Twilight years lovebirds have simple message: Choose happiness
After losing her husband 10 years ago, Edna Peaker never imagined she'd marry again, let alone a man with the same name.
But that all changed in the fall of 2021 when the 95-year-old met Jim Wilkie, 87, while sitting in the bistro at her retirement home in St. Thomas.
"I thought, 'Heavens to Murgatroyd,'" she recalled. "I was going to have another Jim in my life."
The pair quickly hit it off, bonding over their choir days, music and love for the game of euchre.
"I thought she was a young lady. I didn't realize she was older than me," Wilkie said in a recent interview by teleconference, drawing laughter from Peaker beside him.
"But that didn't matter," he continued. "We ended up having a lot in common."
Peaker, who lost her husband to Alzheimer disease, soon learned Wilkie, too, was widowed. He and his late wife became ill from COVID in April 2020, but she didn't survive.
Peaker and Wilkie grew closer as they helped each other work through grief.
Peaker was impressed by Wilkie's manners and friendliness to everyone at Seasons St. Thomas retirement home.
"I just thought, 'He's nice, and I'm old. So let's forget it,' as far as any romance was concerned," she said, laughing.
One evening just before Christmas, after playing euchre with friends, Wilkie turned to Peaker and popped the big question.
He asked her: "Darling, will you marry me?"
"I was stunned," said Peaker.
She hadn't known him for long, but she thought, "Why not? Let's give it a go."
The couple tied the knot at Seasons on March 3 in a ceremony officiated by Wilkie's nephew.
Around 100 people packed the theatre room, from fellow residents to family and friends. The pianist at Seasons even co-ordinated a song for the guests to sing to the bride and groom.
"It was just a terrific scene," Wilkie said.
One of Wilkie's daughters played the part of the best man, while one of Peaker's daughters was her maid of honour.
The couple said the day couldn't have gone any better thanks to Seasons' fun manager Breanna Coulbeck, who put in months of preparation.
"I'm only 22, so I've never planned a wedding," Coulbeck said.
"I told them: 'I've only been to one wedding, and that was my parents'" when she was 12, she said. "But it went very smoothly."
The party didn't stop there. The newlyweds capped the celebrations with a honeymoon in Niagara Falls.
Now that they're married, Wilkie quipped that his wife could not mistake his name for her late husband.
"But," he said with a smile, "I still do."
The duo believes everybody deserves happiness and wants others to know nobody is too old for love.
"I think it's a great idea that no matter how old you are, you find somebody. For heaven's sake, go along with it," Peaker said, beaming.
"I'm very happy," she continued. "That's all I could tell everybody."
Replied Wilkie: "I'm extremely happy."
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press