Love: Sue Van Orden & Bob Northrup

Newlyweds Sue Van Orden and Bob Northrup cut the cake at their wedding reception.
Newlyweds Sue Van Orden and Bob Northrup cut the cake at their wedding reception. (RACHEL WISNIEWSKI / Staff Photographer)

May 17, 2014, in Langhorne

Posted: May 29, 2014

Hello there

Sue had 58 years of memories in the Lower Makefield home where she and her late husband, Fred, raised their four children, but by 2012, it mostly felt really big and really empty.

"I felt I had to get someplace where there were people," she said.

Yet on the day she moved into her new apartment at Attleboro, a Langhorne retirement village, she wondered if she'd made a mistake. Then she saw someone familiar in the large corridor everyone calls Main Street.

"Bob!" she said. His eyes lit with recognition and they hugged hello.

For decades, Sue and Fred, and Bob and his late wife Virginia, had all attended Morrisville Presbyterian Church without really knowing one another - even though Bob once had to talk to Fred, a former Lower Makefield Township supervisor, about permits to build the home where he and Virginia raised their two children.

Virginia died of cancer. Later, Sue's best friend Gladys needed a bridge partner. In 1982, Bob and Gladys married. He became close to the four children she had with her late husband. And of course, he got to know his wife's best friend.

In 1985, Bob retired as the Souderton Area School District's business manager.

Sue and Fred had owned and run two factories together: Union Electrical Porcelain and Custom Abrasive Products. After Fred died from a heart attack in 1994, Sue sold them and retired. She lived alone in their big family home until moving to Attleboro.

Bob, a Navy veteran who served in World War II, had moved to Attleboro about 10 months prior. He and Gladys had put a deposit on an apartment several years before that. "We were in no hurry to move in; we were still happy with our home," he said. But in 2011, Gladys began having trouble with her lungs, and she died. Early the next year, Bob followed through on their moving plans, alone.

It struck Bob as silly that two cars were traveling from Attleboro to Morrisville Presbyterian each Sunday. "You want to ride with me?" he asked at one club meeting. It became their routine. Since Bob, who is now 93, and Sue, now 95, are both hard of hearing, they walked together, past the eyes of their fellow parishioners, to seats in the front.

"We were church gossip," Bob said.

After church, they lunched at J.B. Dawson's in Langhorne. And then they began getting together regularly during the week to practice lines for the drama club's lead roles in Guys and Dolls. Neither got the part, but they grew closer to each other.

In February 2013, the two went to the mall for shopping and lunch. Both wound up with food poisoning.

Sue was fine by the next morning. Bob, not so much. "I got the [Attleboro] nurse for him, and I would bring him food, although he couldn't eat very much," she said.

The best part? "She was there every day, and sat with me," Bob said.

Bad chicken led to romance.

That Christmas, bridge-player Bob put all his cards on the table in a greeting card: "I thought I had used up all my love, but I find there is still an abundance of love I have for you," he wrote.

Sue didn't say anything when she read the card, but she felt her heart melt. "It did something to me," she said. "The words were beautiful, and I thought it was wonderful that a man would write them."

How does forever sound?

Church gossip was one thing, but it bugged Sue that their Attleboro neighbors saw Bob going to her apartment every night after dinner - even though the observant poker players in the dining room also saw him walk back to his own place at 9 p.m., like clockwork.

"We're together so much, anyway. I think we ought to do something [about this]," Sue told Bob one night on her couch.

Bob doesn't mind a little scandal.

"I slept with another woman in Sue's bed!" he loves to tell people. (Only after jaws drop does he fill in the details: Sue and Fred were so happy with the landscaping work Gladys' son once did at their former Shore house they suggested he spend a week there, and he brought his parents, who slept in the master bedroom.)

But sensing this February 2014 conversation with Sue was headed in a very interesting direction, Bob asked, "What do you think we ought to do?"

"Why don't we get engaged?" Sue suggested. That, Bob said, was a fine idea. "Engagement means a ring," he told her.

So Bob took Sue to the jewelers, where she was presented with a parade of diamonds. Figuring this was the last engagement ring she'd ever wear, Sue chose a real sparkler.

It was so them

The couple wed where they fell in love: Attleboro. Friends they met there, Carl and Rosanne, served as attendants. The ceremony was held in the auditorium and the reception for the couple's children, stepchildren, children-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, and every Attleboro resident - more than 120 people - was held in the dining room.

The wedding ring got stuck when Bob tried to slip it on Sue's finger. "Spit on it," he told her, causing them both to giggle.

At the reception, Sue's son Rick asked Bob to hold Sue's hand. "Now put your hand on top of hers," he said. "Remember this moment and enjoy it. It may be the last time you have the upper hand." Everyone laughed.

Their first argument ever was over the reception menu. He wanted pigs in a blanket, but Sue got her shrimp and tea sandwiches.


Bob serenaded Sue with Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable." Then Sue sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to him. "We both felt we were so close and in love," Sue said. "The words themselves express how we feel," said Bob.

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Attleboro paid for a harpist and pianist.

The splurge: Bob wore a new pair of pants that he bought to go with the shirt and tie Sue gave him for his birthday.

The getaway

Sue and Bob spent the days after their wedding visiting with family members in from out of town and moving into their new Attleboro apartment. After their apartment is set up, they will plan a trip.


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