Herman and Ann Howard have been married for 50 years. Ann professes to know the reason behind their marital success. In a word: surprise — especially those that are carefully planned and then presented with a generous mixture of thoughtfulness and love on Valentine’s Day.
The latest of those surprises was delivered Friday morning on Cupid’s day. Ann and longtime friend Patricia Cooper were wined and dined by their husbands complete with love-song serenades by a barbershop quarter during brunch. The romantic setting was Tony & Mrs. K’s Café on East Yosemite and Cottage avenues in Manteca.
As the two couples were getting ready to enjoy their meal, and unbeknownst to the two women, four sharply dressed men in all-white performance suits with red cumberbunds and bowties tiptoed inside the cozy and art-filled dining place. The smiling quartet quickly positioned themselves in front of the seated couples and, with understanding suddenly dawning in the surprised women’s wide-open eyes, strains of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Heart of My Heart” sung a cappella filled the air as the grinning diners around them looked on with appreciative eyes and ears.
Herman Howard and longtime friend Elwood Cooper have been indulging their wives with such pleasant surprises through the years, and not just on Valentine’s Day. Still, because they did not have any inkling as to what was about to happen during their brunch double date, the wives were completely caught unawares and were genuinely surprised.
“That’s why we’re still married!” said Ann Howard, bright eyes dancing and smiling before she dropped a thank-you kiss on her husband’s lips.
The men set up the special barbershop-quartet treat for their wives in the morning instead of in the evening – determined as they were to continue their tradition of surprising their wives on Cupid’s day – because they already had another Valentine’s Day event that they committed to that evening, Elwood Cooper explained.
“Neither of us knew about it. It was wonderful!” Ann Howard said glancing at her smiling friend Patricia.
Keeping the musical treat a secret was no easy task, Herman and Elwood said.
“It was kind of hard because…,” started a smiling Elwood Cooper.
“…You have to coordinate everything,” picked up a grinning Herman Howard, finishing what Cooper was going to say, a clear evidence of the close friendship they have cemented through the years.
“This was Elwood’s idea,” added Herman, a retired truck driver who worked for Sealand Containers. His wife Ann was a hairdresser at various salons in the area, the last one at Hair Dimensions.
Elwood is a row-crop farmer in the south San Joaquin County area. His wife was a homemaker who also worked for a now-defunct telephone company in Manteca.
Before the barbershop quartet singers started singing, they presented the two women with long-stemmed red roses. The singers, who are members of the Golden Valley Chorus of Modesto which is affiliated with the national Barbershop Harmony Society, were comprised of Juan Quijano, tenor; Bob Chapman, base; Greg Pemeres, baritone; and, Chuck Root, lead tenor. Their performance at Tony & Mrs. K’s Café was one of nearly two-dozen singing Valentine’s day appearances they made around San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties on Friday.
Those were not the only surprises heaped on Ann Howard and Patricia Cooper that morning. Hovering in the background during the surprise musical performance was Manteca artist Donna Weahunt. After the quartet singers said their goodbyes, Weahunt went up to the couples and presented the women with a heart-and-rose original creation.
As it turned out, Weahunt, who owns ABC (Art Beyond Crafting) in Manteca, just happened to be at Tony & Mrs. K’s the day Elwood Cooper came in to make the reservation. Weahunt, who is a good friend of café owner Artemis Vourakis, said she could not help overhearing the conversation.
“It was so sweet,” she said about the story he heard from Cooper. And right away, she thought, “These ladies have got to be special; I have to do something special for these ladies,” she said of the wives who were the recipients of their husband’s thoughtfulness.
She did just that by personally presenting Ann and Patricia with the gifts that she personally created for them for Valentine’s Day.