Harbor’s Edge residents featured in the Virginian Pilot show it’s never too late for love:
By Mike Hixenbaugh
He was sitting in a rocking chair, recovering from surgery and still grieving a year after the death of his longtime wife.
She was heading back to her room for another quiet night alone.
Neither of them was looking for love.
“Then I saw this gorgeous curly hair, and I thought, ‘Who is this? Is he new here?’ ” 84-year-old Betty Bade says, recalling that August evening at the Harbor’s Edge retirement community.
She introduced herself, then asked whether she could sit down. He patted the chair next to him.
“And that’s all she wrote,” Betty says, then gives John Duffy a smooch on the cheek.
John, 89, tells the story differently.
“I came to Harbor’s Edge after having surgery, and while here, I was tackled…”
Betty cuts him off and raises her cane toward his neck: “You’re gonna get the hook!”
John speaks over her: “I was tackled by this sex fiend.”
Betty points to the newspaper reporter sitting with them: “You’re gonna get the hook if you put that in your story.”
They laugh like teenagers.
In an upscale retirement community filled with widows and widowers – and some couples who’ve spent more than a half-century together – John and Betty are among the few who’ve found a second shot at love.
This is their third Valentine’s Day together.
In the afternoon, they put a Frank Sinatra record on and dance in John’s kitchen. “Is it a fancy not worth thinking of? Or is it at long last love?”
John gives her a book of poetry inscribed with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and a note Betty says is too personal to share.
In the evening, they head down for the community’s annual Valentine’s Day dinner. Betty wears red. John opens the door to the dining hall, then bows his head as she walks through.
“You’re too much,” she says.
It was several weeks after they met before Betty learned that John is a world-famous music composer and conductor. He doesn’t display his two Emmys at his apartment.
He had a long marriage to a former editor and owner at the Daily Press in Newport News. Betty had “50 good years” married to a Coast Guard man.
Neither is interested in getting married again; Both are happy to have a companion.
“There’s something magic,” Betty says, putting her arm over John’s shoulder. “I don’t know what.”
“We found that we can be ourselves with one another,” John says. “Serious. Wacky. Whatever.”
“He’s a good hugger, a good kisser and a wonderful dancer. And that’s what we live on,” she says.
John had planned to move back to New York after recovering from surgery three years ago.
He didn’t expect to meet someone like Betty.
“The only way I’m leaving now,” he says, “is if I’m taken out stiff on my back.”
Betty shakes her head and smiles uncomfortably.
“Let’s not go there,” she says. “This is a happy story.”