|By Megan Suermann, Philadelphia Daily
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 26, 2007 - ON SEPT. 22, Vickie Jimenez thought she would finally marry the man of her dreams, in a ceremony she'd postponed for years because the couple simply couldn't afford it.
Tragically, just five days before her wedding, her fiance, 37-year-old Patrick "Pat" Martin, died of a heart attack while doing power-washing work on a client's home.
"It seems like a nightmare," Jimenez, 32, said, her voice still shaking with tears. "I lost my best friend."
But for Jimenez, of Southampton, Bucks County, the nightmare has only gotten worse in the weeks since.
Soon after her fiance's funeral, she learned that the Buck Hotel in Feasterville, Bucks County -- where she'd planned to hold her wedding and reception -- had no intention of refunding more than $20,000 her family had paid for the affair.
Jimenez responded with a heartfelt letter sent on Oct. 23, pleading with the owner of the hotel, Brian Ruhling, to "do the right thing" and give back the $21,725.
"I wrote him that letter and got no response from him. Finally, I got a response they would give back to me $5,000 to $8,000," said Jimenez.
Jimenez was devastated.
"We didn't cancel the wedding because we didn't want to get married," Jimenez said. "I don't understand where he feels he can make $20,000 off of a tragedy."
The Buck Hotel has not backed down from its position, stating that Jimenez must abide by a contract she signed on June 28.
The hotel wouldn't answer questions about the case. "This matter's in litigation. There will be no discussion while it's in litigation," said the Buck's attorney, William MacDermott.
Jimenez has hired a lawyer, Eric Brauer, who has offered a deal: The Buck Hotel could keep $2,000 of the money. But Brauer said the hotel refused, saying its offer of $8,000 to Jimenez is still on the table.
Meanwhile, the other companies that Jimenez hired for her wedding -- including her florist and D.J. -- have given her refunds.
"Every vendor has refunded the money with condolences," said Jimenez.
"Nobody from the Buck personally contacted me since day one. Not even to say "I'm sorry for your loss," Jimenez said.
Jimenez, who works at Hahnemann Hospital, met Martin when she was 20 years old. The couple grew up in Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia. Martin was a self-employed painter and carpenter.
Jimenez said they had always planned to get married but never had the money -- until her aunt offered to pay for the wedding. The couple were thrilled; it had been the dying wish of Jimenez's cancer-stricken mother that the couple marry.
They decided to plan the wedding in three months and were expecting about 175 people to attend. Jimenez said they were delighted when the Buck had an opening on such short notice.
"It was like a sign from my mom," said Jimenez. "Everything fell into place perfectly."
Jimenez knows she signed a contract, but she is puzzled and angry that the hotel won't make an exception in her case -- adding that the hotel was notified of Martin's passing within three hours of when it happened, and that none of the food had been ordered yet.
"I don't understand where the justification came from," said Jimenez. "What did he have to do with that 20,000? He didn't have to pay anything."
Jimenez and their son, Christopher Martin, 13, continue to rely on their family and friends for support. On Nov. 4, close friends of the family threw a beef-and-beer fundraiser to help support Jimenez.
Jimenez is grateful; she says the support helps ease the pain of her and her son's loss. But, she admits, it's been a rough couple of months.
"Everyone says one day at a time when it's more like one hour at a time," said Jimenez. "I just hope this will all end."
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