On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – July 24, 2020
By Tom Blake
A widow and widower love story
In November 1990, Joe, age 72, lived in Dana Point, California. He had been a widower for 13 months. He missed his lifelong mate and married partner of 45 years.
Joe believed he would remain single the rest of his life. No one—he was convinced—could fill the emptiness he felt. As a favor, he would escort women friends to functions, but had no interest in becoming involved.
Years before, while living in Pittsburgh, PA, Joe and his wife had been inseparable friends with three other couples. Now, all that remained of that group in Pittsburgh were three widows. Joe kept in touch with them, sharing each other’s pain, loneliness, and memories.
For Thanksgiving 1990, a friend invited Joe to Coronado, a city across the Bay from San Diego. He was seated next to a woman named Paulita. Coincidentally, they both had attended Beverly Hills High School but did not know each other because Joe was two years older.
Joe and Paulita talked for hours. Joe said, “I knew I had been shot through the heart with a love-arrow but was disappointed to learn that Paulita was leaving for Mexico in two days for the winter.”
That night, Joe confided to a friend: “I’ve fallen in love, but she’s leaving in two days.”
The friend insisted, “Call her first thing tomorrow, tell her you want to see her before she goes.”
The next morning, Joe and Paulita made a date for that night. When Joe picked her up at her San Diego home, he said, “There’s something I’m going to tell you.”
“What is it?” Paulita said.
“I’ll tell you during dinner,” Joe replied.
The restaurant was a few miles away in La Jolla. In the car, Paulita kept asking, “What is it?”
“I’ll tell you at dinner,” Joe repeated, determined to wait until they were seated at the restaurant.
Finally, the time of reckoning arrived. Paulita had no idea what Joe was going to say. After a cocktail, Joe mustered the courage to tell Paulita.
“Yesterday, I fell in love with you. I want to be with you.”
Paulita was dumbfounded. “Aren’t we going a little fast?” she asked.
“At our age, we don’t have a lot of time,” Joe said. “May I visit you in Mexico after the Holidays?”
Paulita’s enthusiastic response: “YES!”
The next morning, Joe called Paulita. “Have a safe trip. I love you.”
That night, he called her in Mexico to ensure she arrived there safely.
Then, he called his son and daughter.
He said, “I’ve fallen in love.”
His son said, “Dad, you’re kidding.”
His daughter said, “Dad, you’re kidding.”
He said to both of them: “Even old people can fall in love. Love doesn’t come out, it escapes.”
Joe and Paulita talked twice a day by phone. A few days later, he said, “I can’t wait until after the Holidays. I want to see you tomorrow.”
She said, “Great!” He did. And he stayed in Mexico for eight days, which included asking Paulita to marry him.
She said, “Great!”
He returned to California for Christmas with his children. And then he returned to Mexico to see Paulita for another 12 days. They set a wedding date.
Joe notified his three widow friends in Pittsburgh of his wedding plans. They shared his joy.
In February 1991, Joe and Paulita married.
Joe told me this story in 1995. He was a customer of Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point deli. We had become good friends. We talked a lot about baseball; we talked about senior romance.
He said, “I love Paulita as much now as I did four years ago.”
The following week they left for Mexico. Together.
The rest of the story from Tom
In 1995, I had been a newspaper columnist for 30 months. The story of Joe and Paulita was column number 74. At Joe’s request, I did not use their true names. Instead, I called them Ed and Jackie.
There was a reason for Joe’s request. Dana Point was a small city. Lots of people knew each other. Joe was a humble man, not wanting to draw attention to himself and Paulita. He was well known, the son of the famous comedian and actor, Joe E. Brown.
But our Joe in this article was Joe L. Brown, who was the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team for 21 years, from November 1955 until the end of 1976.
Photo of Joe L Brown presented to Tutor and Spunky’s Deli. Joe wrote: “Great food. Good People.”
Under Joe’s leadership, the Pirates won two World Series Championships, in 1960 and 1971. Most old-timer baseball fans remember when Bill Mazeroski hit the lead-off home run in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees to win the 1960 series.
Joe was responsible for putting together “The Lumber Company,” a group of powerful hitters that included Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Al Oliver, to name a few of them. After retiring, Joe was Chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee.
I recall him sharing with me who the committee might consider for entry into the Hall of Fame that particular year. He and I had a special connection, mainly because of a love for baseball.
After Paulita died, Joe moved to Albuquerque to be near his daughter Cynthia. He passed away at 91 on August 10, 2010.
A month or so after he died, Cynthia called me to thank me for being such a great friend of her dad’s. Needless to say, her call meant a great deal to me and warmed my heart. I am truly blessed to have known this incredible man.
And that’s the rest of the story.