By SARA ARTHURS
It’s never too late to fall in love.
And as a hangout for seniors seeking activities like card games, exercise and lunch, it’s only natural that 50 North has fostered companionship and even brought about a few weddings.
Here are a few of their stories:
Sue and Gary
Sue Iliff and Gary Royer were introduced by an employee at 50 North, where she volunteers and he had signed up for a class.
They first spoke briefly in June, but the relationship really began in October. They started talking, “and the rest is history,” Gary said.
Their first date was to the Apple Butter Festival at Van Buren School. Sue’s grandchildren attend the school, and another early date was her grandson’s football game, when it was pouring rain. They went to a wine tasting, too, and to performances at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts.
Gary and Sue both attended Findlay High School, graduating in 1959 and 1960. They hadn’t really known each other, although Sue’s late husband and Gary did have some mutual friends.
“I always did think he was really cute in high school,” Sue said. And, when he came to meet her for their first date, she thought to herself, “Yes, sirree! He’s still cute!”
The first question Sue was asked in 2018 was, “Will you marry me?”
“I said, ‘Certainly,'” she said.
They will marry June 9 and spoke to The Courier on Feb. 1, one month after they got engaged and not long after going ring shopping together. How did it feel?
“Wonderful,” Sue said.
The two value “just being together,” Gary said. “I mean, we love each other’s company. We are together a lot.”
They’re planning to travel together, including a trip to Russia this spring.
Sue said Gary is an excellent cook, and has made her pheasant and salmon. Also, he said, burned shrimp, as he got sidetracked while cooking that particular meal.
They each have a dog, and Sue also has a cat. Gary has taken the two dogs for walks together, and they get along nicely.
They’re now determining how to combine households. They live a few blocks away from each other “and, like most people, we have too many things,” Gary said. (Also, Sue said, Gary, a hunter, has “dead animals” around his home. She’d like them to move to the garage or the basement.)
Neither of them feel their age — she is 75 and he is 76.
Royer said the mutual friend who suggested they contact each other said of Sue, “‘She’s beautiful inside and out.’ And she is. … I could not be happier.”
“We are ecstatic,” Sue said, adding that when you get to a certain age you think it is “not going to happen. And then it does.”
Joan and Jerry
Joan and Jerry Hosterman met at 50 North, where she was a volunteer at the time.
“We played euchre together … got to talking” and “one thing led to another,” she said.
She was “absolutely not” expecting, or looking for, love at that stage of her life. She had raised children, had a career, and made close friends. But their first outing, “We talked and talked and talked. … We just got to know each other.”
Soon after, the couple happened to run into her granddaughters while they were out shopping.
“And they said, ‘Aha! You’re keeping this guy a secret from us!'” Afterward, though, they said, “We approve, Grandma.”
The couple married about 10 months after they met. She was 70 and he was 75. After all, “We don’t have that much time to fool around,” she said. They’ve now been married five years.
Jerry approached Joan’s children to ask for their blessing before he proposed. He gave her an engagement ring for her 70th birthday.
Blending their lives included merging their different faiths. Joan attended St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Findlay, while Jerry attended the United Methodist church in Mount Blanchard, where the couple now lives. Each visited the other’s church, and found that exploring each other’s faith was “a wholesome, wonderful experience,” Joan said.
They still play cards together, and they go to the movies once or twice a month. They like Gospel music and fishing, and “we’re big sports fans,” although they don’t root for the same teams.
Joan’s advice to others? Go for it.
“I think you just know when you meet the right person, you know?” she said. “We just kind of fit together.”
Joan had been independent before meeting Jerry, and she enjoyed her life that way. But “now I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have him … I’d be lonely as could be. … We just are two parts of one whole.”
When you’re used to independence, starting a new relationship at this stage is “a big adjustment, but it’s a wonderful one,” she said.
Gary and Barbara
Lonely, Gary Leathers of rural Arcadia decided to go to 50 North a few months after his wife’s death in 2013. Walking through the door that first time was nerve-wracking.
But Barbara Ott of Findlay was there with a group of her women friends, and they asked Gary to sit with them.
Later, Gary asked Barbara to dance at the Tuesday night dance at 50 North. Afterward, he called, and they talked for an hour.
Soon each of them, if they were having a difficult day, would call the other to talk it over.
“I think that’s what we both needed,” Gary said.
Barbara’s husband had died almost 20 years earlier. She’d dated another man for 11 of those years and then he, too, died. She has women friends, but it was good to have a man’s opinion, Barbara said.
Gary said dating at this stage in life is a different experience. For one thing, he said, most people already have a lot of family. And at this age — he is 80 and she in her “late 70s” — they are each used to doing things their own way, Gary said. For example, Barbara said, she’s a bit more of a “spendthrift” and he is tighter with his money.
But they’ve gone on outings together. They go out to eat regularly. Barbara will “drag him shopping” and, as he likes antiques, they go antiquing.
The two have no plans for marriage, as it would cause them each to lose pension and insurance benefits. But, she said, they do talk of future plans, such as wishing to travel more.
Really, Gary said, you’re looking for someone who likes you “for what you are.”
Herb Schneider, 91, is a widower who started going to the Circle of Friends group at 50 North.
Every time he went, a woman held a seat for him. “After a while I finally asked her for a date.”
She died two years later, and “After a while, I met another girl.” She, too, died. So he lost three women in the span of about six years.
But he hasn’t given up on love.
Although he “kind of did” expect, or was looking for, love, it still was scary. “You really don’t know what to do” when you’re on your first date after a long time. But he’s enjoyed the companionship — going out to eat, and going on short trips.
Herb’s advice: You “might as well” go for it if you’re interested in someone. After all, they’ll either say yes, or no.
Fred and Bev
Bev Rarey was part of a singles group at 50 North and met Fred, whose wife had died, too.
They started talking and grew closer. After Bev’s daughter died, Fred came to the service.
And then some mutual friends gently nudged the two into a relationship. They dated for nine months or so, and then Fred asked if she’d marry him.
She hadn’t expected to find love again at this age. (She is 77 and he is 81.) She wanted to have people in her life, but was looking for friends rather than romance. “I had lots and lots of lady friends. … I was not looking to marry again,” Bev said.
She lives in the country and has a nice backyard. They held the wedding there, with close friends and family attending. They have now been married four and a half years.
Both are Christians, and faith is important to them.
“That was a requirement for both of us,” Bev said.
And both have children from their previous marriages.
“My family absolutely adores him,” she said. “They just love him.”
There are challenges, in that sometimes they don’t think alike. But on the important things they do, Bev said — so much that it’s scary.
“I’m glad we got married,” she said, adding that when he asked her, she prayed about it. And she believes God led them to get married.
“It’s better not to be alone,” Bev said.
Arlene and Bruce
Arlene Powell was married to her first husband for 24 years before his death, then to her second husband for the same length of time.
Six years after her second husband died, she met a widower — “tall, handsome and kind” — playing bridge at 50 North. A serious player, Bruce Edmunds didn’t talk much at the bridge table, but they struck up a conversation at the snack table, where she asked about his recent surgery.
“That night I got a phone call.” Bruce told her, “I would like to buy you a cup of coffee.” When they went out, he said that’s what had drawn his interest, Arlene being nice to him and inquiring about his injury.
“Rather timidly” he asked if she would be interested in accompanying him to an out-of-town performance of his band. “He won my heart just playing his trumpet,” she said.
He was 75 and she 80. The couple golfed together, and played bridge. And they danced.
“We were healthy, vibrant and so happy in love,” Arlene said.
They dated for three years before their final date, at a basketball game. He wasn’t feeling that well, and died later that night after going home.
“It was too brief,” she said. “And yet it couldn’t have gotten any sweeter. So I’m relishing those times.”
After her first husband died, she met another wonderful man in middle age. “Who would have thought” that at age 80, someone new would come into her life, Arlene said.
Her advice to others? “Those opportunities are there.”
An aunt of hers lived to age 106. So, what is Arlene, now 86, planning for the next 20 years?
She said her health is good, and she’s open to whatever might come along — including love.
“I guess I’m open to that kind of thing,” she said. “And that’s what one needs to be, open.”