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December 27, 2012

A Christmas spirit that's remained indelible

(Continued)

I found my way to Rocks Village and Ayers Village, Ward Hill and Riverside. On a cold winter’s night, Jack Frost was nipping at my nose.

And then I came to the Cardarelli home in all its splendor, perhaps saving the best for last on my route. As I set up my tripod for a time exposure, the door opened and out came Joe, wondering what all the commotion was about.

Was somebody out there pulling a prank?

“Gazette,” I stammered. “Just taking a photo.”

“Well, when you get done out there, come inside and warm up over a hot chocolate and some fresh-baked cookies.”

If nothing else, I went inside to thaw out. The hospitality rendered that evening was a compliment. Such favors stay with you forever.

Now I was at their home again, sharing company once more with an octogenarian who resembled every visage Christmas had to offer, surrounded by oil paintings done by her late husband, bundled inside a houseful of love.

“Joe would have been proud to see his home so festive,” Gertrude said. “He may be gone but his spirit will never die.”

Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette.

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