When You're Least Expecting It: 88-year-old Single Woman Falls in Love, Weds After Whirlwind Romance

Betty plus Walter equals true love. (Philip G. Pavely/Tribune-Review)

After nearly nine decades of being single, Betty Jane Allshouse had no shame about her Valentines Day plans. She was moving into Masonic Village, a retirement community in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. And yes, she was doing it alone.

The 88-year-old had probably heard all the smug platitudes about love though out her life: it happens when you least expect it, it's all about timing, you never know.

Growing up in an era before single women redefined the meaning of success, she probably also was familiar with the term "old maid".

But Betty was ahead of her time. She worked at Allegheny Ludlum, a Pennsylvania sheet metal company, until her retirement, she always dated, but at some point she stopped worrying about looking out for "the one" and chose to fill that role all on her own.

Then, as she puts it, "this one came along."

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That "one" would be Walter Lowman, a fellow Masonic Village resident, ten years her junior. In a feature published in Pittsburgh's Tribune-Review on Sunday, Betty recounts how the pair met a few months after she moved in to the retirement complex. Walter, 78, approached her at the dining hall and asked to join her for a meal. Cue magic tent.

"I guess it was love at first sight for him - and also for me," she told the Tribune-Review. "The next day, I thought, 'well, this is good,' and I kept after him."

Their dinner conversations became more regular and lingered on after dessert. Six months later, Walter, a widow for 10 years, was ready for the next step--a step Betty hadn't ever taken. But she was just so into this guy. So when he asked her hand in marriage after dinner one night, she agreed to change the course in a life she once thought was fixed on a single track. 

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Six months is fast by most standards, but when you're 88 and you just know, you really know.

Still, Betty's friends were shocked. This from the woman who'd who'd said she'd "given up" on marriage? "They still can't believe it," Betty told the Tribune-Review.

Here's what's great about this story: it's not that Betty got married, or that she fulfilled some life-long dream of finally wearing a ring on her weakest finger. At 88, she was over the need to identify herself as a bride and she was used to simplicity of being on her own. But love sure is fun, and it can still feels heady and speedy and relentless at any age.

The couple wed in November at the retirement home in a small ceremony. Betty's pastor, Rev. Cameron Malcolm, for the last 25 years, was on hand to oversee the vows. "She was the happiest I've ever seen her," he recalled.

Walter's grown daughter, Melissa Lowman Callaway, was also on hand cheering the couple on. "I could tell she was just a great person and loved my dad, and he loved her," Callaway said. She's now so close with her new step-mother, they speak on the phone almost every night.

With Betty dressed in a white pantsuit holding a bouquet of orchids, the couple sealed the deal with a song they felt captured the spirit of their first meeting. It was "Some Enchanted Evening" from the musical "South Pacific."

Someone who thinks they understand the nature of love might tell you this surprise romance is proof of the importance of timing, maturity, or being open to possibility.

That someone probably wasn't listening close enough to the lyrics of "Some Enchanted Evening":
Who can explain it? Who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons, Wise men never try.


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