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Watch | Jeffersonland Chorus delivers singing telegrams to sweethearts across Charlottesville

One year ago on Valentine’s Day, four men dressed in black tie exited a Ford Crown Victoria and made their way to the door of a Charlottesville residence where 100-year-old Mary Dunnigan lived. Page Nelson, her neighbor, watched as the men slowly entered the house in single file, heads bowed, their hands clasped behind their backs.

“Well,” Nelson remembers thinking, “she had a good life.”

But the four men paying Dunnigan a visit were not undertakers, something Nelson would only learn 30 minutes later when a faint buzzing sound outside revealed “the ghost” of Dunnigan trimming her plants.

Moments earlier, the four men Nelson had spotted heading into Dunnigan’s house had stood shoulder to shoulder in her living room, where the centenarian was being treated to the sweet harmonies of Micah and Tim Everard and Gil Orejudos and Jack Marshall, members of the Jeffersonland Chorus.

That chorus is composed of 20 members of three local quartets: the Barbers of C’ville, Southern Consort and Generations. Every year on Valentine’s Day, the quartets visit houses, hospitals, clinics, care facilities, offices and other places of business delivering singing telegrams, roses and a box of local Gearharts chocolates.

Not every telegram is sent by a sweetheart. Neighbors, friends and family often send them to each other, chorus members said.

Dunnigan’s visit was arranged by one of her neighbors, who also happens to be a Jeffersonland Chorus member. And that made it special in another way.

“Since this has been arranged by a neighbor, one of the people in the quartet, that made it special,” Dunnigan told The Daily Progress on Wednesday. “And I was able to have friends that appreciated music, because I don’t get music at all. Hey, I got the song they sang about Mary.”

Many of the Jeffersonland Chorus members are older and have been singing for years. Micah Everard said he has been part of a chorus since he was 10-years-old, and Tom Guterbock, lead singer of the Barbers of C’ville, said he has been delivering singing telegrams on Valentine’s Day for 15 years.

“I think they are wonderful,” Dunnigan said. “These last two year have been my best Valentine’s Days ever.”


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