A senior love story revisited

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter

March 4, 2022 – eNewsletter #9

by Columnist Tom Blake

It’s a small and fascinating world: A senior love story revisited

On March 18, 2017, I published an eNewsletter about Phil and Sue, two of my Jackson High School (Michigan) classmates, which included the above photo I took in February of that year. The three of us graduated together in 1957.

Growing up, Phil and Sue were friends but never dated. He once told me he liked Sue since the fourth grade. After high school graduation, they did not see each other until our 50th class reunion in 2007. There, they only talked for 20 minutes. Both expressed that they had been in unsatisfactory marriages.

Ten years went by. Phil and his wife had not lived together for five of those years, but Phil was her caregiver until she passed in 2016.

After Sue was divorced, she also became a caregiver for another classmate of ours.

Phil and Sue lived far apart; he in Palm Springs, California, and Sue near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After Phil’s wife died, he wondered about Sue. He got Sue’s phone number from Marty, our class historian. He and Sue talked by phone a few times in January 2017.

Then, on February 1 of that year, Sue called Phil to tell him that the person she had been caregiving passed away. Phil and Sue agreed to talk more frequently.

From February 3 to February 6, their phone conversations revealed how much they cared for each other. Phil invited Sue to fly to California to see him.

On February 8, Sue flew to the Ontario Airport (east of L.A), close to where Phil lived. During the next week, their conversations revealed they had always liked each other, and that future time was very precious.

On February 15, Sue said to Phil, “If we are going to get married, why don’t you ask me?”

Phil replied, “OK, I just did.”

Sue went back to Michigan to retrieve more clothing. On February 24, she flew back to Ontario Airport. Her plane landed at 10 a.m. At 11 a.m., Sue and Phil were married at the Orange County Clerk office in Fullerton.

The next day, they stopped to see Greta and me at our Dana Point home, which is when I took the above photo of them. Greta remembers how happy Phil was because he was now married to the woman he had been smitten with since the fourth grade.

Pretty amazing story. It all happened in three weeks. They were like Storybook Children, the name of a song that Nancy Sinatra made popular. (link at the end of today’s article).

However, tragically, four months later, Phil had a heart attack and died.

Sue later remarried her first husband.

A 2022 update on Phil and Sue’s story

This January, I received an email from Norma, a Champ, who wrote, “In your article about Sue and Phil, I suspect there might be something fishy about Sue’s marriage to Phil and then remarriage to her first husband.”

I was baffled by her question. I replied, “Where and when did you read my article about Sue and Phil? I wrote about them five years ago.”

Norma responded, “I read about them in your March 22, 2017, article in The Capistrano Dispatch newspaper. I picked up that newspaper at the train stop in San Juan Capistrano. What a surprise! I knew Phil. He had been in our small church group in Riverside County. Our group members didn’t even know he had been previously married.

“After reading your article, I subscribed to your eNewsletter and read about Phil and Sue a couple more times. I’ve been a Champ ever since.”

I said, “I am dumbfounded. What a coincidence that you knew him. But why did you write me about Sue and Phil five years later?”

Norma said, “Last October, I listened to your online Senior Dating speech to the Alzheimer’s Society. During the speech, you talked about the importance of seniors putting estate plans in order and you mentioned that Phil had died just four months after marrying Sue and hadn’t updated his estate to include her.

“Then, you wrote that you helped Sue get a portion of Phil’s inheritance funds. And later, she remarried her first husband. I thought that was fishy.”

I said to Norma, “When I shared Sue’s plight with my estate planning attorney, Jeffrey Hartman, of San Clemente, he said that under California law Sue was entitled to certain widow’s rights, even though she wasn’t mentioned in his estate. She had accepted in her mind that she had been disinherited. Instead, Sue ended up receiving thousands of dollars.

“There was nothing fishy about Sue’s story. Phil was crazy about her and had admired her for more than 60 years; he would have been thrilled that she got some money.”

Making this story even more serendipitous, I had noticed that Norma’s email was identified as being from East Liverpool, Ohio. I thought her email might be about my dad’s family who grew up there. Dad’s father was well known–a state of Ohio senator. I mentioned that to Norma. She said her family lived two blocks from the Blake’s.

And Norma’s father and my dad had both graduated from The Ohio State University, both majoring in ceramic engineering. I wonder if they ever met? Probably so.

We’re all connected in this world.

Two senior lessons from today’s story

 1. In searching for a mate, don’t forget to attend class and family reunions, weddings, and other social events. One never knows whom you might meet and what adventures are lurking out there for you.

2. Do your heirs a favor. Have a written estate plan, and or a will. Don’t pass intestate (without a will). You don’t want your assets to have to go through probate. Make those documents a top priority as we are all getting older. If you already have those documents, update them often as times and people’s situations change.

Here’s the link to Phil and Sue’s story on my website from March 2017:


And a bonus link to Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood’s song Storybook Children from their 1968 album, “Nancy and Lee.” I’ve mentioned that song in previous articles; I enjoy the song so much, here it is again. Take particular note of Hazelwood’s incredible voice.