Tales of romance within the ranks of AARP members are nothing new. But for any number of reasons, single seniors are becoming more inclined to cohabit rather than remarry the second (or third) time around.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that from 1990 to 1999, the percentage of unmarried senior couples 65 and older rose significantly, while Forbes reported that in 2006, 1.8 million Americans aged 50 and above lived in heterosexual "unmarried-partner households," a 50 percent increase from 2000.
Between the many financial disincentives and being old enough to not really care about antiquated social mores, older couples are taking to good old-fashioned shacking up — sans gold bands and legal contracts.
Perhaps it's that backdrop that makes the following love stories all the more memorable.
1. Lillian Hartley, 95, and Allan Marks, 98
With more than 193 combined years between the two, Lillian Hartley and Allan Marks broke the Guinness World Record for the oldest combined age of a couple to get married when the two said “I do” in 2012.
The now-newlyweds were both widowers when they met at temple in Palm Springs, Calif. Marks, a retired veterinarian, complimented the retired paralegal’s dress, and the rest is history. After dating for 18 years, the California couple finally took the plunge into matrimony.
“We talked about it for years, but our lives were so busy that I just never got around to it,” the blushing bride told ABC News, citing their active life filled with travel, temple on Saturdays and Los Angeles Lakers games.
“We just decided to go to Indio and have the marriage ceremony in one day. We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, so I’m not taking any chances,” she said.
Riverside County Clerk’s Office Yvonne Cruz, who performed the ceremony, said the couple’s love was immediately obvious.
“When they came to my window, I spoke to her first and she says, ‘I want to marry this man,’” Cruz recalled. “He puts his arm around her waist and says, ‘I want to be with her for the rest of my life.’ And she says, ‘I want to be together forever.’”
2. Forrest Lunsway, 100, and Rose Pollard Lunsway, 90
Before Hartley and Marks grabbed the record, Rose Pollard Lunsway, 90, and Forrest Lunsway, 100, held the honor of being the oldest couple to get married. The cute couple from California had been dating for nearly 30 years before getting hitched, which they did on Lunsway's 100th birthday.
Rose and Lunsway met on a blind date at a senior center dance back in the early 1980s, and began going steady almost immediately. Both had been widowed; Rose’s first husband suffered a long illness, and Rose said that she had no intention of ever remarrying. But when Lunsway popped the question, she quipped, "I’ll marry you on your 100th birthday,” she told Today.com.
And she did. After years of travel, adventure, and ballroom dancing, Rose spent nearly a year planning a surprise wedding to be held during Lunsway's 100th birthday celebration, as can be seen in the video below.
And the best-kept secret for having a bang-up wedding on the cheap? Be 100 years old. To honor the sweet senior sweethearts, local businesses donated the birthday/wedding cake and reduced the price of the food so that a swank dinner could be served for almost 100 guests. And the local Marriott hotel gave the couple a complimentary stay in a room stocked with strawberries and champagne; no word on whether or not a heart-shaped hot tub was included.
Many moons ago, in 1946 to be exact, Margaret MacNeil and Eric Ericson were engaged. But within a year, the 17-year-old MacNeil broke off the engagement to the 21-year-old Ericson, citing an unreadiness to settle down.
Within a few years each had married another, raised families, and enjoyed a happy marriage – she for 54 years and he for 60. But Ericson never forgot MacNeil, and in fact kept her engagement ring tucked away with photographs of his lost love.
Fast forward to 2010 — 64 years after their initial engagement — both having lost their spouses, and who should run into each other at a cemetery? Our fated couple: Ericson visiting his parents’ graves, MacNeil at her husband’s. MacNeil approached her, “Do you know who I am?” he asked. “I’m Eric,” he said. They began dating shortly thereafter.
“I always had that love for Margaret, but it was completely suppressed,” he told the Patriot Ledger. “I never approached her in any way, shape or form. But it always was there.”
In October of 2010, she at 82, he at 86, the two exchanged vows at Living Hope Four Square Church in Hanover, Mass. During the ceremony, he gave her the ring she’d returned in 1947. Happily ever after, after all.
4. Larry Bushnell, 85, and Columba Rosaly, 97
Larry Bushnell, 85, grew up on a farm in Wisconsin; Columba Rosaly, 97, was brought up by a wealthy uncle in Ecuador. Neither spoke each other’s language, but something as trivial as a language barrier wasn’t enough to keep the two from tying the knot last year in Charlotte, N.C.
Fortunately for the seemingly mismatched sweethearts, a Spanish instructor, Iris Newton, aided and abetted the courtship which sprang forth from the Sharon Village retirement community where the widow and widower both live.
"I got a call from Columba," Newton told the Charlotte Observer, "and she said 'I need you. I have a boyfriend, and he does not speak Spanish.' And I said: 'If he doesn't speak Spanish, how do you know you're dating?'"
The telltale sign, of course: "He kissed her on the cheek one day," Newton recalled. Which caused Rosaly to blush a bright shade of pink and the other women at lunch to giggle.
The two communicated by passing notes which they would decipher using an online translation site. Rosaly learned that Bushnell thought she was “beautiful, and loved the way she never left her apartment without every detail being in place, from her brown curls to her earrings.” She thought he was tall and handsome, loved the way he always kissed her hand, and appreciated that “he put on her seat belt every time they went for a ride.”
Although the newlyweds planned on learning each other’s language after the wedding, the romantic in us hopes they continue to pass love notes.
5. Ada Bryant, 97, and Robert Haire, 86
Ada Laurie Bryant, 97, and Robert Mitchell Haire, 86, met in 2007, when Haire and his first wife moved into Country House, a retirement community in Wilmington, Del. Mrs. Bryant had lived there since 2001 with her first husband who died not long after they moved in. Mrs. Bryant and Mrs. Haire became close friends.
Mrs. Haire died in 2011, and Mr. Haire asked Bryant, an artist, to paint a portrait of his late wife. After a trip to the local frame shop to have the art framed, they had lunch – and found no shortage of things to talk about.
“There was some kind of feeling,” Mr. Haire told The New York Times, in one of the sweetest wedding announcements ever.
They began dating, and in 2012, the shy Haire slipped a sonnet vowing “friendship and affection” beneath Bryant’s door with a note that said “this represents how I feel in our relationship as a couple.”
“I was desperately trying to strike a balance between too timid or bold. I didn’t want to mess things up,” he said about courting his crush. “I can attest that it doesn’t get easier even in advanced age.”
The next morning, Bryant left a note in return for her suitor, saying that she loved the poem, and “she would heartily enter into that relationship.”
Ever the romantic, on Valentine’s Day, Haire presented Bryant with a loose sapphire that he hoped to have mounted as an engagement ring. Bryant rejected the proposal, but said she would accept the gem as a friendship ring. After several more mentions of marriage, Bryant finally accepted the proposal and the couple were happily betrothed.
And just like so many other modern women in the 21st century, the bride decided to keep her name.
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