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From the Toll Booth

When you think about it, it was really Patty Mahnken’s parents who were responsible for their daughter marrying Bill Mahnken at the Twin Lights State Historical Museum. That’s because they took their daughter to the historic site in Highlands when Patty was a youngster, and she has been in love with the Twin Lights ever since. "It’s just so beautiful in every season," Patty explains, "We have brought our grandchildren there, the view is awesome, and we love all the exhibits that show so much history of the area and of the sea."

How Patty and Bill met is still another love story that bears repeating. A native of Long Branch, Patty was a toll collector on the Garden State Parkway in the early part of the 21st century, working the night shift at the Asbury Park toll, southbound. As she remembers, Bill, who was a driver for APA Trucking Company, “would be coming home from work, going home to Brick about 4:30 in the morning. Even though he had exact change, he always came to my booth. We started to talk. Then he started to bring me a flower every night. It might even have been a marigold that he picked somewhere.”

Patty, who was divorced, said Bill stopped coming for a while and she did wonder about him. “Then one day he was there again,” she said happily, adding, “He asked me out. We met at Applebee's in Eatontown. That's how it all started.”

Bill was also divorced, and Patty, who had three grown children, knew her family would love her new love. She was right. All were happy when Patty and Bill chose the Twin Lights for their wedding site, all agreeing that with all their happy memories there, the beauty of the site and the outstanding view made it the perfect place for the family to expand and continue to be the close-knit family they are. So it was on July 16, 2007, that Patty and Bill, surrounded by their family, tied the knot at the site they both loved.

The newly married couple continued going back as often as possible, bringing the entire family with them, including Rosanne, Gina, and James, and four grandchildren Thomas, Gianna, Trinity, and Collier, a family Patty is quick to point out, “that Bill loves as his own.” Now living in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Patty and Bill have not visited their favorite site in a while, but the next two generations do, thanks to being introduced to it by the older generation, Patty admits she has never climbed either of the two towers because of her fear of heights, “but that doesn’t make any difference,” she laughs, “I just love the location, the view from the ground, and all the interesting exhibits and history inside.” On the other hand, Bill, a Vietnam veteran, has climbed the towers many times, mostly with the grandchildren!

For more information on events at the Twin Lights, as well as membership information, visit or follow the Twin Lights Historical Society on Facebook. The Twin Lights State Historic Site is owned and operated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks, Forestry & Historic Sites (“NJ Parks”). Nick Wood, RIS-History, the full-time NJ Parks Curator at the site, offers private tours by appointment for a small fee (so worth it!). See below for more details, or contact Nick directly at For the most up-to-date information on hours, call (732) 872-1814 or go to

The Twin Lights Historical Society is the officially recognized friends group for NJ Parks at the Twin Lights. The role and purpose of the society at the site are to support and assist NJ Parks in its operations and exhibit development through financial support as well as volunteer services at the site. The Society invests all donations, memberships, and proceeds from the Twin Lights Museum Store to improve visitor experience and online public relations, including new exhibits, paid internships for local high school and college students, as well as special projects. For more information about the Twin Lights and its illustrious history, go to or call (732) 872-1814. The mailing address is Twin Lights State Historic Site, 2 Lighthouse Road, Highlands, NJ 07732.

Grounds are open every day from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

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