Six months into their budding relationship, Peter Travers sat beside Caroline Walradt on a sofa at her home in South Brunswick, New Jersey. “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, New Jersey, 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 second-grade 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.”
Among the many places where Walradt and Travers lived was Tehran, Iran, and both were there during the same window of time in 1973, overlapping by a handful of days. Though they had many mutual friends, they had never met.
Travers, who had gone to 14 different schools by the time he reached ninth grade, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and received a joint law degree and MBA from Columbia. Walradt graduated from the University of Virginia and received an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona.
Their commonality included a combined four cats. Sophie and Jasper, who belong to Walradt, and Red Cloud and Geronimo, who belong to Travers, would also eventually meet at their church during a blessing ceremony for the pets of parishioners.
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, New Jersey, 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.
“Here was this wonderful person that I had known for years,” said Travers, who had been separated from his wife for a year and a half before he began dating Walradt. “I was sort of remembering that there was a world out there, and I was trying to get my house in order and finish my divorce to basically be in the frame of mind to be able to pay attention to someone like Caroline.” (His divorce did not become official until this year.)
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.
“She’s our favorite teacher, she’s awesome,” said Jonathan, as Colby nodded in agreement before adding, “she’s so nice because she lets us eat pizza.”
The young boys particularly enjoyed the moment just before the bridal party’s entrance when the organist began playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a tip of the cap to Travers, a San Francisco Giants fan.
Moments later, the boys’ eyes grew wider at the sight of the bride, in a white wedding dress by Romona Keveza, as she was escorted down the aisle, arm in arm, by her son, Trent Walradt.
They made their way toward the groom to a trumpeter’s traditional tune, the “Prince of Denmark’s March,” which breathed a regal resonance into the tiny church, “where the miracle that is Caroline and Peter began,” said Brown, whose heartfelt ceremony from the “Book of Common Prayer” was spectacular in its simplicity.
“Today we celebrate Caroline and Peter,” he said. “Their story is God’s story. It’s a story of new life and new hope, of a resurrection.”
The couple sealed their exchange of vows and rings with a long kiss, drawing thunderous applause and putting huge smiles on the faces of the tuxedo-clad groomsmen, among them the groom’s two sons, Nicholas and Peter Travers, as well as his two daughters, Georgia and Mary Travers, who served as bridesmaids, and the bride’s daughter, Jessica Walradt, her maid of honor.
“They help make each other better people,” Jessica Walradt said shortly after the bride and groom walked hand in hand out of the church and into a classic white 1961 Bentley. “My mom is just so happy, just so giddy with excitement. She deserves all of this happiness.”
As the guests poured out of the church, many boarded shuttle buses provided by the couple that whisked them off to the reception, which was held at the groom’s spacious home in nearby Hopewell, New Jersey, where Champagne flowed and the groom greeted his guests, and treated his new bride, to his own rendition of Frank Sinatra’s, “The Way You Look Tonight.”
“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, Florida. “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.”
The bride was eager to begin a new journey.
“It will be nice to see Peter every night before he goes to sleep, and again in the morning when he awakes,” she said. “That may sound trite, but to me it’s both a comfort and a blessing, and a constant reminder that I’m now in the place where I’m supposed to be.”
ON THIS DAY
Where All Saints’ Church, Princeton, New Jersey
When March 23, 2019
A BRASS (NOT FINANCIAL) INSTRUMENT Scott Ricketts, who is comptroller of the groom’s investment business, is an accomplished trumpet player who performed the Prince of Denmark’s March for the Bride’s procession.
THE DANCE BEFORE THE FIRST DANCE The couple’s first dance was to “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” by Louis Armstrong. They first danced to it in the bride’s kitchen.
A TRIBUTE TO MOM In Walradt’s bridal bouquet were gardenias, which were her mother’s favorite flowers.