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Correction to This Article
The article misidentified a guest at Ellen O. Tauscher's wedding as John Podesta. It was Tony Podesta.

OnLove: Another Chance for Jim Cieslak and Ellen O. Tauscher

For Jim Cieslak and Ellen Tauscher, dating -- all over again -- wasn't a high priority. Then, they became good friends and eventually, husband and wife.

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By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 12, 2009

There are things a man would never predict for his life. He might have hoped for 30 years of happy marriage with a woman he loved, but not for three more that forced him to watch her slowly succumb to cancer. He could not have foretold the weight of the despair that consumed him once she was gone. Or that when the darkness finally began to recede, a new love would be waiting. He wouldn't have guessed that the woman to bring him fresh happiness would live more than 600 miles away. And certainly not that she'd be a seven-term member of the U.S. Congress.

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Jim Cieslak didn't envision any of that.

"There are no guarantees . . . To get two loves in the same life? That's more than a blessing," says Cieslak, a retired airline captain who on June 27 married Ellen O. Tauscher just as she resigned from Congress to become undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

"There's nothing like young love," the 62-year-old says, his blue eyes growing wide. "But now I know there's nothing like older, more mature love too."

The pair weren't strangers. Tauscher's sister and parents live in the same suburb of Atlanta as Cieslak's family. Over the years Tauscher had met Cieslak and his first wife, Carolyn, at neighborhood gatherings, though she'd always spent more time talking with her than him.

Tauscher, 57, was "disinterested," as she puts it, in dating. The Democrat had been married twice, divorced for 10 years and had a full schedule representing the people of the 10th District of California and raising her teenage daughter, Katherine.

"Some of my friends say that I was the most anti-relationship person that they'd ever met," she says, sitting in her office at the Rayburn Building on one of her final days in Congress. "It wasn't that -- it was that I divided my life between my work and my daughter."

In September 2007, Tauscher flew to Atlanta to assuage her parents, who were upset she'd gone on a recent trip to Iraq without telling them. That night her sister, Sally Bender, asked Tauscher to come to a dinner party with some friends, including Cieslak.

For his part, Cieslak was just beginning to contemplate dating. Based on his family genetics, he calculated that he had decades left on this earth and decided "that's a long time to be without love in your life."

At dinner, he asked Tauscher for dating advice.

"He wanted to know how I did it, and I told him I didn't know how to do it," says Tauscher.

Before they left that evening, Cieslak told Tauscher to give him a call if she ever needed an escort to any of her Washington functions.

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