For two longtime acquaintances, a second chance at love
Six months into their budding relationship, Peter Travers sat beside Caroline Walradt on a sofa at her home in South Brunswick, N.J. “I have something to say to you,” Travers, a father of four who was going through a divorce, announced on that spring day in 2014.
Walradt, a widow whose friendship with Travers seemed to be turning a romantic corner, was fixed on his every word.
“Peter had turned toward me in a very serious manner,” she recalled. “So I’m sitting there and thinking to myself, ‘Oh wow, what could this be.’”
When his intense stare gave way to a soft smile, Walradt began to wonder if Travers might be poised to use the “L word,” which had not yet come up in conversation.
He soon delivered a pitch she was not expecting. “Do you ever think,” he whispered, “that you could come to love baseball?”
Walradt, now 64, and Travers, 63, laughed as they recalled that wacky moment, one of many fond memories shared in what she described as “this miraculous second chance at love that both of us have been blessed with.”
Their road to each other, a 17-year stretch paved with friendship, mutual respect and patience, began in July 2002, when Walradt’s family moved to West Windsor, N.J., from Hong Kong shortly after her husband, Ron Walradt, an international banker with Citibank, was transferred to Manhattan.
The Walradts and their two young children, Jessica, then 14, and Trent, 11, soon became parishioners at All Saints’ Church in Princeton, where Travers was entrenched as a member of its vestry.
“I remember when they first came to the church, they seemed like such a great family,” said Travers, the managing member of Chase Field, an investment firm in Princeton. (He was previously an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, and before that a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, both in New York.)
“As a matter of fact I remember meeting Caroline’s husband,” Travers said. “He seemed like a real nice fellow.”
Four months after arriving at their new address, the Walradts were still unpacking boxes when they received devastating news: Ron Walradt had cancer.
“My husband apparently had cancer for a while,” Walradt said. “We just didn’t know it.”
When he died in January 2003, their world went dark.
“It was all very sudden, and very tough on the kids, who were extremely close to their dad,” Walradt said. “All three of us felt so alone, and we didn’t have any family around to lean on for support.”
Walradt, now a secondgrade teacher at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-boys school for students from kindergarten through eighth grade, began leaning heavily on her Episcopal faith, becoming more involved at All Saints’ Church.
“When I heard that Caroline’s husband had passed away, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, what a terrible thing,’” Travers said. “I think our entire community felt the same way.”
In June 2013, Travers first came to notice Walradt as something more than a longtime church acquaintance after a fundraiser at a Princeton bar, where they chatted, albeit briefly.
The following month, she made a huge impression on him at a thank-you dinner party he hosted for volunteers after a seven-day, five-state cycling fundraiser. During that dinner, they spoke at length, learning a great deal about each other, including the fact that they were the children of career military men, and had traveled extensively around the globe with their now-deceased parents.
“Peter seated me right next to him at the dinner table, and we spent a few hours getting to know each other a bit,” Walradt said. “I liked him right away, I thought he was sweet and smart and very handsome, and the way he was using playful language around me got me thinking that perhaps he had an interest in me, though I wasn’t sure.”
Since that dinner, Travers said, “the thought of possibly getting together with Caroline had been running around in the back of my mind. But I didn’t know if she had an interest in me, or if there was anyone else in her life, and to be honest, I was just coming out of a very terrible situation in terms of my marriage failing, and was really running around in a fog.”
In October 2013, Walradt took the initiative to organize a relief project sponsored by All Saints’ Church to support an Episcopal parish in Toms River, N.J., after Hurricane Sandy had devastated that community.
“Those people needed a break from all of their grief,” said Walradt, who had become head of the church’s outreach committee. “We brought them cooked meals and had games and prizes and even a jazz band for entertainment. We basically threw them a party.”
Walradt had enlisted the help of Travers, who brought champagne, wine and beer, and at Walradt’s request, a ham, and began carving it while dressed in a butcher’s apron wrapped around a suit and bow tie.
He was later uncorking a bottle of wine when the Rev. Dr. Hugh E. Brown III, the All Saints’ rector, picked up a microphone and began thanking the people who had helped organize the event. In praising Walradt, he mentioned that she had been “widowed unexpectedly,” prompting a parishioner from Toms River to say to Travers. “You mean to tell me that woman is not married?”
Travers said he spent the remainder of the evening in “observatory mode,” unable to slow down the thought of getting together with Walradt. “As I’m standing there watching Caroline bounce around, helping one person after another, it occurred to me what a really fine human being she was,” Travers said. “She was just a good-hearted, energetic person who genuinely cared about people, and I admired that.”
The fog was beginning to lift, and three weeks later, on Halloween, Walradt and Travers went on their first official date, to see a play at Princeton’s McCarter Theater.
They began dating steadily and would soon enjoy many shared passions, including a love of travel, and have since visited Paris (twice), England and Switzerland. While Walradt has not become the kind of baseball fan Travers had hoped for, she doesn’t mind taking in an occasional game. “Being together, that’s what makes watching baseball, or doing anything else, so much more enjoyable,” she said.
They were married March 23 at All Saints’ before Brown, a choir and 230 guests, including Jonathan Ivey-Oladeji and Colby Hartpence, a pair of 8-year-olds who are students of Walradt’s at the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart.
“When Peter first met Caroline he was sort of feeling down and going through some tough times,” said Adam Hartmann, the groom’s half brother, who lives in Gainesville, Fla. “I love Peter, so to see the wonderful change in him since he and Caroline have been dating is like seeing the sun come out.”
The bride, who moved to South Brunswick from West Windsor in 2010, will move into the groom’s home, along with her cats, Sophie and Jasper, upon their return from a honeymoon in Paris and Venice, Italy.
“Living together will be a great experience,” the groom said. “I think it’s going to be an opportunity for us to do all sorts of adventurous things that we like to do, whether it’s travel or go to baseball games or get involved in good works.”