Armed with a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates and a card signed by officers with the Fredericksburg Police Department, Sgt. Scott Worley set out on his pre-Valentine’s Day mission.
After he rang each doorbell and the lady of the house approached, he addressed each as “young lady,” then handed out goodies and a few well-placed compliments.
“And of course, we have sweets for the sweet,” he said as he gave Debbie Zimmerman her heart-shaped container of chocolates.
“Oh, thank you, I love it,” the 69-year-old gushed. “I don’t have nobody, so this is good.”
Bringing some Valentine’s Day cheer was the point of the special deliveries. On Thursday and Friday, six uniformed officers were scheduled to stop at 19 city residences and spend a few minutes with senior citizens who don’t get out much or have family in the area.
The act seemed as popular with the givers as the receivers. Worley, a 30-year veteran of police work, and has spent a lot of time doing community service projects in the department.
“This is actually the fun part of the job,” he said.
When he handed a bouquet of red-and-white carnations to Irean Surles, he quipped: “What women can resist flowers?”
“None of them,” she responded. “We all love ’em.”
He gave each recipient a card that read: “Don’t cop out. I’ll protect you all the time, if you’ll be my Valentine.” He made a point of identifying his signature on the card each time, just as he apologized that he wasn’t “any prettier.”
“Oh, you look grand,” said May Jane Tillman, who opened the door of her Hanover Street home and invited him inside. “What are you all doing making Valentine’s Day calls?”
Tillman, who will turn 92 this summer, talked about every topic that popped into her head during the visit, from the launch of Sputnik to the coal mines of the Kentucky town where she was raised. It wasn’t the first time a delivery turned into an extended visit, Worley said.
“I think they’re just happy for the company,” he said.
Tillman said she planned to dry the petals of the white daises Worley brought her and turn them into potpourri.
“I don’t like to throw anything away,” she said, and that led to another conversation about “comfort quilts” she makes from scraps of material for those who live in nursing homes or have experienced a crisis.
From there, the two launched into a discussion of the Civil War and how each had ancestors on both sides. Worley mentioned he was from Charlottesville, and Tillman talked about how much she loved the college town and how she’d planned to earn a doctorate there.
“But I couldn’t because my husband ran off with an older woman,” she said. “Well, not that much older, but it makes a better story.”
Then, the topic turned to tobacco and how Tillman had beaten the odds. “I’ve been smoking cigarettes for 70 years, so what should have happened to me?”
He showed her a photo of the German shepherd he’d adopted as a rescue, and she talked about all the cats she’d loved, lost and buried in the backyard.
“Cats could run the world if they wanted to, but they can’t be bothered with it,” she said.
The visits also had a serious side, as the department gave each senior a red bag filled with information about community resources and a “File of Life” magnetized pocket to place on the refrigerator. It’s for information about a person’s medical condition and medications.
There also were brochures about scams, and each of the women Worley visited had gotten calls from various people trying to get money by posing as IRS agents, health care officials or even their own grandchildren.
Zimmerman was grateful for the scamming brochures, as well as the Valentine’s Day treats.
“I love my police department,” she said. “They’re sweethearts.”