NEWARK—This Valentine’s Day, at a hospital known for its outstanding repair of broken hearts, seven couples celebrate a visit by cupid that took place during their dedicated days of patient care.
Each couple met while working at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, proving that love can be found in many places.
“Our staff members are dedicated individuals who give their all to our patients, and that caring spirit is something they have in common,” says John A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Director of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “It is not surprising that like personalities would find each other, and we celebrate all of the special couples who have met at The Beth.”
Fishing for a Spouse
Scotch Plains resident Barbara Doran, MA, an education specialist in Nursing, will marry her longtime love, Paul Ross, in July, after a mutual love of fishing brought them together. During a break from teaching, Ms. Doran encountered Mr. Ross, a former employee in the Information Technology Department, when she overheard his conversation about a fishing trip.
“I mentioned that I was an avid fisherwoman and had just returned from a week of fishing in the Florida Keys,” she relates.
Overjoyed at finding a woman who shared his passion, Mr. Ross asked Ms. Doran on a fishing date. When cloudy skies intervened, they changed the venue to the movies. Inseparable from that point on, the two have fished at the Jersey Shore, in Cabo, and many local fishing holes, and will be married on a cruise to the Bahamas. For Ms. Doran, who Mr. Ross refers to as his “angler-ette,” fishing is an apt metaphor for love.
“If you are willing to sit quietly in the cold and dark for a long time with someone, then you know that is a special relationship,” she adds.
At Long Last, Love
For Maplewood resident Susan Schottenfeld, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is part of the fabric of her life. Having been Born at the Beth, she lived across the street for 15 years and her mother trained there as a nurse. She held her first job at The Beth and also met her husband, Aron Lifschultz, in the busy halls.
The couple met in the 1972 when he was an operating room technician and she worked in a clerical capacity. They became close friends, “two hippies who liked the same music and shared the same sense of humor,” and stayed in touch through different jobs and separate paths. Later in life, after Mr. Lifschultz’s divorce, the two reunited and the friendship grew into something more.
Mrs. Schottenfeld, for whom this was her first marriage, recalls that her mother was both surprised and thrilled. On December 22, 2001, they married in her parent’s living room.
“The title of our story should be, ‘True love comes to those who wait,’” she adds.
It is fitting that a man who has dedicated his stellar career to the repair of countless hearts should find a woman who makes his own heart so full. Oldwick resident Victor Parsonnet, MD, Director of the Pacemaker and Defibrillation Center and world-renowned cardiac surgeon, feels fortunate to have found love with his wife, Jane, the person who skillfully managed the Department of Surgery at Newark Beth for 23 years.
Dr. Parsonnet interviewed Mrs. Cort, who was then managing the Pacemaker and Defibrillator Center, for the role of office manager, and was surprised when she declined the job. She had found working for physicians to be disagreeable at times. After discussion, she agreed to take the job for three months and try him out. He was amused because it was a reversal to “put the boss on probation.” The arrangement worked beautifully.
Mrs. Parsonnet remembers the pride she felt to work with a physician who gave so generously to his patients. “He cares so much about his patients. That’s what I love,” she relates. And he remembers her as an employee so thorough that he still finds remnants of her precise work in his files.
After her retirement, and now both widowed, Dr. and Mrs. Parsonnet met again at a Millburn restaurant where she was dining and he was getting take-out food. After an invitation to stay and eat, they found a renewed connection. Mrs. Parsonnet, a lover of ice cream, had secretly vowed to marry the first man who bought her an ice cream cone.
Unaware of her vow, Dr. Parsonnet offered to buy her a butter pecan and chocolate cone on a date, and the deal was sealed. Along with what she describes as “a soft, gentle love,” the two share six children, ten grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
“To have such a companion was just wonderful, and I fell in love with her,” he says. “She fits so perfectly into my life. We have not had an unhappy word in six years of marriage.”
A Hurricane Honeymoon
When Little Falls resident Botros (Peter) Malek was referred to train as an ultrasound technician in the department Ob/Gyn at NBIMC, he did not know that his referring teacher hoped to play matchmaker. Mr. Malek was sent to train with another former student, Marlaina Santiago-Malek, and the teacher believed that the two were perfectly suited.
“She sent him to train for an extra long time with me,” recalls Ms. Santiago-Malek with a laugh.
Acting on his best behavior to impress his new teacher, Mr. Malek continued to call her after his training finished. His persistence paid off, and the two were married in July 2005, with their former matchmaking teacher as “the flower girl.”
They embarked on a honeymoon in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina hit. Stranded three days into their trip, the couple cooked for other panicked guests at the hotel as the kitchen staff headed for home. Mr. Malek, who owned a restaurant, and his wife, who had cooked at a camp, showed remarkable teamwork. Fortunately they were rescued and flown home the same day after a family member made special arrangements
A second honeymoon in Vegas proved the couple to be lucky in love.
The Hunt for Love
Cokesbury resident Jon Sicat, DO, Director of Medicine –Pediatric Residency Program, and Jo Anne Yu Ang, RN, formerly a neonatal nurse at ChoNJ, married in 2004. The couple met in February 1996 in the neonatal intensive care unit where they were conducting a spinal tap procedure on a premature baby. Dr. Sicat was a resident at the time.
After the procedure, the two began socializing in groups with friends and their paths continued to cross. During the 1997 holiday season, the couple and a mutual friend were suppose to go together to a party, but the friend canceled at the last minute.
“Our friend said, ‘But the two of you should just go,’ “ Ms. Ang recalls. “We did, and we had a great time.”
In July 2003 the couple and 30 friends and relatives went on a private scavenger hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Participants were given clues that led them to specific works of art. After the hunt, the group met at “The Garden of Versailles.” That is when Dr. Sicat announced, “For me, the hunt is over,” and proposed.
Dancing into Love
Her years as a ballet dancer performing with the England’s Royal Ballet paid off in an unusual way for Union resident Babette Coffey-Fisch RN, who has worked for 30 years in the Department of Surgery at NBIMC. Husband Dan Fisch, M.S., who worked at the hospital as a cardiac researcher for the Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, first noticed her dancer’s legs when they worked together on the same unit. He immediately asked her out. Noting that she was 10 years his senior, Mrs. Coffey-Fisch told him that he was “nuts.”
Fortunately Mr. Fisch was persistent. He proposed the first week they met and, after eight years of dating, they married. Ms. Coffey-Fisch realized that, despite her fear of remarriage, she “could not imagine life without him.” With the blessing of the entire Cardiovascular Surgery department, they wed and have been married for 23 years.
Ms. Coffey-Fisch, who became a nurse after her daughter developed retinoblastomas, malignant tumors of the retina, has found Mr. Fisch to be an outstanding surrogate father to her two children. He has also encouraged her dreams of visually recording dance techniques. She has produced five successful DVDs for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. From a solo performance to a pair’s dance, this couple has found marriage to be a happy performance.
Dinner and Love are Served
When Manalapan resident Michelle Mancuso, RN with the NICU, arrives home from a long day caring for premature and ailing newborns, she has a pleasant scene waiting for her. Boyfriend Wulf Sonne, Security Officer with Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, always has dinner ready, a glass of wine poured by her plate. His stroganoff and blackened chicken dishes are among her favorites.
“He’s the most caring, sweetest person ever,” she relates. “We get along so well.”
After becoming a widow, Ms. Mancuso befriended Mr. Sonne and realized that many of her relatives from North Caldwell knew him from the neighborhood car wash, which he owned. On their first date they were so preoccupied with each other that they went into the wrong movie. After three years of dating, and trips including visits to the Outer Banks and to Niagara Falls, they made the relationship public at the annual Employee Recognition Dinner, to the delight of their co-workers.
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