and hard for me to deal with it, initially," said Janice, then in her 40s. Their romance was not exclusive, and for the first year, Janice continued to date men.
Marty had been in long-term relationships before, and she knew she needed a partner who felt totally comfortable being gay. She tried to be philosophical. "I was willing to wait it out," she said. "She was not the only fish in the sea, but she was the one I wanted."
It was harder to wait when Janice started to regularly see one really nice guy. Marty asked her to stop; Janice said no. That no felt like ice water, and Marty decided to move on with her life, and began dating another woman.
"I didn't like that," Janice said. "She gave me a taste of my own medicine."
That terrible feeling made Janice realize she no longer cared what her straight friends, or anyone else, thought. "I just said, 'Screw it. I'm attracted to this woman. I enjoy her, and I love her, and this is the way it is going to be."
None of her friends cared one bit. In 1990, after a second year of dating - this time, only each other - Janice moved from her apartment to Marty's home in Bristol Township, where they still live.
Janice, who is now 69, and Marty, now 58, built a life centered around their love for nature, animals, art, travel, and, until they retired, parallel professional lives. After Janice retired from her last job as a social worker at Norristown State Hospital in 1999, Marty encouraged her to pursue more seriously what had been a photography hobby. Marty had taken art classes in a variety of media whenever she could, and when she retired as supervisor of recreation in Norristown's forensic unit in 2011, she also devoted more time to her art, now almost exclusively oil painting.
Janice and Marty are both active board members of the Artists of Bristol on the Delaware. They have shared their home with six dogs over the years, including current resident beagles Dugan O'Malley and Harper Lee. They've also made time to travel and have been to 50 countries together.
"We both knew from the time we moved in together that we were in it for the long haul," Marty said. "But we never really thought we'd ever get married."
When legal marriage was impossible, the couple told themselves they could do without it. "I had never been married, but I saw so many that didn't work," Marty said. "I was married once, and I used to say I would never get married again," said Janice.
And then same-sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania. Their friends and family kept asking, "When, when, when?"
The couple started talking about the legal protections marriage would bring, and as a wedding as an opportunity to make a public statement about their love and commitment.
Last New Year's Eve, the couple had dinner at the Yardley Inn, and, as is their tradition, they reviewed the big events of the old year and looked ahead to the possibilities of the new one. "What are the big things we want to do this year?" Marty asked.
"We're going to Cuba," Janice said. "And why don't we get married?"
"Yeah," Marty said, smiling. "That will work!"
The couple married in their home's "Green Room," in front of windows with woodsy views. They led their own ceremony, made official through a self-uniting license.
Marty told how many years earlier, she and her sister Liz discussed finding and maintaining love. Marty suggested the key was identifying what attracted you to this person, and then continuing to find those things. "I still think that's a pretty good answer," Marty told their 19 human guests and two beagles. "Janice was a wonderful social worker, and she still has a bleeding heart for the downtrodden. I have learned from her experience in travel, art, and her knowledge of food and current events. She often says, 'Let's do this. Let's go here,' and I get to tag along on these wonderful experiences I wouldn't have had without her."
Janice also spoke of their travels. "But when it comes down to it, my favorite place in the world is anywhere next to her," she said.
Guests were invited to share their thoughts, and Janice's sister Adrianne spoke for many when she said, "It's about time!"
There was no music, as Marty and Janice thought it more important that every guest could hear the ceremony and the conversation afterward. Everyone enjoyed champagne and appetizers at the couple's home, then traveled to Carlucci's restaurant in Yardley for a meal capped off not by wedding cake, but tiramisu and cannoli. Maitre d' Dominic, who knows the couple through their frequent visits, sang his congratulations in Italian.
Instead of gifts, the couple asked their guests to donate to the Silver Lake Nature Center.
Marty's and Janice's parents died years ago, and their remaining family is scattered around the country: Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Michigan. The wedding was the first time everyone gathered in one spot. "When I saw everybody in the room together, all I could think was, 'They're all here for us,' " Marty said. It felt incredible.
"I was looking around at all those people I love, and I thought, 'This is right. It is absolutely right,' " Janice agreed.
A bargain: Marty's brother Ted surprised the couple by insisting on paying for the Italian feast.
The splurge: Marty gave Janice a diamond wedding band.
Their big Cuba trip - a group of artists on a cultural exchange - took up a lot of the 2015 travel budget. But Janice's friend Carol gave them a week at her Vermont time-share as a wedding gift.
Officiant: The couple led their own ceremony, made official with a self-uniting license.
Venues: Their Bristol Township home and Carlucci's restaurant in Yardley.
Photography: Art photographer Rodney Miller and family and friends.
Flowers: Birds of Paradise Flowers, Bristol.
Marty's attire: China Buddah Gifts, Bensalem.
Janice's attire: Stein Mart.
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