Home » Premium Dating » Widows and widowers help each other to start over again

Widows and widowers help each other to start over again

Barbara Larson sat in the driver’s seat of her antique Hudson, looking out at the glass entrance to a building. She was parked in front of the Bay Forest clubhouse in Naples and there was a party starting inside. The people passing under the blue awning looked, for the most part, her age.

But Larson stayed in her car. Eventually she worked up the courage to join the party, and opened the car door to get out. Then she reconsidered and closed the door. She sat back in her seat and thought for a while. She pulled on the door handle once again, hesitated, and then shut the door again. This went on for about 30 minutes.

It was Sept. 18, 2002, and that year Larson had just lost her partner of 45 years, her husband, Bill. The Chicago native thought she had completed the bereavement process, having spoken to counselors and to her children and others. Still, she didn’t feel ready to go into Bay Forest clubhouse and start meeting other men.

They were having pizza inside, at that, the first-ever meeting of the Widows and Widowers Association, and Larson felt so comfortable that she laughed at herself for sitting there in the car.

She has since attended all of the bimonthly gatherings of the association, which grew from 31 people at that first pizza party to about 375 members at last count, and now she heads up the group. It is her job to convince other widows and widowers like her to go out and meet people.

“When you get past the bereavement stage, you say, ‘OK, where do I go from here?’ ” Larson said, adding that re-entering the singles scene can be awkward. “It’s a lot easier when the people you are meeting are other widows and widowers, because only someone who has lost a life partner knows how that feels.”

“It’s different from a singles party, because with singles you don’t usually talk about your ex,” she continued. Widows and widowers regularly talk about their partners who passed away, she said. In that respect, the association also works as a kind of support group. Every dinner party begins with a moment of silence to remember them.

Larson learned about the first party while surfing the “W” section of the classified advertisements. She said she was looking for a Weight Watchers program. Instead, she found an ad for “Widows and Widowers,” which she later learned was placed by a man named Fred Burt.

Burt, a tall and affable man originally from the Boston area, has been asked on more than one occasion to tell the story behind that ad. He retold the story to the 203 guests at the latest dinner and dance party, a $30-per-plate affair held last Saturday at Spanish Wells in Bonita Springs.

Burt’s wife died at 46 from breast cancer, and ever since he found it difficult to adjust to social life. “Everywhere you look, there’s a couple. There’s a couple. There’s another couple,” he told the audience, who nodded their heads sympathetically. “I left Massachusetts to get away from that horror scene.”

One evening he was walking along the beach in Naples and stopped to admire the sunset. It was a lonely moment. But he met up with a group of three women there on the beach, and remarked on the beautiful view. They got to chatting and it turned out that the women also were widowed and traveled together all the time.

Burt appreciated that sort of kinship among the bereft, and decided to organize a widows and widowers club. He took an ad out in the paper, “and that’s how it all got started,” he said.

Next up at the microphone at the Spanish Wells dinner party was Larson, who asked all the first-time guests to stand. About 40 people did.

One of them was Patty Henry. At the end of the night, she said she was glad she came. “This is much better than the singles scene,” she said. “Those guys are only interested in the younger women. Here it’s not such a meat market.”

Another newcomer was Elsie Madden, who moved to Pelican Bay from Missouri after the loss of her husband in 2001. He had battled cancer for 13 years, and had always told her to just give him one month after he was gone before she started dating again.

It turned out to be longer than that. It wasn’t until her daughter said, “Mom, you’re not happy,” that Madden decided to move to Pelican Bay full-time and start her life over.

One obstacle that women like her face is that widowers are generally in shorter supply than widows. This fact of nature usually translates to a two-to-three ratio at these events. On top of that, those men who are available don’t always like to dance. Unless they happen to be fans of swing, salsa or rumba, they need to be encouraged to come out on the dance floor.

More often than not, though, the association does make lasting connections. One such success story involves Larson herself, who now enjoys the regular company of Hugh Lavery, a retired lawyer originally from Ossining, N. Y. They met at one of the first events in 2004.

Another involves June Vacca, who co-chairs the association with Larson and Marjean Black. About the same time as Larson and Lavery met, Vacca met Kenneth Klabunde, a retired engineer from Milwaukee, and things progressed quickly. He presented her with a ring in March.

“The shame is that once people start dating, they kind of pull away from the group,” Vacca said.

Not she and Klabunde, or their friends Frank Siracusa and Lee Damiano. Although the couples have been dating for years, the four of them still come to every dinner to swing it to Sinatra or “Roll Out the Barrel” to some polka.

Siracusa and Damiano are experts on the grieving process by now. Each has dealt with the death of not only two spouses each, but also those of two separate boyfriends and girlfriends. Between them, they have coped with eight deaths.

The next dinner party of the Widows and Widowers Association is scheduled for March 14 at the Country Club of Naples. Contact Barbara Larson (593-5788) or June Vacca (592-0470) for details.

Barbara Larson sat in the driver’s seat of her antique Hudson, looking out at the glass entrance to a building. She was parked in front of the Bay Forest clubhouse in Naples and there was a party starting inside. The people passing under the blue awning looked, for the most part, her age.

But Larson stayed in her car. Eventually she worked up the courage to join the party, and opened the car door to get out. Then she reconsidered and closed the door. She sat back in her seat and thought for a while. She pulled on the door handle once again, hesitated, and then shut the door again. This went on for about 30 minutes.

It was Sept. 18, 2002, and that year Larson had just lost her partner of 45 years, her husband, Bill. The Chicago native thought she had completed the bereavement process, having spoken to counselors and to her children and others. Still, she didn’t feel ready to go into Bay Forest clubhouse and start meeting other men.

They were having pizza inside, at that, the first-ever meeting of the Widows and Widowers Association, and Larson felt so comfortable that she laughed at herself for sitting there in the car.

She has since attended all of the bimonthly gatherings of the association, which grew from 31 people at that first pizza party to about 375 members at last count, and now she heads up the group. It is her job to convince other widows and widowers like her to go out and meet people.

“When you get past the bereavement stage, you say, ‘OK, where do I go from here?’ ” Larson said, adding that re-entering the singles scene can be awkward. “It’s a lot easier when the people you are meeting are other widows and widowers, because only someone who has lost a life partner knows how that feels.”

“It’s different from a singles party, because with singles you don’t usually talk about your ex,” she continued. Widows and widowers regularly talk about their partners who passed away, she said. In that respect, the association also works as a kind of support group. Every dinner party begins with a moment of silence to remember them.

Larson learned about the first party while surfing the “W” section of the classified advertisements. She said she was looking for a Weight Watchers program. Instead, she found an ad for “Widows and Widowers,” which she later learned was placed by a man named Fred Burt.

Burt, a tall and affable man originally from the Boston area, has been asked on more than one occasion to tell the story behind that ad. He retold the story to the 203 guests at the latest dinner and dance party, a $30-per-plate affair held last Saturday at Spanish Wells in Bonita Springs.

Burt’s wife died at 46 from breast cancer, and ever since he found it difficult to adjust to social life. “Everywhere you look, there’s a couple. There’s a couple. There’s another couple,” he told the audience, who nodded their heads sympathetically. “I left Massachusetts to get away from that horror scene.”

One evening he was walking along the beach in Naples and stopped to admire the sunset. It was a lonely moment. But he met up with a group of three women there on the beach, and remarked on the beautiful view. They got to chatting and it turned out that the women also were widowed and traveled together all the time.

Burt appreciated that sort of kinship among the bereft, and decided to organize a widows and widowers club. He took an ad out in the paper, “and that’s how it all got started,” he said.

Next up at the microphone at the Spanish Wells dinner party was Larson, who asked all the first-time guests to stand. About 40 people did.

One of them was Patty Henry. At the end of the night, she said she was glad she came. “This is much better than the singles scene,” she said. “Those guys are only interested in the younger women. Here it’s not such a meat market.”

Another newcomer was Elsie Madden, who moved to Pelican Bay from Missouri after the loss of her husband in 2001. He had battled cancer for 13 years, and had always told her to just give him one month after he was gone before she started dating again.

It turned out to be longer than that. It wasn’t until her daughter said, “Mom, you’re not happy,” that Madden decided to move to Pelican Bay full-time and start her life over.

One obstacle that women like her face is that widowers are generally in shorter supply than widows. This fact of nature usually translates to a two-to-three ratio at these events. On top of that, those men who are available don’t always like to dance. Unless they happen to be fans of swing, salsa or rumba, they need to be encouraged to come out on the dance floor.

More often than not, though, the association does make lasting connections. One such success story involves Larson herself, who now enjoys the regular company of Hugh Lavery, a retired lawyer originally from Ossining, N. Y. They met at one of the first events in 2004.

Another involves June Vacca, who co-chairs the association with Larson and Marjean Black. About the same time as Larson and Lavery met, Vacca met Kenneth Klabunde, a retired engineer from Milwaukee, and things progressed quickly. He presented her with a ring in March.

“The shame is that once people start dating, they kind of pull away from the group,” Vacca said.

Not she and Klabunde, or their friends Frank Siracusa and Lee Damiano. Although the couples have been dating for years, the four of them still come to every dinner to swing it to Sinatra or “Roll Out the Barrel” to some polka.

Siracusa and Damiano are experts on the grieving process by now. Each has dealt with the death of not only two spouses each, but also those of two separate boyfriends and girlfriends. Between them, they have coped with eight deaths.

The next dinner party of the Widows and Widowers Association is scheduled for March 14 at the Country Club of Naples. Contact Barbara Larson (593-5788) or June Vacca (592-0470) for details.

Leave a Reply