“One of the first things I learned about Ross was what a fanatic he was about The New York Times,” Ann DeHovitz said last week of her husband, Dr. Ross E. DeHovitz.
“Fanatic” may not be too strong a word. Dr. DeHovitz, a semiretired pediatrician in Palo Alto, Calif., fell into the habit of reading The Times each day when he was in medical school. He paid attention to every detail. When the issue of Nov. 7, 1982, appeared in California without a date printed on the front page, he held on to it as a collector’s item. He also perused the tiny paid notices at the bottom of Page 1 known as “reader ads.” (They were discontinued in 2008.)
Some were instructive: “Jewish women/girls remember to light Shabbat candles 18 minutes before sunset.” Some were poignant: “Dear Paul: Today you would have been 68 years young. I miss you terribly. Chari.” Others were affectionate: “Sherry, I love you and respect you. M.B.W.”
After the carrier had delivered the paper of Aug. 4 to Ann’s apartment building in San Francisco, Ross asked her to read it aloud, telling her he had been through a very bad day. She thought it was an odd request but humored him. Ann finished Page 1 without pause, paraphrasing here and omitting there. Then she started turning to Page 2. No, he said, look at the front page again. That’s when she spied the two tiny lines of type at the bottom of the page.
“Hell, yes, I’ll marry you,” she answered.
Today, two grown daughters later, the DeHovitzes are 65. Ms. DeHovitz teaches first grade. On a trip to New York last week, the couple visited the Museum at The Times. It’s ordinarily closed to the public, but Dr. DeHovitz is a donor to the museum: In 2021, he gave his rare undated copy of The Times to the collection.
It is the only dateless front page I have ever seen. At the time it was printed, The Times composed pages in “cold type.” Small pieces of paper bearing type and images were affixed with a wax adhesive to special layout boards. Those little pieces sometimes fell off the boards before they could be scanned. Presumably, that’s what happened to the edition Dr. DeHovitz received in California. (The New York edition was intact.)
Ever concerned about the reliability of The Times, I had to ask Ms. DeHovitz whether her husband’s profession of eternal love turned out to be accurate. She said it had, adding that the inside of each of their wedding bands was engraved, “Forever.”
The In Times Past column explores New York Times history through artifacts.