Vera Burlew and Peter Hosler
November 25, 2017, in Brookhaven
They met a decade ago at a Brookhaven AARP meeting. Vera had joined the social group for seniors years ago, shortly after the death of her husband, Roy. Peter and his wife, Marie, were new, and the affable Vera welcomed them.
Peter and Marie were soon regulars themselves. When Marie got sick, Vera missed her friend and sent a series of get-well cards and good wishes. When Marie died on Easter Sunday 2014, Vera offered Peter sincere condolences and an empathetic ear. Peter and Marie had been happily married for 65 years. Vera knew too well what he felt losing her — she had lost her Roy on Christmas Day 1996 after nearly 50 years together.
Peter appreciated the monthly fellowship that AARP offered, and later in 2014, realized he especially liked talking to Vera. "We seemed to get along real well," he said. "We have similar personalities. We're both family-oriented. And we like the same type of entertainment: musicals."
Like him, Peter knew, Vera was devoted to her faith and her family.
Wanting to know her better, he asked her to lunch.
"I had about six luncheons to go to, so I said, 'No, I'm too busy,' " Vera remembered. Undeterred, Peter, now 90, asked for a rain check. The easiest thing was to say yes, even though Vera wasn't sure it would ever actually happen.
But "Peter is a very persistent person," said Vera, now 91. About a month later, she accepted an invitation to the Concordville Inn. It was just lunch with a friend, she reasoned.
Vera had been on dates since Roy died, but never anything serious. She had become ever more convinced she didn't want anything serious, ever. "I always said I was never going to get married again," she said.
Vera, who was the office manager at Chalmers & Kubeck in Aston until she retired, and Peter, a chemical engineer with Sunoco in Marcus Hook until he did, had a fantastic time at lunch. Soon after, Vera accepted invitations to dinner. And theater. And dinner theater.
Everyone from the friends they played pinochle with to her children told Vera that Peter adored her, and it sure seemed like she adored him, too, and that she should do something about it. She told all of them she and Peter were just good friends.
Looking back, Vera said, she was in a bit of denial about the kind of feelings she had for Peter. "He was so nice and so caring," she said. "I really did like him, but I was kind of afraid to like him. I don't know why, except that I had always thought I didn't want to get married again."
Peter knew what their dates felt like, and he was pretty certain Vera thought of him as more than her friend. He knew she was worth his patience. So there were more shows, and more dinners out, and more wonderful conversations.
About two years after their first lunch, Vera finally admitted to herself that she thought of this kind and interesting man who always said such nice things to her as more than just her friend. "He was so lovable that I just couldn't resist him anymore," she said.
Over time, Peter went from really liking Vera to loving her. "She is attractive, a good conversationalist, and very sociable," he said. "It wasn't a flash of romance; it was well thought out, more like, 'I think this would make a nice life.' "
In summer 2017, Peter reached out to his five children — Gregory, Katherine, Pamela, Theresa, and Lorraine — and to Vera's three — Barbara, Susan, and Craig — to seek their blessing for his life-changing plan. "Younger kids check with the parents. This is the reverse situation — I checked with all the kids," he said. "Marriage is always a family situation." All gave their enthusiastic blessing.
One July evening, the couple saw Barefoot in the Park and ate dinner together at the Candle Light. Afterward, Peter, who then lived in Wallingford, took Vera back to her home in Brookhaven. She invited him in, and he asked her to sit with him for a minute. He said a few nice things, then got right to the point: "Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Oh, no," Vera said. "I have too many things wrong with me. I have macular degeneration, so I can't see too good. I'm getting too old, and I can't hear too well, and I have other problems."
As she rattled off her medical conditions, Peter kept saying it didn't matter. She knew he meant it — Peter had always accepted her exactly the way she is.
He tried a different set of words without marry in them: "Would you wear my ring?" he asked, pulling an engagement ring from his pocket.
She knew wearing the ring would mean the same thing she had just said no to, but this time, Vera said yes. Arthritis kept the ring from fitting on her left hand, but it slid right onto her right ring finger.
"I love you," Peter said.
The next day, he told his friends they were engaged. Knowing how fast word would travel, Vera started telling her friends, too. "We knew that was coming!" one said.
It was so them
The couple were married at Christ United Methodist Church in Brookhaven, Vera's church for many years and now Peter's, too.
It was a traditional and simple Protestant service, he said, scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend because that's when all of his children — including Gregory, who lives in Singapore — were home. His daughters Katherine and Pamela read Scripture verses. Son Gregory was best man. Peter's best friend, Jerry, was a groomsman. Vera's daughters Barbara and Susan were matrons of honor and her son Craig escorted her down the aisle. Peter's grandson Peter IV and Vera's grandsons Sebastien and Daniel were ushers.
The groom wore a brown suit already in his closet, and the bride picked out a champagne-colored dress — lacy, but not flouncy — to complement it.
Their 102 guests celebrated with the couple in the church fellowship hall. Vera's son collected music from the big band era. Hors d'oeuvres were served in the foyer, followed by a sit-down dinner and wedding cake. Not to mention a chocolate fountain with fruit, marshmallows, and pound cake for dipping. "They are still talking about that," Vera said.
Engineer Peter attributes the success of the reception in part to careful seat assignments.
After the wedding, the couple moved together to an apartment at the Lima Estates retirement village near Media.
Peter will never forget how it felt when their officiant told him he could kiss the bride. "That makes it for real," he said. "That's when I felt really emotional."
After their kiss, the couple turned to face the congregation, then began their walk back up the aisle together as newlyweds. "We saw the smiles on all of our friends' faces and families' faces, and everything was just so enjoyable," Vera said.
The budget crunch
A bargain: Because the couple are members, there was no fee to use the church or fellowship hall. "It was also a bargain in time, since everybody could walk from the church to the reception," Peter said.
The splurge: The chocolate fountain.
A nine-day cruise in the Bahamas in early 2018.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: The Rev. Julia Singleton, Christ United Methodist Church, Brookhaven.
Venue: Christ Methodist Church and Fellowship Hall.
Food: Lia's Catering, Boothwyn.
Flowers: Ridley's Rainbow of Flowers (The bride has known florist Deena since Deena was born — she's the granddaughter of her former pastor.)