If Azar’s hadn’t been closed when Orval Shryock and Ellen VanAuken went on their first date more than 30 years ago, they likely would be eating a different meal today.
The couple, now married for 36 years, plan to relive their first date this afternoon with the help of Heart to Heart Hospice and staff at Heritage Park, a senior living community along Hobson Road.
Although they both live on the campus, Shryock, 83, resides in the nursing care facility while his wife, 86, lives in one of its garden homes.
It’s Shryock’s wish to re-create his first date with VanAuken, a request that will be funded by the Heart to Heart Hospice Foundation, said Debbie Blacketer, a community education representative with Heart to Heart Hospice.
"It was a nice first date," VanAuken said Tuesday.
But it wasn’t without its hiccups. The first two restaurants they tried – Azar’s and Hobby House – were closed, VanAuken recalled.
She added Shryock worried about having enough money to foot the bill where they ended up, at Don Hall’s Gas House.
They ate salad and steak, and VanAuken also had cottage cheese with sugar – a combination new to Shryock, she said.
Since that first date, the pair created a blended family – he had three daughters and she had three sons and a daughter – and had their good and not-quite-so-good moments like any relationship, VanAuken said.
Overall, she said, "it’s been a good marriage."
Rather than visiting the restaurant today to re-create their beginning, the couple will have food delivered from Hall’s, Blacketer said. She said they will dine in VanAuken’s home.
The occasion stemmed from Shryock reminiscing, Blacketer said, noting she is proud to work for a company that, through its foundation, is able to grant people’s dreams as they approach the end of their lives.
Blacketer said it is evident VanAuken is looking forward to the special meal. When she spoke with VanAuken on Tuesday, she said, the woman apologized for being unable to write her a thank-you note.
Blacketer told VanAuken that wasn’t necessary.
"Seeing the joy on your face is thanks enough," she said.