On a Wednesday in June 2009, Todd spotted a beautiful woman, college-age like him, demolishing a plate of chicken fingers at the Irish Pub.
Like him, Julia had joined friends for Center City Sips happy hour. Having arrived directly from her marketing internship at SEPTA, she could not focus on socializing until she was less hungry.
A little because the chicken looked good, a lot because the woman relishing it did, Todd approached and asked flirtatiously, “Could I have a chicken finger?” Just as flirtatiously, Julia said no. But he sat, and they talked happily while she ate -- which was Todd's real reason for the question.
“We had the degrees-of-separation talk, and found out we had both been at parties together, and had so many friends in common,” said Julia, who grew up in East Falls and graduated from Penn Charter High School. “He is such a nice guy, so easy to talk to, and very funny,” she said.
“Julia's got a great smile, and she smiles all the time and always giggles because she's got a great sense of humor,” said Todd, who grew up in Fort Washington and graduated from Upper Dublin High School. He was interning at the Burns Group engineering firm. “She loves everything there is to love about Philadelphia -- and we had that in common.”
There were more group get togethers, then Todd suggested they meet in the food court beneath the Comcast Center for lunch. Three weeks later, Todd threw her a birthday party. “It was at his house, and he paid for the keg,” Julia said appreciatively.
By the time she returned to Lafayette and he to Penn for senior year, they were strongly committed.
She graduated with a degree in English, he with one in mechanical engineering, in 2010. Julia, who recently accepted a job managing client ad campaigns for Health Union, began her career at KYW. Todd is a Bala Consulting Engineers mechanical engineer.
On a late August Monday in 2014, Todd and Julia made plans to meet for dinner, but, first, he began one of his twice-weekly runs. He remembers passing Boathouse Row. “The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital bed,” Todd said.
Todd's heart had been attacked by a virus, damaging a ventricle. As he ran, his heart went into an irregular rhythm, then stopped.
Luckily, the couple walking behind him were a doctor at HUP and an ER doctor in Camden. They started CPR. Two nurses and a third doctor happened on the scene, too. One got an AED from a nearby park. Another found Todd's mother's number in his cellphone.
Soon after his five days in the hospital -- which included surgery to implant a defibrillator in his chest -- Todd went home to the place he and Julia share in the Devil's Pocket section of Graduate Hospital.
His first defibrillator failed about six months later. His second one is going strong. Later, Todd developed atrial fibrillation -- an ailment more common among older people, but one that is manageable with medication.
“During all of this time, Julia has been great,” Todd said. “She shows me her smile, and that keeps me going and wanting to get better. I don't want to make her sad or make her worry.”
More surgery is coming, with a goal of getting him to the point where he doesn't need meds and can run again.
“He is the only person I know who could go through an experience like this and still wake up every day and give 110 percent to everything,” Julia said. “It has been such an amazing thing to watch.”
The couple participate in the annual American Heart Association Heart Walk, and last fall, Todd's company was a sponsor. Todd and Julia have also become CPR evangelists. They and a multitude of friends, family, and coworkers have all become CPR-certified.
How does forever sound?
Every July 22, the couple celebrate their dating anniversary. In early July 2015, he got the blessing of Julia's parents. Julia, who is now 28, made a reservation at William Street Common in University City.
“Let's walk to dinner so we can stop on the South Street Bridge and take a photo of the new Comcast Center -- a big piece of steel just went up,” Todd suggested. Mechanical engineer Todd, 29, is working on the project, and Julia, used to his wanting to keep an eye on his babies, thought nothing of it. She wasn't following construction closely enough to realize there was no big addition just then.
When they stopped, he looked not at the building, but at Julia, and he handed her a gift: A wooden frame with their names and the date on it -- the same gift Julia always orders from an artist on Etsy when friends get engaged.
She knew what it meant before he knelt.
At William Street, Julia was shocked to see her parents, Anne and Tom, and his, Richard and Lois, and many other family members and friends, waiting to celebrate.
It was so them
Their Catholic ceremony was held at St. Bridget Church in East Falls -- the same church Julia's parents and grandparents were married in, and the church Todd started attending with Julia when they got serious.
He didn't go to church growing up, but he will be confirmed at St. Bridget during the Easter Vigil. “This is definitely the right thing, especially considering all the health issues I've been through,” he said. “It makes going to church a lot more meaningful.”
During the wedding ceremony, Father Feeney called Julia's maid of honor, Maria, and one of Todd's best men, his twin brother Brett, up to the altar to sign the marriage license. Todd's brother Doug was also a best man; his sister, Missy, was a bridesmaid; and Julia's brother, Thomas, was a groomsman.
The reception for 172 was held at Top of the Tower, which has since changed its name to Sky Philadelphia, atop the Bell Atlantic Tower. The panoramic views of Philadelphia sold it. “We met here, were both raised here, started our lives together here, and we plan to be here forever,” Julia said.
“Plus, it's at the top of a skyscraper,” added Todd.
As soon as the couple's dance to “You're Just Too Good to Be True,” ended, everyone else was on the floor. “It was one big party,” Todd said.
“The first time I saw Julia since the night previous was when she was walking down the aisle with her father,” Todd said. He scared his brother a bit when he whispered, “My heart is beating pretty fast right now.” But Todd was more fine than he'd ever been. “It was a really special moment, seeing the beautiful bride walk down the aisle in such a beautiful church. I knew it was going to be a great day.”
On the advice of their wedding planner, the couple spent 15 minutes alone in the reception space before guests arrived. “I had been concerned about the timing, the transportation, and all that little stuff. At that moment, it was, 'Who cares about everything else! We're married!' My heart was so full.”
The budget crunch
A bargain: “Julia and her mom are like the queen and princess of couponing,” Todd reports. They put their skills to work during the previous year's after-Christmas sales and bought holiday lights, gold pillar candles, white Christmas trees, and gold ornaments. Their crafting skills turned these into centerpieces and other decor. Julia also got her dress half-off at a sample sale.
The splurge: Todd first heard the Vincent James Band the weekend before he and Julia met -- at his brother's wedding. Julia wanted to hear them before hiring them, and so, at the invitation of the band, she wore a gown, he a tux, and they attended a wedding of strangers. “We had a random couple at our wedding, as well, because the band asked if they could come to hear them,” Julia said.