DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – This Valentine’s Day, thousands will untie Esther Price’s signature red ribbon to get to the sweet surprises inside, but no matter how many tasty treats await, one woman always knows what she wants and you won’t find it inside.
It’s not that Emma Baumgardner doesn’t like chocolate. It’s just that for her, the boxes are also filled with memories.
“Everybody says, ‘How do you keep all these boxes?’, well how can you throw them away because they’re pretty,” Emma says.
Emma got her first box in 1952 from her then boyfriend Hoyt.
“When he gave me that, I’d never seen a box of candy like that before,” Emma says. “So big. I loved it.”
Two years after that first box, Hoyt and Emma were married. He was a police officer, but he was never too busy to buy his wife her Valentine’s Day box of chocolates and Emma saved every one, nearly 60 in all, writing the date inside so she wouldn’t forget.
“He would try to get a different one each year, but sometimes he couldn’t remember, so some are the same boxes,” Emma says.
After the first few, Hoyt got them all from Esther Price.
Just as the boxes changed through the years, so did the Baumgardner’s. They built a house and raised a family, but sometimes, life’s surprises aren’t as sweet.
“I knew he was very sick, but he was such a fighter,” Emma says.
Hoyt battled cancer once, but it returned.
It was on a February trip back from one of his treatments that he made Emma take a detour she’d never forget.
“He said keep on going,” Emma says. “We get to Esther Price’s and he says turn in here and I said no babe you don’t have to buy me a box of candy. He said don’t I always buy you a box of candy for Valentines Day?”
It was the last box he’d ever get her. In September of 2011 Hoyt died of cancer.
“They say time heals,” Emma says. “It might a little bit, but it never goes away.”
Now, she had an empty heart to go with her empty boxes, but this Valentine’s Day, Emma had a surprise waiting for her.
After hearing about Emma’s story from one of her daughters, Esther Price owner Jim Day made sure she wouldn’t go without a box this year.
Soon Emma will add that box to her collection.
It will go in with the last one her husband gave her, a box called a “Forget-Me-Not”.
But in a way they’re all “Forget-Me-Not’s”, reminders of the love that’s still inside.
“He was the love of my life and always will be,” Emma says. “He’s right here in my heart.”