Little did they know when they first laid eyes on each other as 16-year-olds at Fenway Park that the stadium would be an auspicious touchstone in their relationship — and the spot where they would receive vaccinations, five decades later, amid a global pandemic.
As they rolled up their sleeves to accept the shots last week, their minds wandered back to a simpler time, they said.
It was a humid summer day in 1967, and the Boston Red Sox were playing the Chicago White Sox. Tom was an usher at the stadium, and Donna was a die-hard fan.
“As I recall, it was a crowded game,” Tom said, and yet, of about 30,000 spectators there that day, one in particular caught his gaze.
He was ushering people to their seats in Section 9 when Donna walked up the ramp. As a self-proclaimed sports fanatic, she frequented the ballpark with friends, so Tom had spotted her there before.
“She was a very pretty girl,” he said.
On several occasions, he hoped to get her attention, but he hadn’t yet found the right moment — until then.
“When she came up the ramp that day, she wasn’t with her four or five girlfriends. I felt if I’m ever going to talk to her, now is the time,” Tom said.
He gingerly approached Donna and introduced himself. Soon, he learned the attraction was mutual.
“I thought he was cute,” Donna said.
Neither Tom nor Donna remember who won the game that day. Admittedly, they were a little distracted. The two teenagers, smitten from the start, were the real winners that day, as far as they were concerned.
“The spin the family puts on all of this is that Donna was in pursuit of a ballplayer, but she had to settle for an usher,” Tom said.
In 1971, after four years of dating — and countless baseball games attended together — 20-year-old Tom decided to propose. He figured Fenway Park was the perfect place to pop the big question.
“I thought it was most appropriate because that’s where we met, and Donna is a big sports fan,” said Tom, who buried the engagement ring at the bottom of a brimming popcorn container.
“We were sitting out in the center-field bleachers, and it was a beautiful day,” he continued. “Incidentally, she didn’t share the popcorn with me. She ate her way to the engagement ring.”
“I was very surprised,” Donna said. “I never expected it would happen at Fenway.”
Over the years, Fenway Park remained “a special location for us,” she continued. The couple regularly took their three children to baseball games while they were growing up, and, in recent years, have brought several of their seven grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 13, to ballgames.
“Fenway Park has always played a big part in our lives,” Tom said. “We certainly took our kids and showed them — maybe more often than they would have liked — exactly where we met.”
Their daughter, Nicole Maynard, 39, has fond family memories of Fenway Park.
“I grew up going to games there, and I always felt the significance knowing it’s where my parents met,” she said.
Now, as a mother of two, “it’s so cool to be able to take your kids to the place where their grandparents first met,” Maynard added.
When it came time to plan their 35th wedding anniversary celebration, Tom decided to arrange a surprise party for Donna. Choosing the location for the event, he said, was easy.
He rented out a suite at Fenway, of course, and invited close friends and family to celebrate.
“I can’t get too much past my wife. But we were able to keep it a secret and pull it off. It was a really fun experience,” Tom said.
“I was truly shocked,” Donna added. “What a great, fun party.”
The next major — yet unanticipated — milestone the couple celebrated at Fenway was getting their coronavirus vaccinations. When they became eligible to book their appointments and learned that the stadium was one of the spots where shots were being administered, that’s where they hoped to go.
“I jokingly said to my husband, ‘Wow, if we could get it there, imagine the picture we could take!’” Donna said. “But I knew how difficult booking it would be.”
Although the couple wanted to secure their vaccination appointments at Fenway Park, “the main priority was getting it,” Donna said, adding that they would have accepted appointments anywhere.
Given the scramble to secure a spot, she and her younger sister logged on in the middle of the night to maximize their chances of getting three appointments at Fenway — one for each of them and Tom. To their delight, they succeeded.
“We really lucked out,” said Donna, who was a kindergarten teacher for two decades. “It was like winning the lottery.”
They received their first doses Feb. 15 and their second shots March 8. The experience of getting vaccinated where they met, got engaged and made countless memories with their family was “very special,” Tom said.
“It all came full circle,” Donna echoed.
For the couple, being vaccinated is a big relief. Donna looks after her 93-year-old father, so they have been vigilant about safety protocols throughout the pandemic.
“I definitely feel an increased sense of security,” said Tom, who worked for the government and retired last year.
“I’m so excited for them,” Maynard said. “It’s such a special moment, on top of all the other special moments they’ve had at Fenway.”
Donna said she and her husband remain “cautiously optimistic” about the pandemic.
“We are certainly not out of the dark yet, but I can see the light,” she said.
The couple is most excited to hug their grandchildren again, one of whom is already arranging a sleepover at their home in Waltham, Mass.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” Tom said.
They are also eager to take their grandchildren to a Red Sox game when it’s safe.
Next year, the couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They haven’t planned any parties yet, but they have an idea about where they might commemorate the occasion.
For now, though, they are relieved to have gotten their vaccines, and to have marked yet another milestone at Fenway Park.
Donna said there is only one way to truly describe the experience: “It was a home run.”
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