Enjoying Love at 80

Widow and widower love

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter

July 22, 2022  

by Tom Blake – columnist

How Susie met Jon

One of the most important things seniors can do to avoid loneliness and have a quality life is to incorporate social interaction into their daily routines. That means getting off the couch, out of the house, and being around people. When seniors do that, positive things often happen. Today’s story is an example.

Thirty-four years ago, I was surfing the Boneyard area of Doheny Beach. There was just one other person surfing there that day. He and I were chatting while waiting for waves to break. His name was Alex Rentziperis; he was opening a barber shop called Sports Barber in Dana Point. Alex has been cutting my hair ever since.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Sports Barber for a haircut. The shop is located in downtown Dana Point on the second floor above Stillwater, a popular country dancing restaurant.

When I walked in, Alex introduced me to a woman, whose hair he had just cut. He said, “This is Susie, she’s my only woman customer; I’ve been cutting her hair for 25 years.”

I had never seen a woman customer in Alex’s Sports Barber Shop.

Then, Alex said, “Susie has a senior marriage-success story.”

Alex’s words perked my interest. I told Susie I had been writing about senior dating for 24 years. Susie grinned, “I know, I read your column in the Dana Point Times. I thought your recent column, “Where is John?” was funny because my husband’s name is Jon, just spelled a little differently. I found John, we met later in life.”

I asked her a few questions and then asked if she’d email me her story, which she did.

Susie, who is now a Champ (one of my weekly eNewsletter readers), wrote, “In 2009, three of my girlfriends and I decided to go on a Mediterranean cruise. After unpacking in our staterooms, we decided to check out the activities on each deck of the ship. When we reached Deck 12, we noticed that it was 5:00 p.m., saw an outdoor bar, and decided it was time for a glass of wine. 

“One friend doesn’t drink alcohol, so she went to listen to music coming up from Deck 4. When the three of us got our wine and turned around, we saw our friend dancing with a man. We wondered, where did he come from? 

“After the dance ended, the man introduced himself to we three wine-sippers. His name was Jon; this was the start of a friendship among the five of us.  

“Because of high winds during the cruise, the ship could not dock at four of the eight ports. This gave the five of us time to have many conversations and do activities together. 

“Jon and I got to know each other and became good friends. After the cruise, we communicated often and spent time together. Amazingly, Jon was from Northern California, and I was from Southern California, and we met halfway around the world! Jon’s version of how we met is ‘Susie picked me up on the love boat.’” 

“Jon had been widowed for 1.5 years. I had been widowed for 13 years. Jon told me that if we developed a relationship, I would have more of an adjustment to make because I had been single for so long. A year after the cruise, we were married.

Susie and John Gaare

Susie added, “We decided to live in Dana Point because it was the only place with warm fog and no bugs. Jon says it was simply a ‘no brainer.’

“We purchased a condo together; it has been our ‘pinch-me moment.’”  

When people venture out to enjoy life, positive things often happen. For Susie, meeting Jon was one of them, and sharing her story with a columnist at the Sports Barber is another. 

A mortgage refinance made sense for me

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – August 21, 2020

by columnist Tom Blake

             A mortgage refinance made sense for me and other stories

Last Friday morning, I received an email from a long-time friend who used to be a yacht captain on boats in Dana Point Harbor. He had read the eNewsletter about the homecoming king and queen and wrote to touch base. “Take care. Hope you are well,” Champ Captain Richard Carnesale signed off.

About six hours later, I’m sitting in a rather large waiting room of a large doctor’s office in nearby Laguna Hills, with Greta, who was having an eye examination. It was like mask-city; every person was wearing one. I saw a man emerge from one of the consultation-rooms and walk toward the front desk. I said to Greta, “That man looks like Captain Richard.” I didn’t know for sure because of the mask.

Then the lady at the front desk called his name. He walked there. I moved to within 10 feet of him and said, “Thanks for the email this morning.”

We had a nice chuckle about the coincidence and talked for a few minutes after he checked out.

Ten years ago, Captain Richard and I worked together on a story about a yacht-Ponzi scheme that happened in Dana Point Harbor. Captain Richard had worked with the man for 27 years who swindled several investors. Here is a picture of Captain Richard from an article I wrote in The Dana Point Times on July 13, 2012, about the case.

Captain Richard Carnesale with photo of the man who swindled investors

I also wrote an ebook titled “Dana Point Yacht Ponzi.” You can order it on http://www.Smashwords.com for .99 cents by using the promo code BM58K

                            From Seattle – A Star Spangled Night

Champ Ellen, Seattle, emailed: “In case you don’t remember me, I’m the lady who sang the National Anthem at the Anaheim Angels baseball game, oh so many years ago, that you did a lovely column about.”

Tom’s response to Ellen: “Of course, I remember. I was seated behind home plate near you. An Angels’ employee came and escorted you to the pitcher’s mound. I noticed your name on the scoreboard monitor. You did a great rendition of the National Anthem.

“When you returned to your seat, I introduced myself. I think we might have had one coffee date. That column was titled, “A Star Spangled Night,” and was published on August 30, 1995, almost 25 years ago to the day. It was the 61st column I had written (now over 4,000).

Ellen added, “I read in your 8/14/20 eNewsletter that you met Diane Sawyer. I’m envious. I have a picture of her in my scrapbook from when she crowned Linda Felber, America’s Junior Miss in 1964. Linda was from a little town 20 miles away from where I grew up.

“I also have a picture with Johnny Cash. He sang at a Luther League Convention when I was in college. I was charged with keeping him comfortable. He was very quiet.  A friend was the President of the National Luther League group, which is how I got the ‘job.’ 

“Earlier, in 1967, I sang for that convention in the Dallas Convention Center. I thought it would be my biggest audience ever: 17,000 young people. But, the 35,000 fans at the baseball game topped that.

“Paul and I have been together for nine years. Our initial meeting was thru business, thru a networking group. Then some years later, someone else that was a referral from that same networking group, also knew him and set us up to meet at a political breakfast. 

“I remembered him; he didn’t remember me. He was in a relationship when we first met. 

After breakfast, we planned to have coffee, but in the end, we got together to see a house jazz concert and the rest is history.

“We are happy to be in Seattle with a little cooler weather. I’m still ‘working.’  Became an insurance agent specializing in Medicare. I keep trying to retire, but it’s hard when you can help people understand this very confusing plan. Fortunately, it’s seasonal.”

More small-world stuff – a common bond in Grand Haven Michigan

On Sunday, August 9, I received an email from a Champ named Larry who travels between a summer home in Michigan, a home in Florida, and the home of his daughters and granddaughters in Laguna Niguel, California. He has been a widower for a year after 45 years of marriage.

He became a subscriber to this eNewsletter (a Champ) by searching online for senior dating in Orange County. He found my FindingLoveAfter50.com website and signed up.

In exchanging emails, we discovered that Larry, and my Uncle, George Pardee, were great friends while Larry was the City Manager of Grand Haven, Michigan. That was like 40 years ago. 

Larry was in Laguna Niguel this week so we got together for lunch at Tutor and Spunky’s, my former deli, in Dana Point. Larry will be back in Southern California in October, November, and December.

Tom and Champ Larry near Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point

  My friendship with another remarkable Champ – Les Jones, a World War II vet led to a mortgage refinance for me that made sense

Les Jones has been a Champ and a personal friend for more than three years. He’s also a widower. He’s 94 and lives in San Juan Capistrano. A couple of months ago, we were talking about real estate. I told Les I’d like to refinance my mortgage but three lenders I contacted felt I wouldn’t qualify.

Les said, “You should contact my friend Vanessa Schwartz. I’m working with her on financing some real estate and she does incredible work, especially with veterans.

I called Vanessa. She said, “We can make this refinance happen.” My interest rate was 4.25% at that time.

On Wednesday this week, Vanessa, Les, and I got together for lunch in San Juan Capistrano to celebrate my refinance. My loan went to 2.88%. A vast improvement over the first loan I ever had in Orange County in 1987 at 13%.

As a World War II vet, Les is good friends with Gary Sinese—actor, director, musician, and producer–who sponsors the Sinese Foundation, which benefits veterans.

Vanessa said, “I was so inspired and enlightened by Les’s stories and how so many that had served allow us to enjoy the freedoms that we have today. It gave me such a higher level of appreciation and gratitude. It made me want to help and this seemed like the perfect way to help those men and women and their families. 

“I know the Sinise Foundation is near and dear to Les, not to mention that every dollar goes to those in need (none kept for management). I’m doing this, not to pay back, but to give recognition and appreciation. It really feels good to do this and I hope to write a lot more checks.”

Vanessa can be reached at http://www.whyvanessa.com or email vschwartz@arborfg.com. 

Because of our Champ Les, and because I am a veteran, and because Les introduced me to Vanessa, she donated $1,000 to the Sinese Foundation. Here’s the three of us after lunch.

 Les Jones, WW II vet, Vanessa Schwartz, and Tom Blake on August 19, 2020

It was a busy and rewarding week. Knowing so many of you incredible Champs is an inspiration to me. Stay safe.


I won’t settle responses and more

  On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  July 17, 2020

by Columnist Tom Blake

Part One – Responses to: “I won’t settle”

Part 2 – What two Champs are doing during COVID-19

Part 3 – Appreciating our lives  

                                   Part One – Responses to: “I won’t settle”

Last week, we wrote about Stacy, who, in four years, has settled for a man’s indifference towards her. She asked for advice. Comments from 10 women, some who’ve had similar experiences, follow:

Pat, Sacramento, emailed:

This is a classic case of a woman hearing what she wants to hear. She has allowed herself to be manipulated into a ‘friends-with-benefits’ situation. The only time the man has ‘integrity’ is when he states that he doesn’t want to get married. Maya Angelou said, ‘When people tell you who they are, believe them the first time.’

“This lady should immediately get a paperback copy of He’s just not that into you, a landmark relationship guide.

“This woman is a sitting duck for the scam artists that patrol online sites. They are experts in telling women what they want to hear. If this lady only lost four years, she got off easy. It could have been a lot worse.

“She should not even bother to tell the man goodbye. Just get the book, a coach if necessary, and start her new life. The man is not the problem; she is her own worst enemy. If he contacts her, she should not bother to play the blame game, since she was an active participant. She should simply state that she decided to ‘Get a life!’

“I can state this advice bluntly because I have had these dysfunctional behaviors myself and have recovered.”

Joanie, “Stacy is desperate, and Bob is offering her crumbs. He does not want more than a friends-with-benefits relationship. She, on the other hand, seems to have a very tolerant attitude towards men and is willing to compromise. She should look for a better man.  

“Bob is continuing to look for ‘Mrs. Right,’ and he does it in front of her eyes. Stacy’s great challenge is the fear of being alone.

Shelley, “Stacy is settling; she wants to matter to this man, but he isn’t making her a priority.

“If a relationship is not reciprocal, it’s not equal. Stacy should date other men and take a ‘break’ from Bob. Keeping quiet out of fear of rocking-the-boat never works in the long run.

“Bob’s actions don’t demonstrate love. She is not respecting herself.

Susan, “Stacy seems to have visualized that this man is perfectly suited for her but is ignoring the red flags. A person needs to either accept who someone is or end the relationship. 

“Yes, it is very hard to let go of the good parts of the relationship but as long as there are parts that don’t work and those parts cannot be accepted with peace and grace, the relationship will never work. Maybe that is what her man sees, but since he is in control, it does not bother him.” 

Barb, “Stacy’s situation hit pretty close to home! I have been in a relationship with a guy for eight years. We are very compatible. He is just a GREAT guy, was such a hard worker (just retired), willing to help others. He’s been married and divorced three times, bad marriages, not looking to remarry! 

“He’s always telling me how wonderful I am, beautiful, honest, and it’s quiet when I’m not there, etc., but he just moved 1600 miles away. I just returned from spending almost a month there; I’m hoping he will realize what he is missing!

“I will be moving too. Where?? not sure, just out of here. Can’t handle this Arizona heat and take care of my place without his help. Life is what you make it…in a sense, but it is better with someone you love!!

“Reading Stacy’s letter was particularly painful. I have been where she is. Why is it so much easier to see it in someone else?” 

Sylvia, “I understand, Stacy, that you want the relationship so much you’re willing to delude yourself into thinking it will change, it will be different, he’ll figure it out eventually. He won’t. 

“What he will do is meet someone else and move on while you’re left wondering what you did wrong. What you did was not value yourself. You’re so grateful that he is spending some time with you that you’re willing to overlook important signs. When he is gone, you will have wasted over four years. You can’t ‘fix’ him, you can only fix you.

Value yourself. Don’t settle. Find someone who appreciates you, but you must appreciate yourself first. 

“I’d rather be alone than spend time with someone who makes me feel insecure and unsure of myself.”

Jackie, Georgia: “OMG! Is there a book- ‘I Stayed Tooo Long?’ If not, there should be. My heart hurts when ladies settle! 

“I had someone pop into my FB about a month ago that showed interest who now lives in Texas but grew up in Michigan close to my home. He was a retired Chaplin and did a lot of spiritual outreach. We had many things in common.

“It didn’t take long for him to sign his notes with hugs and kisses. There was a silent time that I didn’t hear from him, so I showed concern he may have gotten the virus. He said, no, he had broken up with a lady and felt depressed.  

“But he told me I was number-one now (what a joke)! He would say how he went to sleep with his ‘Jackie’ pillow. But when he sent me some red-hot lips, I asked him if he was wearing lipstick and mentioned I was interested in someone knowing my heart not the lust of the flesh!  

“He blocked me and I haven’t heard from him since! I’m doing a happy dance!

“It’s been nine years since I divorced after 42 years (talk about staying tooo long) and now over three years that Randy, my second husband, passed away.

“I’m trusting in God to be the lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. He led me to Randy and He can do it again without my chasing to look for someone who may not be right. However, I’m not sitting in a chair waiting!  

Kaitte, “I don’t think she wants to hear it but if a guy broke it off with me the FIRST time, I would have said that’s it. What’s That old saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me–because I let it happen again. 

“I would rather be in the single, no-drama state I’ve been in for these 20 years than wonder if someone is screwing me over.”

Leslie, “Stacey says she’s never been as happy. She doesn’t sound happy to me. My bet is if she did as you suggested, she’d find someone who appreciates her.

“Bob sounds like guys I’ve known, so many women out there, he’s playing the victim from a previous marriage as an excuse because he knows he ‘has’ Stacey while he plays around.

“Well, Stacey, there are lots of men out there too. I’ve stayed in relationships too long, also. Out of fear. Wasted lots of time.

“I wish Stacey the courage and the knowing there are men out there who will love her, tell her so, and make a lifelong commitment.”

Diane, 59, shared: I was married 20 years. A year after my divorce, I met Lewis and spent 10 years with him on and off. In year four, his son moved in with him. He gave his son everything the son wanted. 

“I should have left him then, but I loved him and thought I could change him. I ended the relationship after 10 years by moving out of state, so that I would not have the urge to contact him, or run into him, or see him again. Tried online dating three times–not for me. 

“I’ve learned that I am the only person that can make me happy.”

                  Part 2 – What two Champs are doing during the virus

Last weekend, I visited Vince and Julie, who are Champs that have a booth at the Dana Point Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. They sell hats and other forms of merchandise with all sorts of different logos.

  Champs Vince and Julie

I’ve known Vince for 27 years when he was a tennis pro and later the manager of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Gift Shop. I asked him about possibly having some hats made with a “Tom’s Champs” logo, which I’m thinking of creating.

Vince gave me his business card to check out their company’s website. Oh my gosh, I had no idea his company does personalized logos, hats, clothing, and patches that can be pasted or sewn on to garments. They prepare items for people all over the USA, not just Dana Point.

There are actually three Champs living in Vince’s and Julie’s home. Julie’s Mom, Dee, a longtime Champ, lives with them. They are wonderful, helpful people and very talented. Their contact information is on the website. Check out the website at the end of today’s article; you might find something you’d like.

                       Part 3 – Appreciating our lives

News came in this week that made Greta and I realize how fortunate we are. It had nothing to do with the virus. Nonetheless, it shook us up.

On May 25, 1999, my nephew Derek, who lived in Dallas, was able to get tickets to the Fifth Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. He invited Greta and I to attend, along with his friends, Jim and Marci Kalina, who lived in nearby Laguna Niguel. The Kalinas never did anything second class, so they hired a limo for six of us to transport us to and from Los Angeles. Derek also got us tickets to a VIP Post Party.

And Derek somehow got us into an even more private special VIP party that was in an upstairs room for the entertainers. We met the members of NSYNC; I recall having a nice conversation with Lance Bass.

When Greta spotted a place to sit on a couch next to John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston, she sat down. Kelly was 36 at the time. Greta struck up a friendly conversation with the Travolta’s and I took this photo.

Greta, John Travolta and Kelly Preston – May 25, 1999, Los Angeles
                                                                                              photo by Tom Blake

This week, Kelly Preston passed away at 57, from breast cancer. Greta and I were stunned. Having met her, it just didn’t seem right that she passed so early. We feel bad for John and the family. They’ve had tough sledding in their lives—a son, age 16, named Jett, passed away in 2009.

Greta and I feel blessed that we’ve been able to enjoy our lives for so long.

The link to Champ Vince’s and Julie’s Going Somewhere Sportswear website: