Sports, family, and love make a relationship perfect

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Janet really needed a break from dating, she told the friend who was showing her how the Jdate website works. Yet one man’s profile had something that caught her eye: his email address, Flyer51974.

“I’m not interested in meeting or anything,” she typed in an email. “I just wanted you to know that I’m probably the only woman who knows what that means — it’s the day the Flyers won the Stanley Cup.”

Barnett was intrigued by her hockey knowledge, but shared Janet’s lack of interest. She lived two hours away in Shavertown, near Wilkes-Barre, and her email address, Janet4Kids, made him think she had four children, and he already had three of his own.

Still, they typed, and a two-day volley of messages and phone calls led both Barnett, a Northeast Philly native, and Janet, who was born in Montreal and lived in Miami before moving to Pennsylvania, to reevaluate.

“I had been separated for eight years and I knew a lot of people, but, oh my God, we had too much in common,” said Barnett, now 73, who was then a CPA and partner at Strouss Hui Roomberg Ellis PC.

Each of them has three children from a former marriage — the 4 in Janet’s email address meant “for” and was a reference to her work as an attorney representing abused and neglected children. They share an intense dedication to their families and a lifelong love of sports as participants, spectators, and coaches for their children’s baseball, hockey, and soccer teams. They hold the same values and ideas about what a romantic partnership should be. And their conversation simply flowed.

Four days after the first message, the two met in King of Prussia in the Ikea parking lot. “First, I did a criminal-background check on him to make sure he was nobody scary. And we did meet in a public space,” said Janet, who is now 62. They had dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, and “That was basically it,” she said.

Janet knew within a month they would marry. “It was shorter for me,” said Barnett. “I had it all planned out that if things worked out, Janet would move down here and we would get married in 2000.”

To be honest, he would have been ready for the big move sooner, but he did not want Janet to uproot her children during the middle of a school year and he couldn’t leave Greater Philadelphia due to his children, his job, and his elderly parents.

“For a whole year, she would come down here one weekend, and two weeks later, I would go to her house,” he said. By coincidence, her sons — then ages 12, 9, and 6 — and his kids — a 17-year-old daughter and twin 12-year-old boys — were with their other parents on the same weekends. In the Poconos, Janet and Barnett hiked and went on bike rides. In Philadelphia, they attended sporting events. Once his children knew her and hers knew him, they attended the children’s games together, too.

In December, six months after they met, Janet was at Barnett’s apartment in Meadowbrook, Montgomery County, when one of his sons said she really had to take a look at his dad’s computer screen. “Will you marry me?” Barnett had typed.

In early August 2020, the couple found their five-bedroom Huntingdon Valley home, a place with room for everyone.

Barnett’s father, Abraham, was not well enough to leave his nursing home so on Aug. 20, 2000, the couple wed in the chapel of the Golden Slipper in Northeast Philadelphia. In addition to Abraham, their 20 guests included Barnett’s mother, Anne; Janet’s parents, Paul and Lily; the couple’s six children; and their closest friends. The cantor from their synagogue performed a traditional Jewish ceremony, then Janet’s parents treated everyone to lunch at the Four Seasons.

Soon after the wedding, Janet took a job in the child advocacy unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

Their new household was a very busy one, with work and school, sports and visitation schedules. Barnett’s ex lived in a nearby town and eventually Janet’s ex-husband relocated to the area as well.

On the weekends when all the children were with Barnett and Janet, “we had five boys who were all pretty close in age together with us, and things got pretty wild,” Janet said.

As a family, Barnett, Janet, and the kids often attended baseball, hockey, and lacrosse games. They traveled to Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. They also spent two decades in the company of a series of former racing greyhounds.

Their children went to college and left home, eventually permanently. But to the couple’s joy, five of the six live in the area. Some have married or soon will, and there are now three grandchildren — two grandsons and a granddaughter.

On most days, the couple uses only a third of their big house, but they have no intention of selling it: It’s the place with room for the entire family — present and future. And Mimi and Zaide’s house will always be open for sleepovers.

“This new phase of our life is the best thing ever,” said Barnett.

Barnett retired in 2015 and delved into volunteer work, packing for Meals on Wheels two days a week and tutoring students in reading and math until the pandemic struck.

Eight years ago, Janet took a job in the special education unit of the Philadelphia School District’s general counsel’s office. She retired in 2021 and volunteers at an Elkins Park food bank.

The couple can often be found playing pickleball — a game one of Barnett’s sons introduced them to.

“We play all around the area, both indoors and outdoors,” said Barnett. “I play three to four days a week. Janet plays six or seven days.”

“I’m an extremely competitive athlete — I’ve always been that way,” said Janet. “We have a blast.”

Truth be told, they have a blast together no matter what they are doing, she added. “What I love about him now is what I loved about him when we first met, but even more so. He is the kindest, most loyal, and loving man I’ve ever met in my life — to me, to his children, and to my children. He understands me and accepts me for who I am.”

“Same,” said Barnett. “Janet is very hardworking. She’s honest. She’s loyal. She’s a very comforting person who really knows how to get me to calm down and feel good — she does this for me and for everybody.”

Barnett and Janet don’t want to change a thing. They love the time they spend playing pickleball, gathering with family, and — whatever else is happening — being together.

“We talked and talked the night we first met, and we’ve been talking for 23 years,” said Barnett. “We really like each other’s company.”

Love isn’t just about marriage, and love stories don’t stop at the wedding: We’re looking for stories about all kinds of love from parents and children, best friends, siblings, newlyweds and to-be-weds, and couples with experience. To be featured in a Love column, please send an email to [email protected] with your names, a few sentences about your story, and the best way to reach you. Please include your email address.



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