By Amy Houston
There is life after divorce or the death of a longtime spouse. This Valentine’s Day, three couples will celebrate the new partners who helped them find love when they least expected it.
Rick and Faye Thornton
It took time after they met – and some good-natured pushing from friends – for Rick and Faye Thornton to begin dating.
Faye was an administrative assistant whose husband died in May 2005. When he was sick, he bought a house in Valley Center because he had children in the area. That’s what brought Faye from Houston to Valley Center.
Rick was a Methodist minister whose wife died in November 2005. He said he clearly remembers the day he met Faye, who was working at an Edward Jones office in Valley Center.
“She was sitting behind the desk – had a big smile,” he recalled.
The next time they saw each other was spring 2007 at a meeting for Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness at Inter-Faith Ministries. They ran into each other in various places – a garage sale in Kechi, a restaurant in Wichita. A woman in Faye’s Sunday school class at church also knew Rick, and in 2008 she suggested to him that he and Faye would make a good couple. When she learned a few months later that he hadn’t called Faye, she exclaimed, “What is wrong with you?!”
By fall 2008, both were regularly attending the meetings regarding homelessness. In May 2009, Rick received a call from a man who attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church, where Rick was on staff. The man also knew Faye, who was a colleague at an office in Wichita. He told Rick that it was Faye’s birthday.
Rick called Faye at work, and when she answered, he sang the “Happy Birthday” song.
“And she said, ‘Who is this?” Rick recalled.
They both laugh at the memory. Rick took Faye out for a birthday dinner that night. They began seeing each other, and in June 2009, he invited her to a barbecue he was throwing for friends.
They married in December 2009 at Aldersgate.
“It seemed like it went really fast, and it was quick, but at the same time it felt right,” Faye said. “I feel fortunate to have found somebody. I didn’t think I wanted anybody, but it was a natural thing. It worked out perfect.”
Rick, 76, has two children and Faye, 67, has three. They share eight grandkids. A grandson lives with them in Valley Center, and they attend the high school football and basketball games. They like to travel, and they feed the hungry once a month at the Lord’s Diner.
“We stay busy,” Faye said. “We hardly ever are home in an evening.”
Joe and Arletta Perrie
Joe and Arletta Perrie met at a senior dance at Linwood Senior Center in Wichita. Joe summoned the courage to attend the Saturday night dance after feeling discouraged at a previous dance.
“I didn’t think it went very well,” he said. “I just went home, and I thought about it and decided to give it another try.”
He sat near the door, but he noticed Arletta dancing.
“She kind of caught my eye because she had a beautiful smile,” he said.
Arletta and her friend, Mary, saw Joe as well and realized he would not venture farther into the room. They went to the restroom and when they returned, they sat near Joe. They conversed and learned that Arletta had grown up on a farm in Oklahoma, while Joe was raised on a tobacco farm in Maryland.
Each had been widowed – Arletta’s husband died of a heart attack in 1985, and Joe’s wife died of cancer in 2004. Joe and Arletta married in 2005.
Arletta said she didn’t feel like she had to have another husband, but she thought it would be nice. She prayed that if she met someone, they would both know it was right.
“You’re still a whole person even if you don’t have a spouse,” she said.
At first, she felt concerned that since Joe hadn’t been single as long as she had, he might regret that he didn’t date more women.
“He said, ‘Well, I’ve been through the casserole brigade,” she recalled.
Joe said multiple single women brought him casseroles after his wife died. He had learned to cook when she was sick, and that’s something the Perries now enjoy doing together.
They also started taking keyboard classes together in 2007. Now Arletta, 80, plays a Lowrey organ and Joe, 83, plays guitar. He retired from the Air Force and civil service and she is a retired teacher. They love to travel, and they still go dancing occasionally. They give each other space to pursue their own interests, too. Arletta likes water aerobics while Joe prefers pickleball.
Joe has four children while Arletta has three, and they share multiple grandkids and great-grandkids. They said their families supported their marriage. The Perries talked about the logistics ahead of time – how to combine their households, how to manage finances and what their wishes were if they died. They communicated those plans to their families so no one would be surprised.
“My thought for things is, we’re not perfect but we’re perfect for each other,” she said.
When Floyd and Marilyn Hansen went to dinner for the first time, it was an awkward evening. That’s because the two had known each other for years, and Marilyn was a close friend of Floyd’s late wife, Bernita.
Floyd and Bernita were married 41 years, until her death from cancer in 1993. He eventually invited Marilyn, who was divorced, to dinner. She recalled that he told her “he was only looking for companionship.”
“I found it, too, didn’t I?” he recently said with a laugh.
A couple of weeks after that first outing, Floyd called again. Marilyn invited him and some other friends to dinner.
“Some other friends – who advised her not to become involved,” Floyd recalled with a chuckle.
Marilyn made up excuses about why she couldn’t go out, but Floyd was persuasive.
“It didn’t take long,” she admitted. “I was embarrassed that I let myself be swept up. When I realized he was wooing me and kind of succeeding, I felt so guilty. … He was my best friend’s husband. How could I do that to her?”
What Marilyn didn’t know is that Bernita had made a list of five potential spouses for Floyd, and her name was included. Floyd underwent heart bypasses while Bernita was battling cancer, and they talked about their uncertain future.
“Both of us encouraged the other to consider remarriage,” he said.
Floyd and Marilyn had been in each other’s homes and had known each other’s children for years. Their families were receptive and welcoming when the duo married in February 1994. Floyd was executive director of EMPAC, a nonprofit organization in Wichita, and Marilyn was the Sedgwick County election commissioner.
“Financially it made sense to live in his big house,” she said. “My place was too small.”
“I have advised my friends not to do that,” she added. “It was a long time before I really felt at home there.”
She had to adjust from feeling like she was living in Floyd and Bernita’s house. They eventually made some changes to the home so it would be their own.
“I think it’s easier the second time around,” Floyd said. “The challenges are different.”
He pointed out that they both have more time since they’re not as focused on their careers. They’re more mature and thoughtful now. He said that in retirement, they’re doing things they had always wanted or planned.
“Maybe that’s more fulfilling,” he said.
Floyd, 86, said they had to determine which parts of their lifestyles should be separate and which should be blended together. He said that in a second marriage, couples might encounter problems they have faced before and are better equipped to avoid the same mistakes.
Marilyn, 82, isn’t sure about that. “You just make different ones,” she said.
The pair stays busy in clubs and organizations and enjoy traveling together. Floyd has two children, four grandkids, four great-grandkids and one on the way. Marilyn has one deceased child, three living children and four grandkids.
Marilyn said it’s important to accept early on that, as a new couple, people won’t do things they way they always did.
“We’ve tried. It doesn’t work,” she said with a chuckle.
“I always say you need to celebrate your differences,” she continued. “I know we do. That keeps us sane.”