Senior romance at the Bargain Box Thrift Store in San Clemente, California

Tom Blake On Life and Love after 50 column Feb 22-March 1, 2018

Romance at the Bargain Box Thrift Shop in San Clemente

The Bargain Box Thrift Shop at 526 North El Camino Real in San Clemente is a wonderful place. It’s run by volunteers from the Assistance League of Capistrano Valley. All proceeds from sales there are put back into the local community.

The funds are used to provide new school clothing to families who need assistance in the Capistrano Unified School District. Also funded: New school clothing and toddler clothing giveaways at Camp Pendleton.

The Thrift Shop is the main source of income for the Assistance League of Capistrano Valley philanthropies.

Working at the Thrift Shop, volunteers Nancy Cormier and Donna ODonnell meet a lot of interesting people; they had no idea that their shop was also a place for senior romance. Until two weeks ago.

That is when a couple named Craig and Ilda Kendall came in to their Thrift Shop to do some serious shopping. Craig told Nancy and Donna, “The Bargain Box Thrift Shop has special meaning to us. That’s why we stop here whenever we are near San Clemente.”

The two women were curious, particularly because Craig and Ilda said they live in Calimesa, near Big Bear Lake, not exactly in the South County area. The women wanted to know more about this attractive couple.

Craig said, “Your Thrift Store was the perfect place for me to propose to Ilda. You see we both love antiques, nice clothes and jewelry. Our families both spent time on the beach in San Clemente when we were kids. We are amazed that San Clemente has retained its friendly, beach-town atmosphere.

“In 2010, when Ilda and I were here, it just hit me, and I asked her to marry me right in the shop.”

“Eight years ago?” Donna said, thinking Craig and Ilda probably married shortly after that.

Ilda said, “To celebrate our wedding, and to ‘pay it forward’ to others less fortunate than us, we stopped here today. As always, when here, the volunteers are so friendly and kind. It is obvious you love working here.”

“So, when did you tie the knot?” Donna asked.

“Three weeks ago,” Ilda replied.

Donna and Nancy were dumbfounded. They looked at each other and said this is a story for Tom Blake’s On Life and Love after 50 Column in the newspaper.

Craig gave Donna and Nancy their email address and telephone number, and then Nancy took a photo of them as they left the Thrift Shop.

ILAD and Craig Kendall at Thrift Shop

Craig and Ilda Kendall at the Bargain Box Thrift Shop in San Clemente, California (photo courtesy of Nancy Cormier)

The two women sent me an email. My challenge was to contact Craig and Ilda, to gather a little more information and since my partner Greta and I were going to Palm Springs on Valentine’s Day for a week, time was of the essence.

As Greta and I were driving on Palm Canyon Drive into Palm Springs, my cell phone rang. It was Craig and Ilda. I explained where we were, and Craig said, “That is an amazing coincidence!”

He and Ilda were on their way to Palm Springs as well. We thought about meeting for dinner, but it was Valentine’s Day and the restaurants were already booked, and they’d be so busy it would be hard for us to hear their story in a crowded place.

Greta and I just happened to have some wine with us, and we ended up meeting Craig and Ilda at the Palm Springs Tennis Club where we were staying. We popped the corks and got to know them in person.

Craig is 72; Ilda is 67. They knew each other in 1962 when living in Riverside. It was apparent from the conversation that Craig had had a keen eye for Ilda since then, although both had married and gone their separate ways.

After Craig was divorced and Ilda was widowed, they reconnected on and had their first date at the Five Crowns Restaurant in Corona Del Mar in 2010. At that time, Craig lived in Running Springs and Ilda lived in Crestline, near Big Bear.

Greta and I could not believe that a senior romance that began at the Bargain Box Thrift Shop in San Clemente eight years before, led to a totally impromptu meeting with Craig and Ilda at the Palm Springs Tennis Club on Valentine’s Day, 2018.

Never give up on senior love; you just never know where or when it’s going to happen.