By Leigh Ann Rutledge
When Dick asked Barbara “to be his valentine”, he didn’t ask for a day, he asked her for life.
Dick Walton proposed to Barb Diederich on Valentine’s Day in 1954 in the driveway by the old farmhouse where she grew up between Jewett and Hopedale off old Route 151.
“He got me a box of candy,” said Barb Walton of Carrollton. “Then he really surprised me with an engagement ring.”
Valentine’s Day became her holiday. Dick would get her a box of candy and they would go out and do something special, usually going to dinner.
The couple met in November 1953 while both were working at Good Roads in Minerva. Barb worked in the cost accounting office and Dick, who had returned home from serving in the military, worked in the shipping department.
“At noon, we would go down from the offices through the shipping department so we could go get lunch,” she said. The couple began dating close to Christmas and married in July 1954. They were married until Dick passed away in late 2001.
“Dick gave me my first box of Valentine candy and it turned into a gradual eruption,” Barb explained. “It became our thing. Then friends started getting me boxes of candy and heart-shaped mementos. When my children got older, they got me boxes of candy.”
She kept the boxes and mementos throughout the years, unsure what to do with them. She didn’t want to throw them out and one day decided to display them on a little bed in an upstairs bedroom that wasn’t being used.
As her collection continued to grow, she moved them into the larger bedroom, once occupied by her son, Daryl. To date, she has 44 candy boxes, along with pillows, candy dishes and other items. A big pink heart-shaped box is full of old letters. Barb thinks this may be the first one Dick got for her but isn’t completely sure, saying she should have put a slip of paper in each one with the date it was received.
A heart-shaped box of candy from her daughter, Karla, and son-in-law, Mark, sits empty on the bed.
“Their dog, Bailey, ate all the candy and almost destroyed the box,” Barb stated.
She now thinks more of Valentine’s Day than her wedding anniversary.
“Since he passed, I think of the good times and the fun things through the years,” she explained, thinking of how it all began with the box of candy and the ring.
Barb has foil wrapped chocolate hearts, jelly beans and other Valentine’s Day candy in candy dishes in her living room. Her favorite is mint chocolate.
She will also be getting valentines for a few of her high school classmates. About seven of them gather every few months at the restaurant in Jewett in between the reunions. This year they will meet Feb. 15.
“I thought if she would have just set it for Feb. 14,” Barb said. “But I will still give everyone a valentine.”