Widow wedding ring

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter

by Columnist Tom Blake

September 23, 2022

Widow wedding ring dilemma

Dee has been a Champ for several years. She used to attend the Senior Singles Meet and Greet gatherings at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, which I owned for 25 years. The last time I saw Dee was a year ago in August at a book signing held at the deli. At that time, she told me, “Things are going well, a lot has changed, all positive. I got married two years ago to Ron.” 

On July 31 this year, Dee emailed me an update, “I wonder if you remember my email from last year at some point where I talked about Ron’s and my relationship and how we had gotten married after he was in a terrible accident that killed his brother and caused so much damage to Ron’s body, caused brain trauma and hurt his spirit. 

“Well, Ron passed away two days ago, on Friday, after spending a week in the ICU at Saddleback Memorial. He had this stubborn cough that would not let up. Turned out he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his lungs.

“Now I am a widow from my ‘fifth and final’ husband. When he asked me to marry him in 2017, he said he wanted to be my ‘fifth and final.’ This deep grief is new territory for me. We were supposed to ‘grow old together, the best was yet to be.’” 

“I am so sad. Thank you for being there.”

Dee’s news was a shock to me. Besides Dee, I’ve had three other women friends become widows in the last 12 months. I admire their strength in dealing with their respective losses. Each is dealing with her situation in her own unique way.  

On September 13, Dee updated me, “I have been a widow for eight weeks and wonder ‘What’s going to happen in the future?’ For the first few weeks, I jealously guarded my wedding ring! I did not want to remove it even for a moment. 

“As the weeks went by, I began to think about the ring. My husband Ron and I had two sets of matching rings plus I have a gold band as well. I started changing my rings to go with my mood or my outfit for the day. I still want to wear it. I will never forget him or cast off our marriage. 

“But I am starting to think about the symbolization the ring stands for. It says, ‘I’m a married woman, but I realize I’m not anymore.’ I have no intention of dating. I recognize I have many months of contemplation and reflection ahead of me, and I just want some companionable friends and people to spend time with, nothing romantic.  

“What do you think our Champs would say about wearing a wedding ring after one’s spouse has passed away? How does one decide when and if to remove the symbol of marriage? I was going to start by changing the placement, going from my ring finger on the left to the ring finger on the right…start there and see how it feels. To me, this sounds reasonable, but I almost feel disloyal. Wedding ring guilt.

“As far as the pictures go, his old room is now back to being an office and most of the pictures of him and of us are in there. I moved all but my favorite one from my room two weeks after he died because seeing his smiling face was wrenching. 

“I like to see his picture before I turn the lights out. His 11” x 14” portrait picture that was taken after his accident-repair dental work is on the dining table, and I see it often, and I love it!

“When he was in the accident many of his front teeth were damaged, so he got them all fixed up and gained an even more amazing smile. The dentist sent him to a photographer for a portrait for their office (before and after). The photographer was kind enough to send me a larger portrait since I only had a 5×7. 

“Ron’s life changed immensely once we met, dated, married. His daughter tells me his life unfolded five-fold and he was SO happy. Many people that knew him for years like co-workers and friends told me the same thing. Our relationship opened many new doors for him and I was happy and thrilled to bring these things like college and travel into his life. 

“This created some challenges for us, we had different value systems that we had to learn to integrate, but we got there, and we became best friends who looked out for each other, loved up on each other, and made our tiny home a cozy little nest and had so many adventures together.

“When/if the time comes, I will put some of the pictures away if necessary. But for now, I think you can see that I’m very confused. What might Champs say?”

A senior moment or Magic moment?

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – July 15, 2022

Number 32. A senior moment or a Magic moment?

As we age, many of us experience senior moments. I think I had one recently.

On most Saturday mornings, I stop at the outdoor Dana Point, California Farmer’s Market. There are about 75 food and non-food E-Z UP booths there, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I particularly enjoy visiting with Vince The Hat Man and his partner Julie where they sell their custom-designed hats. I’ve known Vince for 32 years. He and Julie are friends of mine.

In the booth next to The Hat Man’s booth, Jeff Freeman sells high-quality bed sheets.

Jeff’s a sports buff and loves to chat about the latest news in the sports world. We’ve become buddies as well.

A week ago, shortly after I arrived at the market, I heard Jeff say, “Hey Tom, you’re wearing Magic’s number.”

I had no idea what the heck Jeff was talking about.

He said, “Step over here and turn around.” I reluctantly did.

Then he said, “Look at the back of your cargo shorts.” I looked behind me. I was embarrassed, horrified and thought, “Is old age catching up to me?”

On my spanking new navy-blue cargo shorts, there was a vertical yellow strip with several ‘32’ numbers running down the back (32 was Magic Johnson’s number with the LA Lakers). I quickly reflected on where I had been before coming to the market that morning. Oh no! I had been at Ralph’s Supermarket, the Costco gas station, and at Baby Beach where a lot of people were.

I wondered how many had seen that strip of 32s on my shorts and had thought, “Look at that old guy, he has no idea those numbers are on his rear. He forgot to take the size-32 tag off after he purchased them.”

Had Greta seen me leaving the house with that strip on my shorts, she would have stopped me.

I removed the yellow strip and thanked Jeff profusely for helping me avoid further embarrassment.

So, what was the deal? A few days before, I had purchased the pair of cargo shorts from Costco. All the shorts on the sales table had colored tags running down the back. I had considered grabbing a size 34, but I remembered that most of the shorts in my closet were size 34, just too darn large for me now that I’ve lost weight and need a size 32.

Since selling Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point deli in 2015, I was no longer eating Italian subs with tasty cold cuts and cheese, I’ve slowly shed about 20 pounds in seven years.

I thought about Magic Johnson. He came into the deli several times. Greta and I became friends with him.

Greta, Magic and Tom (photo: Tom Blake)

A few months after first meeting Magic in 2009, I was invited to be a speaker at the AARP National Convention in Las Vegas. So, Greta and I were there. Plus, because I was a newspaper columnist, Greta and I were given press badges which gave us entry into all AARP events.

And Magic was a speaker at the same convention. Before his speech, Magic appeared at a press conference, which Greta and I attended along with 22 other members of the press.

Magic had no idea that I was anything other than the owner of Tutor and Spunky’s. At the press conference, Magic started to answer questions from reporters and then he spotted Greta and me in the front row. I could tell he was puzzled why two deli owners would be sitting there. He nodded to us. Then, he raised his hands as if to call a time-out in basketball.

Magic said to the press corps: “See those two people in the front row, they make the best sandwiches west of the Mississippi.”

I have never seen a press corps so confused. I’m certain they were wondering, “What the heck is Magic talking about?”

After the press conference, I explained to Magic that I was a columnist. He, Greta, and I had a good laugh.

So, here it was, 13 years later, and I was at the Dana Point Farmer’s Market, wearing Magic’s number 32—but not for long. Thanks, Jeff Freeman, for making my senior moment go away.

5 tips for overcoming heartbreak

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – May 20, 2022

by Tom Blake – Columnist

A New You – 5 Tips for overcoming heartbreak (Love will find a way)

Growing old has many rewards: retirement, playing lots of golf, exercising at will, children are grown and usually married and grandchildren for you to enjoy. No more 9-to-5 working pressures. The list is endless.

However, as we age, we also experience loss. We lose loved ones through divorce, breakups, misunderstandings, and death. It’s not just losing a partner. We lose parents, siblings, and dear friends. We are dealt personal hardships. Perhaps we’ve been diagnosed and are dealing with a serious illness.

It’s life, it’s inevitable and it’s hard. When these things happen, we face a new challenge: overcoming our heartbreak and finding a new direction.

How do we do that? How do we become “The new you?”

In writing about senior dating and relationships for 28 years, here are five tips I’ve learned from readers on how to overcome heartbreak. One of the main themes of songs is heartbreak, and how to overcome it. Today, I’m including three songs that I feel can be helpful to get people through tough times and give them hope.

5 tips for overcoming heartbreak

1. It’s understandable and ok to be sad. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be alone (for a time, but not for too long). One of my favorite songs from the 1970s was REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” In a nutshell, that song’s message is: “Everybody hurts sometimes. Hold on.” It’s a powerful song of hope and overcoming adversity. Link at end.

2. Remind yourself that healing takes time. It will sting for a while. In an interview April 21, 2022, on Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asked Magic Johnson (the photo above is of Magic Johnson with Greta Cohn and Tom Blake at Tom’s deli, Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point, California, in 2009) how he overcame the news in 1991 that he had HIV. Magic said, “You realize you aren’t alone.” Being aware of this helped him become “A new you.”

The Bee Gees, the 1970s popular singing group was made up of three close-knit brothers. They had many hits, including, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” I saw an interview on TV recently with Barry Gibb, about that song and how he dealt with the loss of his three younger brothers, who died years apart. Maurice and Robin were members of the Bee Gees and Andy was much younger but not in the group.

Gibb was devastated. He said, “I moped around for months, there were highs and lows.”

My sisters and I lost my brother Bill a year ago January, it’s taken that long to not think about him every day. I’ve healed, I guess because I no longer daily reach for my phone to call him as I did for months after he passed. Again, healing takes time. And we will never forget.

3. Don’t try to go it alone. Have a support group, if only one or two people. Confide in them and talk to friends; be out socially, if possible. Try not to isolate yourself. Be around people by attending church, volunteering, and going to senior centers. Don’t be afraid to admit your pain.

4. Remind yourself that everything is going to be all right in due time. It may not seem like it when adversity happens. Be as positive as you can. In 1976, Neil Diamond co-wrote and sang live one time the song “Dry Your Eyes,” in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King because so many people were mourning. The song was on the “Beautiful Noise” album. He did not sing it live again until 2017, after the terrorist bombing at an Aria Grande concert in Manchester, England.

Greta and I attended one of his last concerts at the Forum in L.A. in 2018. At least, he unexpectedly (to me) sang “Dry Your Eyes.” I filmed a video of it, which is linked below.

5. Look for a seed of opportunity that often sprouts from adversity. When I was dealt an unexpected divorce in 1994, I started a journal just to gather and organize my thoughts. Six months later, using the words from that journal, I became a newspaper columnist. A seed of opportunity came along, and I grabbed it. I’m still writing 28 years later.

Another song about overcoming heartbreak is by the singing group Pablo Cruise who had a 1978 hit titled “Love Will Find A Way.” Words from that song include:

“Oh, but it’s all right (all right)
Once you get past the pain
(Past the pain)
You’ll learn to find your love again
So keep your heart open
‘Cause love will find a way”

Remember Magic’s words, “You aren’t alone.”

The music:

Here are links to the four songs mentioned.

REM’s Everybody Hurts:  


The Bee Gee’s How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?

Neil Diamond Dry Your Eyes (note the trumpet player beginning at the 1:34 mark; he’s incredible

Pablo Cruise’s Love Will Find A Way

Senior dating and living topics

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – October 15, 2021

by Tom Blake

Protecting personal information 

Champ Christine Baumgartner, our expert dating and relationship coach, shared a couple of notes about protecting personal information: 

1.    I’ve mentioned to my female clients to create a free Gmail address to use exclusively for their online dating. This will protect their personal information because as Tom mentioned, most of us have a way to ‘track us’ through our regular email address. 

2.    I also mention to them to sign up for a free phone number through Google Voice. It helps you protect your personal information just like the Gmail address does. Google assigns you an anonymous phone number that will route a call to your cell phone (just like online dating routes emails through their site to your personal email address). 

What do single younger men want? 

One woman Champ said, “On my ‘regular’ online dating site, I get contacted by many guys in their 50s. I am 68. I would NEVER go with anyone that young. And I’m sure I know what they are looking for.”   I asked her what that might be? Money? She responded: “S E X geez, had to spell it out?” 

She has responded before. She always adds a negative comment whenever she writes. No wonder she can’t find guys to date–the negativism shows through and is a turnoff to men.

My comment. “You say that guys in their 50s want to have sex with women near 70. RealIy? I think guys in their 50s want to have sex with women in their 40s. Silly me, I thought money might be the primary reason why women want older men.”

One male Champ responded to her: “She’s not living in reality. Hope springs eternal.”

Another woman Champ asked me to keep my eyes and ears open for single guys for her. She wrote: “Location doesn’t matter because I’m willing to relocate. I’ll be 75 next month.”

And then she listed the specific religion he must belong to and the specific political party he must belong to. 

My reply: At 75, location does matter? What if the guy lives 150+ miles away? How far is he going to be willing to travel to meet you and then to get to know you well enough to have you relocate to live with him? 

I don’t discuss religion or politics in my writing. However, without taking sides, I will say this: requiring a man or a woman to be of a specific religion and a specific political party will severely limit the number of men available to her, particularly if she is geographically undesirable for them. 

A male Champ stated that any woman in his life must be willing to attend Mass with him. He didn’t mention political party affiliation, but it’s likely also a factor with him. 

Lunch with the newest Champ Greta and I had lunch this week with our newest Champ, Jo, who said, “I’m 87. I have no interest in dating. I just enjoy your eNewsletter.” Jo is one sharp cookie and a beautiful person. 

A full dance-card 

Linda, Murrieta, California, emailed, “If you want to stay busy and possibly keep your dance card full, living in a 55-plus community with amenities is the way to go. These are tailored to my interests but there are so many more activities. Bingo every Friday night and it’s open to the public.

Line Dancing Saturday morning at 9:30

Aerobics, MWF at 9:45. Karaoke once a month. Genealogy once a month. Wine Club once a month. Tuesday Night Social, every week at 5.“There are card clubs, tennis, golf, and pickleball. If you don’t have fun, it’s your own fault.” 

Tom’s comment: Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to live in one of those 55+ communities. My mom did, for 30 years, a place called Oakmont, in Santa Rosa, California, and loved it. My siblings and I were blessed that she could afford it.” 

Second-date familiarity A woman who describes herself as Gypsy is hoping to get opinions from Champs about a man’s second-date behavior. She wrote, “On our second date, he kissed me full on the mouth without an invite, not unusual, but he kept kissing me to the point of it being uncomfortable. I pulled away. Had it been on the cheek or top of the head, it would have been acceptable. As candid as our Champs are, it would be interesting to hear what they think of this familiarity on a second date. I don’t recall seeing an article or debate on the topic.” 

Tom comment: Oh yikes, I think I’ll withhold my opinion, and ask our Champs if any of them will chime in. Can’t withhold my opinion: the guy was obnoxious.
One other item – Tom’s speech upcoming at Dana Point Historical Society

I mentioned that I will be the speaker at the Dana Point Historical Society meeting on Wednesday, October 27, at 7 p.m. in the Dana Point City Hall Chambers Meeting room. The topic: My new book, “Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark.” There is no charge to attend. (See book cover image below)
However, seating will be very limited (55 people or less). I was previously told that a reservation would be required but that has changed. You can simply come to attend. I recommend arriving by 6:45 to ensure you won’t be standing in the hallway trying to listen. I’ll have some books to sign with me. 
Thanks for responding with your dating experiences and questions, which are essential in keeping our information fresh.

Reconnecting with Tom Maney

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – August 20, 2021
by Tom Blake – Columnist

Publishing my memoir, “Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark,” yields an unexpected result: connecting with an old friend.

Most Champs are aware that I published a memoir in July. After all, you helped me create the book’s title, “Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark.” All paperback copies ordered by Champs so far have been autographed and shipped.

I wrote the book for three primary reasons:

1 -During the 26 years of owning and operating the deli, I met so many incredible people—employees, customers, friends, suppliers, and a few celebs—I wanted to acknowledge and thank them for contributing to the vitality of the deli. More than 550 are mentioned in the book.

2 -As we age, keeping our minds alert is nearly as important as keeping our bodies moving. This self-publishing project helped me keep my mind alert. There was a lot of research, a lot of looking facts up online, and a lot of editing and spellchecking. I did pretty well by keeping typos and errors to a minimum in the 382 pages. It helped fill the extra time made available by the Covid-19 epidemic.

3 -I thought that the book might contribute, ever so little, to the history of Dana Point, California, which became a city two weeks after I had opened the deli in 1988. The city and the deli grew up together. I felt that some people in Dana Point and surrounding cities might have an interest in the tidbits of history that the deli experienced during those years.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was the personal warmth I felt when reconnecting with people I hadn’t seen or talked to in up to 32 years. To locate many of them–even some who still live in Dana Point–required searching online, Facebook, Dana Point Unplugged, LinkedIn, and any other place I could think of.

This brings me to today’s story. In the book, in the 1990 chapter, I included two pictures of a customer named Tom Maney. One of the pictures is of Tom, which he had given me, chipping out a piece of the Berlin Wall, which had opened on November 9, 1988, signaling the fall of The Iron Curtain.

Tom chipped out that piece a few weeks after the Wall had fallen.

In addition to the picture, he also presented the deli with a chip from the wall he had brought back to Dana Point. That picture with the piece of the wall was mounted on the deli Wall of Fame. It remained there for 24 years until I retired in 2015.

Tom Maney moved to New York City in 1992. He went to work for ESPN sports. He sent me an ESPN tee-shirt in 1993, which I still have. We lost track of each other.

I wanted to include that picture with the piece of the wall in the book. So, I searched online for Tom Maney and discovered that he had done extremely well in a sports media career. Additionally, he has been successful in New Jersey and New York real estate. I sent him an email on June 26 with this subject line: “A Blast from the Past – Tutor & Spunky’s.”

And this is where that reward of connecting with old friends comes in. On June 29, Tom replied that he was semi-retired after spending 30 years in sports media. He wrote, “So many great memories that go beyond your terrific deli sandwiches.” His message gave me goosebumps.
He said he was going to order the book from Amazon.

Then, on August 14, Tom sent another email. He wrote, “What a great pleasure it was to spend the day at the beach (New Jersey’s Long Beach Island is a barrier island in the southern part of the Jersey Shore) reading your book. Dana Point has always had a special place in my heart. Thank you for including me in your wonderful story. What became of that picture and piece of the wall?”

I told him that the picture and piece of the Berlin Wall were now on our home-office wall. Reconnecting with Tom Maney happened because of the book. I had reached out to a long-lost friend. It meant so much to me.

I got to thinking, wondering if Tom Maney would like the picture and wall chip. So, I wrote him and said, “I would be honored to part ways with that deli artifact and send it to you as a return gift. It could become a part of your family’s genealogy and history.”

Tom responded: “I still have several pieces of the wall so there’s no need to return it. It belongs with all the Tutor & Spunky’s wall of fame items.

”32 years ago we were so young, handsome, and full of ambition. You did it right by doing your corporate career first and then moving to Dana Point. I did it backward. Now I have to figure out how to get back….”

So the piece of the Berlin Wall chipped out in 1990 remains in Dana Point, 31 years later.

Reconnecting with an old friend happened because of the book I had written. But people don’t need to write a book to reconnect with old friends. They can just do the search and try to find them. When you do, it will warm your heart.
I hope that as I reach out to more people who are in the book, there will be other stories similar to this one that will emerge–if I can track the people down. 

Senior dating eNewsletter: keeping it fresh

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  March 19, 2021

by columnist Thomas P Blake

                                       Senior dating eNewsletter: keeping it fresh

The pandemic has made producing this weekly On Live and Love after eNewsletter a challenge. The reason? Many Champs—not all—have hunkered down in their homes and haven’t gotten out of the house as much as they would have during normal times.

Hence, they have less to say about life and love after 50. The stories, experiences, questions, and comments from Champs have slowed to a trickle.

Champs are the voices of people age 50 and beyond—often far beyond. We’ve got subscribers in their 90s. And at the other end of the age spectrum, we’ve got Champs in their 40s.

(The latter are mostly women who are dating considerably older men. These women often take issue with me, claiming that I infer they only want the old guy’s money. They say, “I’m with him because I love him.” I roll my eyes.)

There are weeks when I say to Greta, “I have no idea what the hell I’m going to write about this week.” I ask myself, “Why do I continue writing these eNewsletters? Why do I keep hammering them out after 26 years, having inked more than 4,000 articles?”

(That total is a combination of newsletters and newspaper articles)

Greta says, “You do it because you love it, you are helping people, and it’s good for your brain and helps keep you young.”

And then an email arrives from a Champ that rekindles my enthusiasm. In this week’s case, the email came from Patrick Hynes, a Champ I’ve known for more than 40 years. We’ve mentioned Patrick a few times in our articles. He and I worked for the restaurant chain Victoria Station in the 1970s. We did not know each other then, but have resurrected so many memories it seems like we did.

Patrick is an interesting man; he loves to write. For about six months, he’s been publishing a short blog titled “Patrick’s Brief Encounters…Snippets of my life in America.” He is a native of Australia.

At Tutor and Spunky’s Deli Meet and Greet: Tom, deli owner Samantha, and Patrick  (photo by Tom)

For a few years, Patrick was a public relations executive for the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, near Disneyland. In that capacity, he met several VIPs: Mohammed Ali, Joe DiMaggio, Charlton Heston, to name a few. And that’s what he writes about, those brief encounters with famous folks, including photos. He’s written 31 “Brief Encounters.”

In his email this week, Patrick’s said: “I am running out of steam with my ‘brief encounters’ blog…and I’m anxious to move on to a new theme.”

I wrote back, “What? Out of steam after only six months?” And yet, I understood. It’s tough to keep writing fresh material without inputs from readers.

Patrick added, “I am blown away with your longevity (26 years) and fresh eNewsletters and columns. I feel honored to have been mentioned in some of them.”

Patrick’s comment gave me a shot in the arm (not to be confused with Greta’s and my Covid dose #2, which we received two weeks ago), a boost to my morale, and a recommitment to keep producing these weekly eNewsletters.

Patrick’s comment was from a person who understands and appreciates the challenges of keeping a blog/eNewsletter or newspaper column fresh. A little appreciation goes a long way.

                                  Our Champ Patrick Hynes

People ask, “How many Champs receive this weekly eNewsletter?” I send out approximately 2,000 each week on Friday. Of course, not all of them are opened. Hence, I resend the column on Sunday to those readers who did not open, which is why some weeks Champs might receive two copies (because they didn’t open the Friday one). 

While our readers are mainly located in the USA, other countries represented include Canada, the UK, Australia, and South Africa.

This week, a widow from Budapest, Hungary, subscribed. I sent her a ‘welcome’ email, telling her that Budapest is one of the great cities in the world. I based my comment on a 2016 visit there that Greta and I enjoyed.

The widow replied, “I m a widova for 3 years – after more  than 20 years together –  and just trying to understand life, love, and men.” So welcome to her.

Also, recently readers have subscribed from the Philippines and the Canary Islands (Spain). And welcome to them.

So I remind you. If we want the “On Life and Love After 50” eNewsletter to continue arriving on a weekly basis, keep reaching out, sending me your material. Encourage friends to join us.

Note from Tom: I have a   http://www.travelafter55.com website. It covers several years of travel that Greta and I have taken. Lots of photos. Once at the travel site, if you scroll to April 2016, you can read about and view photos of our visit to Budapest.                        

And now, some “brief encounters” with Champs this week:

Carol, 73, wrote: “Regarding those women who preach stop looking so hard for a man or how wonderful it is living alone, I say: ‘That makes no sense to me. I’ve been happily independent for over a decade.’

“Having friends, family, and activities does not alleviate the desire for slow dancing with a partner, or snuggling up for a movie, or in front of the fireplace, or hugging and exchanging backrubs. The desire for the company of a man does not imply some inherent shortcoming in a woman’s life.”

Gina emailed, “If you walk daily on a beach pedestrian path or nature trail, around the same time each day, you start to see some of the same people. Say hello and good morning to as many people who make eye contact.

“I have met a nice man and we go on walking dates. I’m not into the awkward dinner dates anymore. Walking and great conversation is perfect.”  

Future topics: I’d like to write about two issues in future columns:

1. Health issues as we age and our partners grow older as well (names can be withheld)

2. A Champ wondered why widows or widowers who have new relationships still display pictures of their deceased spouses, seemingly everywhere, including at their homes and on Facebook. How should we respond to her comment. 

Let’s hear your opinions.

A tribute to New Zealand and those loved ones we’ve lost in 2019

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – December 20, 2019

By Columnist Tom Blake

           A tribute to New Zealand and those loved ones we’ve lost in 2019

My 2019 Holidays eNewsletter is a tribute to people who were important to Champs, who passed away this year. Two world events in the last week triggered this thought. Both are coincidentally related to New Zealand.

Why this unusual topic? The idea came to me this week while Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Dana Point Harbor. I was paddling with my usual paddling buddy, Russell Kerr, a native of New Zealand. Russell and his wife, Pam, have dual New Zealand/USA citizenship. He and I talk about events of the world whenever we are on the water together.

The first event Russell reflected upon was the White Island volcano eruption off the coast of New Zealand on December 9, in which 18 people perished.

I couldn’t help but think of the friends and relatives of those who died that have been affected by this tragic event.

And the second world event that Russell and I discussed occurred on December 12, with the passing away of Peter Snell, New Zealand’s greatest athlete ever, a middle-distance runner, who would have been 81 on December 17.

Why did Snell’s passing affect me?

In the summer of 1960, I traveled in Europe with four friends. We spent several days at the Rome 1960 summer Olympic games. On Friday, September 2, 1960, we watched in Olympic Stadium Peter Snell win the 800 meters run in track. It was the first time in 24 years a New Zealand runner had won an Olympic track and field gold medal.

I was a college cross country runner at the time and admired the grit Snell had shown in that race. Snell broke five world track records in his career. In the 1964 Olympics, he won both the 800 meters and the 1500 events.

Fast forward to 2011, when my partner Greta and I were on a cruise around New Zealand’s North and South Islands. One of the ports where the ship docked was Wellington, located at the southern tip of the North Island.

On our way back to the ship after a fun sightseeing day, we popped into a shop called the Olympic Games Museum. I was curious to see if Peter Snell was featured there. Did anyone in New Zealand even remember Peter Snell?

Inside, there was a pair of worn-out track shoes on a podium under glass. I asked a man working there if they were Peter Snell’s shoes. (They weren’t).

The man judged from my accent that I was from the United States. “Why is an American interested in Peter Snell?” he asked. I told him about being in Rome and seeing Snell win the gold. I mentioned I had admired Snell ever since.

The man’s name was Terry Daly, the Commercial and Marketing Director for the New Zealand Olympic Committee. He gave me an official New Zealand Olympic team lapel pin and told me he wanted to give me something else, but it was in his office in Auckland. I told him our ship would be there in two days. He gave me his card and asked me to come by.

After sightseeing in Auckland, Greta reminded me that we needed to go to Terry Daly’s office.

Terry gave us an Olympic team jersey autographed by the great Peter Snell. I was incredibly moved and honored.

Snell’s jersey hung on the sports wall of fame at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, my Dana Point deli, from 2011 until I sold the deli, in 2015. Since then, it’s been on the wall in our garage.

When Peter Snell passed away this week, I went to my garage and took down the framed jersey to photograph it. I felt a heart-string tug.

                     Authentic autographed Peter Snell track jersey 

I took several minutes to ponder Peter Snell’s life, and how humble he was, and my life, and how fortunate I was to have seen him run, although I never met him. But my brother Bill did. Snell became a dentist in Dallas, where my brother lives. Their paths crossed one time. Snell passed away in Dallas.

So, to Peter Snell, and the people lost in that tragic White Island volcano, and my Dana Point deli customer, Vern McGarry, and my high school buddy Champ Carm, whose sweetheart Karen Jenkins passed away this year, and all the others, who have passed this year, or in all years, in fact, thank you for being in my life and/or the lives of our Champs.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. May 2020 be a good year for all of us.

Senior Meet and Greet in Dana Point

Tom talking to seniors at Dana Point California Meet and Greet May 22 2019

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – May 31, 2019 – Keeping me focused – The next Senior Meet and Greet in Dana Point California is Thursday, June 27, 2019

by columnist Tom Blake

Get it right, Tom

I received several comments about the singles Meet and Greet recap in last week’s eNewsletter. However, the most frequent comment wasn’t about THAT Meet and Greet, it was about the NEXT Meet and Greet. I wrote it would be Thursday, June 28.

About 20 Champs set me straight (in a cordial and respectful way). In 2019, there won’t be a Thursday, June 28. That Thursday is June 27. I stand humbly corrected.

And speaking of Meet and Greets, Randall emailed, “Tom, I’ve been advised that you have a singles group that meets at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point on a monthly basis. I know your reputation for being honest and would like to attend the next meeting.”

My response to Randy: “With this group of astute Champs, anything less than honesty would be exposed in a nanosecond.

“The May Meet and Greet at Tutor & Spunky’s Deli was the first one since I sold the deli in 2015. Turnout was great, about 100. We will continue to have them as long as senior singles in our area want them.”

I suggested Randy sign up for this On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter on FindingLoveafter50.com, so he can be updated on upcoming events and singles information that I consider important, interesting (and honest!).

 Romance Scam alert

Randy’s “being honest” comment leads me into a story of someone who wasn’t honest. I’m sharing it today because I never want any of our Champs to be scammed out of money, assets, self-respect, or anything.

I read an article written by Faith Karimi that appeared on CNN on May 24. A woman from Georgia was swindled out of $80,000 by a young scammer. I couldn’t determine from the article the age of the woman but was shocked that she was so naïve and foolish that she gave the man the money after one week of dating.

Here are some of the excerpts from the CNN.com article:

“John Martin Hill, 35, connected with the woman…on Match.com in late March…Hill took the woman out on a date the same day they met (online), and the two agreed to get married a week later… (I thought to myself—you must be kidding–she met him in person on the same day first contact was made, without checking him out, and, agreed to marry him in a week?).

“He told the woman he’s a millionaire, and they decided to invest in a love nest. The woman gave her now fiancé $80,000 (cash) to help with the home’s purchase…

“During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together…When he got the money, he cut all contact with the woman… (shocking, I know).

“The man lived with another woman and a child in Duluth, Georgia — and he’s wanted in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey for similar scams, authorities said.

“Since then, several women have come forward and said they were in a relationship with him, or, knew women who were. Hill has changed his name at least five times in two and a half years, police said.

“Police arrested him Wednesday at a hotel in Franklin, Tennessee…”

The CNN story also stated, “’By sharing this story, it is our hope that he is not able to victimize any other women using this scam,’ Gwinnett County Police said in a statement. ‘These types of con men are very good at manipulating their victims. They tend to say everything that a woman wants to hear.’”

Emphasis on sentence above: they tend to say everything a woman wants to hear. 

Apparently, Hill has used several aliases including Gregory Hill and has scammed women in several states. He’s behind bars now, and it seems he will be for years to come. He was busted in 2012 but was still able to operate scams since then.

How anyone could be so naïve is beyond comprehension. However, it happened to women in several states. Wow.

Link to that article:


In fairness to Match.com… 

I don’t want to give the impression that all Internet dating sites are bad, and I’m not singling out Match.com. I am merely re-emphasizing that one must be careful when meeting strangers online or anywhere.

This week, Don, one of our Champs, wrote to say he would attend the next Meet and Greet. Don said, “I met the perfect lady for me on Match.com a little over a year ago and she seems to think I am the perfect man for her. Edie is 73 and I am 78 and we are doing great.”

Meetup.com is not a dating site, but here’s why it’s a good option for meeting people…

Vicki wrote, “I’m 70. Widowed 5 years. I loved being married and though I don’t want marriage at my age, I do want a companion. I’ve been lucky and I’ve dated a lot.

“I’m a determined lady and I’ve used all the dating sites (and I took dating seriously) and I’ve had horror stories, but I’ve also met some ‘ok men,’ just never ‘my man.’ I always picked men that were 3 or 4 years younger; I’m an on-the-go, fun, lady who attracts younger men, men who also like to get out and have fun).

“I’ve always turned down dates from anyone younger than 3 or 4 years. Even though I’ve always been told I do not look my age, I never strayed from that age range because I was brought up that women date their age or older.

“As for the you-look-younger line I hear, people say that to be nice and your age is going to come up sooner than later when you date, and I’m a bad liar. I always told the truth about my age and ignored the invites from the 50s + group.

“I joined a fun Meetup.com group–single and 55+ was the requirement. I recommend Meetup.com to meet men vs. online dating. Of course, more women than men are in this group, but lucky me, an attractive man 10-years-younger, took a liking to me.

“We went out, he knew my age, he didn’t care! I wrestled with the age differences until I realized how much fun I was having with him, and guess what? We are now companions, spend at least 4 or 5 nights a week together, have gone on two trips and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in a relationship!

“My new advice for all daters over 55 is just go for it, enjoy every minute you have and forget age, be honest and if they don’t care, you don’t care! You are as young as you feel and when anyone asks my age I now say, ‘I’m old enough to know better than to answer that, and young enough not to care that you asked!’ Then I wink! It usually gets a laugh!”

Memorial Day Ceremony and Flower Drop at the Palm Springs Air Museum…

    A P-51 Mustang participated in the Flower Drop flyover.  This plane was flown by the Tuskegee Air Men

Greta and I were in Palm Springs on Memorial Day. We decided to attend the 22nd Annual Flower Drop & Air Fair at the Palm Springs Air Museum, known as one of the best air museums in the world. As a Navy veteran, Memorial Day means a lot to me. I wrote about our incredible day there, and included several pictures and videos. If interested, go to http://www.TravelAfter55.com. The home page will open on the story. That is the same website with all of our travel adventures on it.

Reminder: The next Meet and Greet is Thursday, June 27, 2019, at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, 34085 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, CA. 5 to 7 p.m.

Where are the men?

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – May 24, 2019 – Two parts today:

Part One “From the Mailbag”

Part 2 – Wednesday night’s Meet and Greet (with photos)

Part One  – From the mailbag – responses to Where are the men?

I’m surprised. Despite last week’s eNewsletter being laden with Census Bureau statistical information about people age 65 and older, which I thought would be boring to some, a surprising number of sage responses arrived in my email inbox.

Some of the responses, had the usual off-the-wall twists and humor in them. A few of those comments follow, with my responses back to the senders. Women wonder: where are senior men?

Mohammed Gariba (unedited) emailed, “How can i get widow to marry  iam in Ghana”

As you can surmise, particularly from the poor grammar, I suspected a scammer. Not to mention, an individual who was geographically undesirable. Usually, I ignore emails like that. But, a couple of brief replies popped into my head so I answered Mohammed:

“How can you get a widow to marry you? Have you asked one?”

And this: “Move to Alaska.”

He responded, “I will do that if I have the means.”

His dilemma solved.


Andrew emailed, “Tom, you wrote, When you consider that many of those men included are in a relationship, or don’t want to be in a relationship, or never married, or aren’t ‘relationship material,’ as some women point out, the realistic ratios are much larger.”

Maybe there are a similar proportion of women in a relationship, etc., etc., so the realistic ratios remain the same.”

Tom to Andrew: “Good point. I considered it. But more women than men express the not-relationship-material aspect. Regardless, whatever the actual, realistic, ratio, it’s still tougher on women than men. Where are senior single men is asked often. ”


Thomas (not I) emailed, “Five years ago, I lived in San Clemente and twice attended your deli Greet and Meets. I have since moved to Salida, CO.

“I still believe I am one of those men that can’t find that woman to be with the rest of my life. I bought a motor home this past year and spent the winter in Texas and AZ. I am 80 and in good health. So, I am asking the question, ‘Where are all the women?’”

My reply, “There are lots of wonderful, single women in Texas and AZ. Perhaps your RV park was geographically undesirable. Once you are encamped in those areas, you still need to get off the couch, and out of the motor coach, and seek outside activities where others will be. Just hanging around the RV park won’t be enough.


My reply: “I didn’t intend for the column to be depressing; I felt it substantiated what I’ve been saying for years–the ratios make it more difficult for women.

“And yet, it’s not impossible to find a mate later in life. I published a hardcover book titled, How 50 Couples Found Love After 50, a few years back that featured 58 couples who had found love.


Many of those couples are still Champs and remain together. Meeting a mate later in life takes effort, and some luck. But, it can and does happen.


Champ Jim, a humor columnist (RaisingDad column) for the Desert Exposure Magazine in New Mexico (www.desertexposure.com), responded to the May 9 eNewsletter, about the woman who complained about her partner who spends time in the backyard, ostensibly flirting with neighbor women.

Jim wrote, “I wasn’t planning on responding, but since the response to that lady’s complaints seems to be 100% against her partner, I thought I’d give an opposing perspective.

“First, two stories:

(1) “I have a cousin who went on a group trip to Italy with his wife. During the trip, whenever he would recommend that they do something, his wife would defer. She preferred staying at the hotel and enjoying the amenities.

“My cousin was disappointed, but what could he do? He went off to enjoy the sights alone. When they returned from the trip, within the year, he and his wife had divorced, and he was involved with another lady he had met on the trip.

(2) “My mother could talk to anyone. My father, not so much. Whenever they would go anywhere, my mother would end up talking to whomever happened to be within hearing distance. My father, on the other hand, would be sidelined by his own choice, fuming. Who was at fault? My friendly mother or my unsocial father?

“Like you, I don’t know that lady’s situation, but I do know there are two sides to every story. Other than (he) being, in her opinion, overly friendly, her partner doesn’t seem to be committing any great sin.

“Maybe she can quibble about how the household chores have shaken out, but, really, what has this guy done? Is he a drunk? A freeloader? A womanizer? Does he beat her? Berate her? Disappear for great lengths of time with no explanations upon his return?

“Apparently, no. His sin is that he likes to work on his yard and flirt with his neighbors. Is that so bad?

“Like my cousin’s ex-wife, maybe if she had joined him in the activities he enjoyed, she wouldn’t have felt quite so ignored. Same for my father.”Ramping up for the Wednesday night Meet and Greet at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point, CA.

Susie, Fairfax, Va., emailed on Tuesday, prior to the event, “Why don’t they have more meet and greets for older, young-at-heart people over 70?”

Tom’s response to Susie: “My question is: Who are the they you refer to? The government? Restaurants? Senior Centers?

“My experience, as a former restaurant owner, is: Meet and Greets take time to plan, and then it’s hard to predict who will show up. If, not enough men attend, women complain.

“Plus, for restaurants, seniors don’t spend much money so there is little financial incentive for restaurants to sponsor events like that. The restaurants prepare food that might go to waste if the turnout is poor. Then, they have extra staff members on hand and that costs money.

“The event Greta and I helped with took hours of prep work by the deli staff and new owners, including purchasing extra wine and beer, promoting the event, and contacting people. I hoped for at least 50 attendees.

The Champs who sent RSVPs were all women, not one of our male Champs said they would attend; so, I hoped this wouldn’t be a disappointing event. I understand that people have other obligations and can’t always attend.

One woman wrote: “After 17 years of being single after two divorces, I’ve seen what’s out there. It ain’t pretty.”

I responded: “Who knows? Maybe a few good men will attend the Meet and Greet in Dana Point on Wednesday from 5 to 7. You live just down the road from Dana Point, 10 to 15 minutes away. Might you join us at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, 34085 Pacific Coast Highway, DP 92629?

She said, “I don’t have a car, so no.”

What? I thought, but didn’t say to her: “Have you heard of Lyft or Uber?”

Her comment made me think about an article, that Kip, a buddy who kayaks at Dana Point Harbor, told me about, that appeared in the May 14, 2019, Los Angeles Times online newspaper. It was titled, “For lonely men in Spanish towns, the ‘caravan of women’ brings hope of love,” written by Meg Bernhard.

I accessed the article online out of curiosity because of our “Where are the men?” article. I ended up reading it because of how well written it was—a fascinating article.

It’s too long to get into it in this eNewsletter, other than to say, it talks about 50 single older women who live in Madrid, Spain. They each paid $23 to take a charter bus to Calzadilla De La Cueza Spain, a tiny town (24 permanent residents), four hours away, in hopes of meeting the single men there. They were in the tiny town in a bar for about eight hours.

The return bus headed back to Madrid at 4 a.m., arriving at 8. Women in this country who think they have a hard time meeting men, should read this story. Again, it is incredible journalism.

Bottom line: It’s hard to meet older single men anywhere in the world. Not just in the USA. Link to that story:


And finally, Champ Sue said, “I live near Chicago and don’t know how to find the boys! I just keep hoping. Have a beautiful day.”

Part 2 – Meet and Greet recap from Wednesday night 

We hadn’t had a Meet and Greet at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point CA in four years. So, I didn’t know what to expect.

Early crowd at the deli

People started arriving before 5 p.m. By 5:15, there were 50 people there. By 5:30, nearly 100. They kept coming into the deli. Greta was filling in name tags as fast as she could write. Jackie Hammond and her sister Judy Frank arrived.

Greta, Jackie, Tom, and Jackie’s sister Judy (Jackie graciously shared many of the photos taken with her camera that are shown here today)

About 15 of our Champs attended. Stella took a bus from Newport Beach, just as she did five years ago. Marinell came early and introduced herself. Then Mary Ann joined the party.

   Greta and Tom with Mary Ann (photo courtesy of Mary Ann)

Champ Susie was there and seemed thrilled with the group. Mirtha came with friends. Dee, who had been to many Meet and Greets, arrived with her daughter Julie, and Julie’ significant other, Vince.

                   And yes there were men, I count five in this picture 

Guys there: included Ken, Jim, Cluny, Vince, Cliffy, Bob and Mike—seven guy pals of mine.

Yes, there were more single women than men, but men did show. At one point, I counted 20 men interspersed with the women. It was a great way to introduce the new deli owners, Samantha and Elena, who hugged more people in one night than most of us hug in a year.

One table of women had an international flare—they were from Mexico, France, Bulgaria, and Iran.

Greta’s family and friends were there in droves—sisters DeDe and Jeanne, and her son, Tony, who was the volunteer bartender, just as he’d been five years before, and her daughter Terri. Her long-time friend Lula. Several members of Greta’s Dippy Dolphins Water Aerobics class attended.

Tom with 2 owners–Elena and Samantha– behind him on the right side

One of the first couples who met at our first Meet and Greet six years ago—Fred and Joanne—were there with friends. And another couple, Jack and Joanne (not the same Joanne) who say they met because of my articles that encouraged them to keep trying years ago were all smiles.

Tony the bartender (Greta’s son). He looks busy because–he was

What more can I say? Great night. When addressing the group, I asked the people, when for the June Meet and Greet? Oh my Gosh. Not on Tuesdays, that’s Taco Tuesdays. Wednesdays? No, that’s country dancing night at
Stillwater Restaurant and some people go to church on that night. Third Thursday? Nope, that’s the Chamber of Commerce mixer night.

At home, Greta and I flipped a coin. It was heads: the next event will be Thursday, June 27, 5 to 7 p.m. My guess is, Tutor and Spunky’s is going to be packed on that night.  Stay tuned.

Magic Johnson’s retirement from Lakers

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – April 12, 2019 – What Magic Johnson’s retirement from Lakers words might mean to Champs

About ten years ago, one of my employees at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, my Dana Point, California, restaurant, came into the office and said, “Magic Johnson just walked through the door.” I didn’t believe it until I walked to the front and saw the 6’9” Magic ordering a sandwich.

I introduced myself and welcomed him to the deli. We chatted and then I tried to keep the mob away from him so he could enjoy his lunch. People were running to their cars, getting their cameras and hoping to get a photo with the “Magic Man.”

Magic told me that he and his wife Cookie had purchased a vacation home in Dana Point, next to the Ritz Carlton Hotel. That summer, he returned to the deli three times, and even had a business meeting there with his employees of Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Magic only knew me as Tom, the deli owner; he had no idea I was a columnist.

  Greta, Magic Johnson, and Tom at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli

Later that year, I was a speaker at the AARP national convention in Las Vegas. In addition, both Greta and I had press credentials as I also wrote columns about the convention, so we had access to AARP press conferences.

Magic was also a speaker that year. Before his presentation, he was introduced at a press conference with about 25 newspaper people in the room, including Greta and me.

While he was answering a reporter’s question, he noticed Greta and me sitting in the front row. He held his hands up as if he were calling a “time out” during a game.

He announced, “Do you see those two people in the front row? They make the best sandwiches west of the Mississippi River in their Dana Point deli.”

People looked at us–two people wearing press credentials–and wondered, what the hell was going on. It was a funny and special “Magic Johnson moment” for Greta and me.

He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. The last time I saw him at the deli was in 2013, this photo was taken. Look at the smile on his face.

 Magic and Tom at Tutor and Spunky’s – September, 2013

So, that’s my history with Magic Johnson. I did send him a congratulatory tweet after Michigan State (his alma mater) advanced to the Final Four last week in the NCAA 2019 tourney. Of course, I didn’t get a response (he probably received thousands of tweets).

This past Tuesday night, before the Los Angeles Lakers final game of the season, Magic unexpectedly resigned as the president of Lakers basketball operations after two years in that job. His bosses, owner Jeanie Buss and General Manager Rob Polinka didn’t know the news was coming.

At an impromptu press conference, he said “I want to go back to having fun. I was happier on the other side (the non-business side of the sport).”

He also said, while trying to hold back tears, “”What am I doing? I’ve got a beautiful life. So, I’m gonna go back to that beautiful life.”

He has always relished being an ambassador for basketball, which he enjoyed much more than being shackled by the demands of a job that required him to hire and fire personnel, and trade players. And, who knows what goes on in the executive suite of a highly visible professional sports team?

So, what does this story have to do with On Life and Love after 50? What might Magic’s comments mean to we Champs?

My interpretation: At this stage in our lives, we should pursue what is beautiful to us. Everybody’s different. What’s important to me for the next x years, will be different for what’s important to you for the next x years.

I don’t want to sound idealistic. However, we should try to not let a job, or a living situation, or adversity or whatever, lessen the meaning and happiness of our lives. We have x number of years left. We should pursue and enjoy what we love to the fullest. We must follow our passion as best we can. We must do our best to live in a way that makes us happy.

That’s what Magic just did; and that’s the message that I take away from his words.