When John and Carolyn Lopinto decided to wed, a Valentine’s Day wedding seemed the perfect day as it also coincided with Carolyn’s birthday. However, John’s relatively new employment with the New Orleans Police Department – and the city’s annual Mardi Gras no leave policy forced – an earlier wedding on Feb. 10, 1961. It must have been a good move as it has been a marriage made in heaven for 60 years and counting.
John, a native of Independence, Louisiana, enlisted in the U.S. Army before returning to Louisiana as an accountant for the Louisiane Coffee Company.
Carolyn, a native of McComb, was a secretary at Standard Coffee Company, parent company of the William B. Reilly Company and Louisiane, and she met John as he applied for a job. Once John was old enough, he joined the New Orleans Police Department, knowing it would be an exciting opportunity to help people. Carolyn worked several jobs in the interim, finally with Katz & Bestoff, a famous Louisiana drug store company. There, she was longtime secretary of Jack Stich, vice president of sales and advertising, and E. L. Chapotel, executive vice president, until she left, pregnant with what would be their only son.
John Michael Lopinto Jr., known to arts connoisseurs as Mike, joined the family, and they continued their life in New Orleans until 1980. As Mike was to enter junior high and high school, a serendipitous trip to visit relatives in McComb led them to purchasing their favorite eatery and spending the next 23 years as owners and operators of The Dinner Bell, a family-style roundtable restaurant. They were involved in everything from renovation, preparing and serving food, and growing the reputation to national acclaim with regular features in Southern Living, Redbook, Good Morning America and many more.
In 2003, they decided to move to Mandeville, Louisiana, where they would truly retire. That midpoint location allowed them easy access to McComb and to Hattiesburg, where their son was now working at the University of Southern Mississippi, FestivalSouth and the Hub City Players. It didn’t take long before they were once again celebrated for their cooking, serving meals to hundreds weekly at their church. They also became regular fixtures at Hattiesburg arts events of all types.
In 2020, this familiarity with the Hub City and a desire to be closer to their son made it a natural choice to take the plunge and move to Hattiesburg.
In fact, they now reside in the same subdivision within view of each other right across a lake.
Just like for everyone else, 2020 was fraught with challenges for the Lopintos.
The couple’s Louisiana home sold quickly, requiring them to move their life’s treasures in just over a month. The pandemic made that a scary proposition for all who tried to offer help and for them. Thankfully, they settled in nicely, and like so many of us, had to deal with the quarantine.
For people who are all about people and socializing, this might have been the toughest test – no church, no shows, no gatherings – all while settling into a new place.
Hitting the nine-month mark as true “Hattiesburgers,” they arrive at this milestone anniversary with grateful reflection on a life of love. They celebrated with their son in the simplest – and quite possibly the best – fashion, enjoying crispy pepperoni pizza (their favorite) decorated with toppings that formed the number 60 and a Berry Burg cake while reading the hundreds of cards, letters and electronic posts generated by an online event Mike arranged.
Carolyn noted, “This is all wonderful, but don’t forget my birthday is Valentine’s Day!"