By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – When Barbara Graf, 78, recently arrived for what she thought was going to be the annual summer bridge club party at a friend's home, she was flabbergasted to be greeted with her friends singing a “Happy Wedding to You” version of “Happy Birthday.”
“I was totally surprised,” she recalled. “I went to the party thinking it was going to be an outdoor English tea, and couldn's believe it was really a bridal shower for me.”
Graf has been a widow since 1986, raised three children and had an almost 40-year career in newspaper journalism. She retired as the Life Style editor of the daily “Alliance Review” in Ohio. In 2000, she moved to Shrewsbury to be near her daughter Caroline Reich and her family.? In 2012, Graf lost her youngest daughter Anne Rutherford of St. Paul, Minn., to cancer, and joined a bereavement group being held at Southgate at Shrewsbury.
There she met Clayton Hayden, 88, a retired Navy World War II veteran. After serving, Hayden graduated from Rutgers University as a mechanical engineer. He worked for IBM his entire career. Hayden had recently lost his wife after a long illness, and started to attend the bereavement group meetings. The two quickly decided that they had a lot in common and became a couple.
“I never ever thought I's fall in love again,” Graf remarked.
The luncheon featured all the traditional English goodies from trays of tea sandwiches and tiered platters of scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd to a selection of both hot and iced teas.
After the elegant feast, the ladies laughed and giggled over all the presents from lingerie and linens to toiletries and gift certificates for salon treatments fit for a bride-to-be.
Her friends decided that a surprise shower would be the perfect way to celebrate the newest romance in the group. Reich helped with necessary details and made sure her mother didn's have a clue about the party.
“She's like a teenager!” said Reich.
“I love showers and never expected there would be one for me at my age,” Graf said. “It was great fun and many laughs.”
The couple plans a simple wedding in August at the Reich home to be officiated by the Reverend Eric Wefeld of the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury.