Skip to comments.After eight decades of single life, a perennial bridesmaid finally meets - and marries - Mr. Right
Posted on 08/12/2002 6:59:08 PM PDT by Temple Owl
The Boston Globe Online -- Low Graphics Version
After eight decades of single life, a perennial bridesmaid finally meets - and marries - Mr. Right
By Bella English, Globe Staff, 8/10/2002
FRANKLIN, N.H. - The bride wore white: a traditional long dress, with a veil, pearls, and bouquet. The groom wore his best brown suit. They were married in June, in a home ceremony. You'll excuse the couple if they jumped the gun on the kiss sealing the deal. The bride is 82, and it was her first trip down the aisle. The groom, a 73-year-old widower, was first married more than 50 years ago.
''The minister said, `Not yet ... Now!' when I went to kiss her,'' says Dick Rayno, chuckling as he recalls his recent marriage to Jennie Weglaiz.
After 82 years of being single - watching her 10 siblings each marry decades ago - Jennie accepted Dick's proposal last Christmas. They were sitting on a couch in his home when he fished a three-quarter-carat diamond, framed by two smaller stones, out of his pocket. ''Will you marry me?'' he asked.
Jennie said yes immediately. (''Wouldn't you, if you were 82?'' quips Dick).
For Jennie, a career woman with many hobbies, the issue of marriage was almost like that in the Pop-Art T-shirt with the wailing woman: ''Oh no! I forgot to get married!''
''I was just always so busy,'' she says. ''And if I wasn't going to have a good time, forget it.'' Time and again, her mother would say, ''Jen, why don't you get married?'' And time and again, Jennie would reply: ''I don't want to wash anyone's dirty socks.'' To which her mother would reply, ''They're nylon now. They're much easier.''
Hardly music to her daughter's ears.
There was once a time, during World War II, when Jennie was engaged. But her soldier boyfriend returned from duty a war hero. ''It went to his head,'' she says. She kept the diamond but ditched the guy. ''I gave the ring to my niece,'' she says.
As a young woman during the war, she and a girlfriend ran a gas station while the male owners were off fighting. Then she spent years managing the Daniel Webster Inn here. When it closed, she moved to North ampton, Mass., where she worked as a supervisor in a factory before retiring and returning to this New Hampshire town where she grew up. Meanwhile, Dick, a petroleum geologist, married and raised three children here. His wife died in 2000.
Neither was looking for romance, but they found it in an unlikely place: at the polls. Both were precinct volunteers two years ago in this small town north of Concord. As a politician approached the table, Jennie muttered, ''The cheap [expletive]. All he comes for is the free food.'' Dick said to himself, ''Maybe this is a woman I'd like to know better.''
During that day, he had remarked that he was having vision problems. Two weeks later, Jennie called to see how he was doing. He said he had not yet been to the doctor. She called him back a few minutes later after having made an appointment with her doctor. ''My first thought was, `What a pushy broad, ''' he recalls. ''`She doesn't even know me, and she's making a doctor's appointment for me.''' The couple giggle at the memory, their timeworn hands finding each other's.
At the doctor's appointment, Dick failed the treadmill test and was sent straight to the hospital. It turned out that a major artery was blocked. The doctor told them Jennie had saved his life by making that appointment. Dick looked at her and said, ''Now that you've saved my life, what are you going to do with it?''
Shortly afterward, he asked her out. A few months later, she was diagnosed with a cancerous ovarian cyst. Dick took her to all her appointments at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington. After surgery, he was there holding a box of Godiva chocolates. (''My first,'' she coos.)
When one of the nurses asked her, ''Is this your son?'' they just laughed. ''I wasn't fast enough,'' he says. ''I should have said, `Yeah, she had me when she was 9 years old.''' His bride beams at him.
For Dick, it was intrigue at first sight. ''I liked the way she was spunky,'' he says. ''She's glamorous. She's tall and slender. She's like a model. I don't care if she's 82 or what. She's vintage!''
As for Jennie, she simply says: ''I finally got the right man. It was worth the wait.''
She is a picture of elegance: just about Dick's height, her soft gray hair pulled up in French twist. Today, she's wearing long black patterned culottes, a black T-shirt, and black sandals. Where she is willowy, he is sturdy, tanned in shorts and a golf shirt. They are as lovey-dovey as any other newlyweds, holding hands, smooching, calling each other ''honey.'' (''He's a good kisser,'' she allows.) They share a closet, a toothbrush holder, and a double bed. No twins or separate bedrooms, like many senior citizens?
''We never thought of it,'' she says. ''We never discussed it.''
Dick adds: ''There'd be no reason to get married.''
They look at each other and laugh. ''She's up and down a lot at night,'' Dick says. He'll sometimes wander out to the living room and find her watching a home-and-garden show in the wee hours - ''Could there be anything more boring?'' he wonders - or getting into the blue-cheese dip he makes.
''We wake up at night and say we love each other,'' she says. And each night, as they turn the light off, Dick kisses her, telling her he loves her and he'll see her in the morning.
The couple does not shy away from public displays of affection. ''He's always with his hand on her thigh,'' says Kathryn Stober, Jennie's younger sister. Adds her husband, Ted: ''It's like sweet 16. They make me blush!'' The Stobers, who live in West Roxbury and have a vacation home near Jennie and Dick, were introduced by Jennie 47 years ago. Now they are thrilled that she has found herself someone. And they are amazed at the changes that have taken place.
The main one is the house. Jennie moved from a 14-room house in town to Dick's seven-room house overlooking Webster Lake. ''Two months of misery,'' Dick says of the move. For Jennie's overstuffed home reflected her life of collecting: It was full of china, glassware, Norman Rockwell figurines, antiques, clothes and pillows and bedspreads and quilts that she had hand-sewn. And most of all, her collection of large porcelain dolls, lovingly dressed in costumes she had made: a gypsy, a Jamaican girl, Chinese and Polish dolls, and so on - and on and on.
''I thought Dick was going to cry,'' she says, laughing. It's a good thing that his house was spartan: a couch here, a table there. Today, the decor of the cedar-sided home reflects both their hobbies: his woodworking (cabinets, ledges, and platforms for her ''stuff'') and her, well, stuff. The spare bedroom has been turned into a dreamy yellow haven with quilts and dolls. (''It was awful before,'' she says. ''It was utilitarian,'' he responds.)
Their bed is covered with an antique crocheted coverlet that she repaired and an afghan that she knit. He has turned the basement into her sewing room, building cabinets to hold all her fabric.
A master seamstress, Jennie made her own clothes all of her life - until it came to her wedding dress. Friends in her creative-sewing class insisted on fashioning the long-sleeved white gown with a lacy vest and slits up the side (''She's got nice legs,'' notes Dick). The two didn't go on a honeymoon, though Dick wants to take her to New Orleans.
Their days are filled. He golfs and volunteers with the nonprofit Mr. Fixit Program, designing wheelchair ramps for the elderly. She's busy with family and sewing and volunteering. He's building a shed. She's making drapes for the living room. Each afternoon, they sit with a bowl of peanuts and do jumbles and crosswords (her idea), or watch the birds and the occasional animal (his).
After years of being independent - a control freak, it's been rumored - she seems content to let her husband do the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. He makes a mean chop suey, a rich chicken soup, and a decent squash casserole. ''I didn't marry her for her housekeeping qualities,'' he says.
Has it been hard for her to give up some control after living alone all those years? Her husband interrupts, laughing. ''Who says she's giving up control? She's got me to control now.''
As for Jennie, she says she couldn't be happier. ''I tell my nieces if they find someone half as good as Dick to marry him,'' she says.
For a wedding gift, her sister Kathryn put together a scrapbook of letters from Jennie's family and friends. A woman who is single and exactly half Jennie's age - 41 - wrote a poem that began:
''I'm not waiting till I'm 82, I simply refuse. I just can't wait; but if I have to, I want to be just like you, a woman of class, who waited for fate...''
Call it fate, but to Jennie Weglaiz Rayno, it's simpler than that. It just took her 82 years, she says, ''to find someone as good as Dick is.'' The two, sipping iced tea on the deck, lean over and give each other a kiss.
Sorry, could not help myself.
It is a nice story, though
Squash casserole???? Ick.
She must really love the guy. I mean . . . ICK!
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