For two long­time ac­quain­tances, a sec­ond chance at love

The Buffalo News - - WEDDINGS - By Vin­cent M. Mallozzi

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.”

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