February 2007

Ray & Alfreda Degheri - 50 Years of Wedded Bliss

Author: Linda Hopkins

Like water for chocolate, there was no stopping the sweet romance that began its slow simmer in a Baltimore elevator in 1953. Unbeknownst to the young couple, Ramon (Ray) Degheri and Alfreda Ostrowski, they were in for a ride that would take them much higher than the next floor of the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) headquarters where they both worked.

The Degheris, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in May, 2006, are the owners and operators of the Chocolate Canopy, Hilton Head Island’s finest gourmet candy store, known among locals and visitors alike as one of the friendliest spots in town.

Although indisputably different in heritage and personality, (he Italian, she Polish; he social, she private) Ray and Alfreda live and work in harmony, constantly blending and balancing the individual character traits that initially brought them together: fortitude, determination, integrity, patience, humor and faith.

It all began when Ray, then a U.S. Air Force Second Lieutenant, noticed Alfreda on the elevator at work. (She worked as a secretary to a Colonel on another floor while attending night school to continue her education.) Intrigued by the logic book under her arm, not to mention her beautiful face and figure, Ray smoothly offered, “May I help with your homework?”—not exactly a classic pickup line, but effective.

In an environment where the women far outnumbered the men, Alfreda was flattered by the attention but not necessarily love-struck just yet. After a few more casual encounters, the real game began. “It was a chase and catch,” she said, admitting that she did most of the chasing.

With goodhearted humor, she recalled catching Ray juggling two lunch dates in one day, ushering her out one door of the cafeteria and running to meet his next meal companion at another. According to Ray, she has since been known to say that he was certainly “well-fed.”

On their first official date, Ray and Alfreda went to a Navy/Notre Dame football game. “She had a big chrysanthemum on a beautiful blue outfit,” said Ray, who was obviously more smitten than he was letting on.

“That was when it all began. When I met Ray, my life changed,” said Alfreda.

When Ray completed his military service, he returned to his hometown in New Jersey where he began a corporate sales career, commuting back and forth to New York where he and Alfreda met up every other weekend. After a two-year courtship, continuing the chase and strategically plotting her life’s course, Alfreda took off on a six-week European cruise, leaving Ray behind to contemplate their future as a couple. “There were letters for me at every port,” she said, indicating that her absence was working its magic in his heart.

Following Christmas Eve Mass with Alfreda’s parents in 1955, Ray finally proposed, taking Alfreda on a private walk around the block, presenting the ring that they had chosen together. Nervously slipping it onto her finger, he danced around the light pole with excitement. They tied the knot the following May and have been happily married since.

Ray & Alfreda Degheri Chocolate Canopy Hilton Head Island SC Ray & Alfreda Degheri

Life hasn’t been perfect, the couple admitted. The Degheris have had their ups and downs like every couple—raising two children, managing their careers and making the day-to-day decisions that add up to a lifetime. But according to Ray, it’s that shared history that seals the deal and ultimately makes the relationship last. “Love is about appreciating one another,” he said, describing the different qualities he and Alfreda bring to the marriage.

According to the Degheris, the key to a happy marriage, a successful business and a fruitful life is faith. Stop by the Chocolate Canopy and you’ll see that they practice what they preach, applying the same steadfast commitment to the quality of their product along with the same kindness and compassion for their customers as they share in their marriage.

“It’s about reaching out to people and making them happy,” said Ray. “Milk or dark?” he asked, passing along a box of confectionary comfort along with his signature smile.

Ray and Alfreda Degheri have been making chocolates on Hilton Head Island for over 24 years. They specialize in homemade, hand-dipped chocolates, made on the premises.

The Chocolate Canopy
Crossroads Shopping Center
Palmetto Bay Rd.
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
(843) 842-4567 or (800) 685-8123

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