No ifs, ands or buts about it, Linda “Twig” “Twiggy” Henretty is the real deal.
Twig, as she prefers, is one who has always taken the road less traveled and continues to do so, much to the absolute pleasure of those who know her.
It’s no game that she dresses the way she does — in brightly patterned clothes and always with a hat. She doesn’t mind that others tag it “costumes.” That’s who she is: charismatic and a beacon of fun.
“I have some customers who tell me ‘We know the food is good,’ ” said the owner of the 17-year-old Twig’s Diner in Barberton (500 feet from Norton city limits). ‘But mostly we just come in to see what you have on,’ or ‘I can’t start my morning without a Twig fix,’ ” Twiggy delighted in sharing.
In many ways, Twig is much like the main character from one of her favorite TV shows — I Love Lucy. Only she’s not slapstick: It’s just that you never know what’s coming next but it shouldn’t be missed.
Yet, make no mistake about it, Twig — who is svelte and always tan — is a businesswoman, too.
Before arriving at where she is now, Twig worked and honed her business savvy over the years at a number of venues: Medina’s Otto’s Grotto (fine dining), L’il Joe’s/Iacomini’s in Bath Township, Jackie Lee’s in Coventry Township, Carnaby Street (in the Merriman Valley) among others. She also worked off and on as a nanny and a house cleaner.
“I was always willing to learn,” said Twig who credits that as the key to her successes.
At the urging of two colleagues, I dropped by the comfy little place, which seats 52, and is known for its good eats and friendly atmosphere. It’s a venue where everybody knows your name if you’ve been there a time or two. And if you’re new, you always get a welcome bell and a wish from Twig to “have a super, sparkling day!”
Not surprisingly, this slice-of-life eatery — with its brightly colored and eclectically decorated walls — are an extension of its owner and yet another smile-starter for her loyal customers who’ve turned into her friends.
“What makes me sad is that I didn’t keep a journal from when I first opened,” Twig lamented, adding, “The customers have made it happen here.”
My visit did not disappoint. Besides uncovering good, unpretentious, comfort food — designed not so much to be photographed but to please the palate — I also found a “special” that Twig had carved out for herself: a wedding. Hers.
Well, a wedding with a twist, that is, for the 64-year-old.
Here’s the skinny.
The former Linda “Twig” Romeo and her beloved Bruce Henretty were married 50 years ago this month in their native Turtle Creek, Pa.
Yes, she was 14.
Odds makers no doubt were against it.
But Twig and Bruce — neither one a stranger to hard work or the ability not to take life too seriously — made it work and each other happy in the process.
“I thought he had money at first because his family had a bathroom inside and a bathtub and we didn’t,” she laughed. “Turns out they lived in the projects! … I always tease him that all I got was a broom and some bills.
“I climbed a ladder with him and we’ve had an amazing journey.”
So, instead of celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a family dinner with their two sons and their families or even with a larger party, the Bath Township couple decided to have the wedding they never had.
Mostly it was Twig’s doing — but of course, you already figured that out. In fact, she wrote the vows; yes for both of them.
Bruce, who has worked as a mechanic for Giant Eagle 33 years and counting, is the total opposite of Twig.
“He explains to my newer customers, ‘She ain’t right,’ Twig teased.
Back to the wedding — which took place on May 18, 50 years to the day they first said their “I do’s.”
“My dream was always to be that bride and have a big wedding,” Twig continued. “My parents did what they could but they couldn’t afford much. … I wore my aunt’s light-green prom dress. The reception was at the fire hall. And our honeymoon was at Conneaut Lake Park and Niagara Falls. …
“But I never had the wedding I wanted. … First of all, I love brides. I cry at weddings I see on the beach in Florida and I don’t even know the bride.”
As a caterer, Twig has been up close and fairly personal at scores of weddings over the years that were a constant reminder of her dream.
So in true Twig style she decided to do something about it.
Always frugal and community oriented, Twig decided to shop for her it-had-to-be-white wedding gown at the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Shop in Akron’s Wallhaven area.
She found it: a never-been-worn, strapless, lace number with an original price tag of $599, which she got out the door, including a veil, for $99. And get this: She stored it at her sister’s house so Bruce wouldn’t see it before the ceremony at Rosemont Country Club.
Twig — who naturally had to be true to herself — ditched the veil, opting instead for a white meringue-looking fascinator (headpiece) with netting and red and white feathers designed especially for her by Akron-based but nationally known milliner Paula Singleton. She punctuated her ensemble with a red boa and red shoes, and she was ready for her big day.
Bruce and the couple’s two sons — Bruce and Jeff, who walked Mom down the aisle — wore traditional, black tuxedoes, more befitting of their personalities. Red-and-white feather boutonnieres adorned their lapels.
The bride, who chose a feather rather than a floral bouquet, was flanked by her dear friends Brenda Anderton of Florida and Karen Shaffer of Richfield, who had the option of wearing red or black or both. Rounding out the bridal party were the couple’s grandsons Tyler, 11, and Nathan, 9, and granddaughter Hannah, 17, and her boyfriend, Austin Phillips.
Reception dancing music was handled by the Larry Alltop Band.
The ceremony was performed by family friend Karla Maple while Linda Kanary delivered a poignant message in the form of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song I Will Be Here:
“Tomorrow morning if you wake up
And the sun does not appear
I ... I will be here
If in the dark we lose sight of love
Hold my hand and have no fear
’Cause I ... I will be here
I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we’re older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here, hmmmm. ...”
The song’s message was not so much for Bruce and Twig, who’ve already lit their life with love, but for those who were there as eyewitnesses to what they created.
Here’s to you, Twig and Bruce, to comfort food and indoor toilets. But mostly and always to the power of love.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.