The event was boldly marked on the calendar: Thursday, February 13th at 4:30 pm. For John Brostrom it was a milestone. He’d had an operation on his leg that kept him from making his daily trek to visit his sweetheart – his wife Muriel – for more than a month. He was determined to regain his strength so he could transfer on his own to make it to the Sweethearts’ Dinner. The smile on her face as he arrived told the full story.
For Peter and Catherine Lupori, married 56 years in April, it was the evening’s intimate setting that made it special. Brightondale Senior Campus Director of Programs Su Stigney together with Lifesprk created a romantic atmosphere. Set aside in a secluded area of the sun room, the special Valentine’s Eve dinner was set with candle light, champagne, a gourmet dinner, and beautiful background piano music from volunteer Peggy Mahle. The centerpiece of the room was a poster postcard with blown up wedding photos from each of the couples. Su worked side-by-side as server for the evening with Lifesprk Director of Life Care Kari Schwartz and Allie Holm, Brightondale Memory Care Director.
At Brightondale Senior Campus, Valentine’s Day is more than just a holiday-card-inspired day. It is also an opportunity to celebrate and reflect.
For three years now, Brightondale together with its In-home Services partner Lifesprk have created a special Lifesprk Wish event for the married couples who reside there. This year there were four couples.
The goal, according to Su, was to bring an intimate fine dining experience onto the campus for their resident couples. The team sent formal invitations. “We try to make it fresh every year, but the couples bring their memories, and love the opportunity to reminisce and share stories with the other couples,” she added.
“I get so rewarded when we’re able to do these Lifesprk wishes. It always sparks a different value and emotion. The activities are so individualized to the resident,” she continued.
As Catherine Lupori describes it, she and her husband Peter have been married ‘a furiously long time’ – since 1958. “We don’t often have a chance to dine alone as a couple,” she noted. On campus, they usually eat as a large group, so it was especially touching for Brightondale/Lifesprk to recognize how important it would be to dine alone.
Married in their late 30s, they met at what was then College of St. Catherine where they were both professors – Peter as a sculptor and professor of art, and Catherine as a professor of English and later the founding director of the Center for Women at St. Catherine’s University.
She adds with a chuckle, “When we did marry, it caused quite an uproar – two faculty members getting married! I’m sure some young people thought we were pretty old to marry.
“I remember in those days, the nuns on the faculty couldn’t come to our wedding. So after the ceremony and before the reception, we went back to the campus for a pre-reception with the nuns.”
“We’ve gone through a lot together,” explains Catherine, who is now 94 and whose husband Peter is 95. She has always viewed their relationship as “a partnership rather than one being more in charge than the other. I always said he was the gregarious Italian and I was the grumpy Bohemian. Ha!” she says laughing. “Even now, he is very outgoing and continues to do some teaching though retired.” At almost age 90, Peter created a 6-foot ceramic bas-relief of St. Rose of Lima for the St. Rose of Lima Church in Roseville, Minnesota.
Catherine remains connected to the Women’s Center at St. Catherine’s and an annual event she helped launch called Conversations with Books. This past February, despite the snow-filled sloppy Minnesota weather the day before, 380+ people attended the 50th Annual Conversations with Books panel discussion, which included Catherine.
In a life filled with many memories and milestones, Catherine and Peter appreciated the quiet opportunity at Brightondale to reminisce and toast their partnership.
“We’ve only lived at Brightondale for not quite a year yet. We moved from south Minneapolis where we had lived for 54 years – to New Brighton to be close to our daughter. We decided to make the move before circumstances forced us to move. At Brightondale, we so appreciate Kari as our Life Care Manager. And we were able to get a larger apartment which enabled us to bring a lot of our art with us. That was very important. If we had waited until a crisis, we might not have been able to do that.
“We just appreciate the fact that we can be together,” adds Catherine. So on that candle-lit Valentine’s Eve, they toasted the day, the past, the future, and each other. Cherish on.
For more information about Lifesprk Wishes or Lifesprk/Brightondale services, please contact us at 952-345-8770, or via email at ShineOn@lifesprk.com.
A special thanks to Lifesprk for documenting and sharing this story.