Wayne County Wanderings: The Picture of Young Love

To be completely honest, I've never been much of a Valentine's Day Fan.

While anyone who knows me can attest that I'm a hopeless romantic, this particular “holiday” has always seemed a bit contrived to me.

Sure, I like flowers and chocolate as much as the next person, but Valentine's Day has a bit of a phony feel … like something conjured by Hershey and FTD to boost business.

That being said, I was once again prepared to let Valentine's Day slide this year. I didn't do anything to “celebrate” it and I certainly didn't anticipate writing about it.

That all changed, though, thanks to a conversation I had with Cole McConnell last week...

Setting the Stage

For those of you out there who don't know him, Cole is a graduate of Honesdale High School.

He's a standout athlete, a hard-working young man and an all-around good egg.

I got to know Cole during his years as a member of the Hornet basketball team. He was the kind of blue collar player for which Honesdale has become famous.

At the conclusion of his senior season, McConnell was honored with the H. Richard Osborne Memorial Award and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Tim Wood sang his praises at the year-end banquet.

“Cole is the prototypical Honesdale basketball player,” he said. “He’s a lunch box and hard hat kind of kid. Cole is always hustling, always battling, always giving you everything he has.”

As you might imagine, Cole is a likable young man. He's quiet and sometimes intense, but also laid back and approachable.

With high school now in the rearview mirror, Cole is busy creating his life. He's working hard, putting down roots and planning for a successful future.

I see him from time to time when I'm out and about. We cross paths at the gym, at Watson Brothers in White Mills, and at Tick Tock's where we do battle on the green felt every once in awhile.

It was on just such an occasion that Cole asked me to do something for him. He wanted to put a photo in the paper, kind of an unofficial wedding announcement.

You see, he and his fiancee, Vanessa, were recently married and he had a very special picture on his phone he wanted to use.

There we stood, the happy chaos of a busy bar and restaurant swirling around us. I leaned on my cue and considered the table while Cole searched for the photo and CCR blared from the jukebox.

When he finally found it, my reaction was immediate:

“Oh. My. God. What a phenomenal photo!”


This may be the best wedding picture I've ever seen. It captivated me the very first time I saw it.

There's just something about this picture that resonates with me (and with everyone I've shown it to for that matter).

It's undeniably romantic, but that's pretty obvious. I guess what intrigues me most is the “timeless” quality its seems to exude.

I look at this photo and I know immediately where and approximately when it was taken. However, the classic pose, the umbrella, the Christmas lights in the background, the wet pavement … all of these things coalesce in such an amazing way.

It almost feels as though this picture could have been created 50 or even 75 years ago … a photo reminiscent of the Life Magazine Cover from August, 1945 … the legendary shot of a US sailor kissing a nurse during the VJ Day celebration.

In my humble opinion, this photo of Cole and Vanessa is a work of art.

And, what better valentine to offer you than this beautiful picture? A picture that, in my mind, captures the essence of young love.

This is the kind of thing we should celebrate on Valentine's Day. It's the storybook ending for which all of us secretly yearn.

It does my heart good to see it and to share it with you, dear readers.

Happy Couple

Cole McConnell and Vanessa Hnatko were married on December 23 at Grace Ridge Church in Honesdale.

The Rev. Michael Lyle conducted the ceremony.

Cole is the son of Dan & Michelle McConnell, Beach Lake. He is the grandson of Gertrude and the late Marvin Watson, White Mills; Thomas and the late Jeanne McConnell, Honesdale.

Vanessa is the daughter of Theresa and the late William Hnatko, stepdaughter of Drew Smith. Her grandparents are Michael & Sonia Paloy, Cherry Ridge; Margaret and the late Robert Hnatko, Pleasant Mount.

A reception for the happy couple was held after the ceremony at the Beach Lake Fire Hall.