The love of Evelyn Sturza's life died two years ago.
Since then, she has thought very little about dating. "I wasn't in the mood," she said.
Yesterday, she donned a red pantsuit that hung loosely on her because she had recently lost 12 pounds on a no-sugar, no-carbohydrates diet. She attached a name tag to her blouse. Then she sat at a table at the Rockville Senior Center and waited for its first-ever speed dating event for people 60 and older to begin. "I guess it's time," she said.
Time for Sturza to hit the dating scene again, something she has not done since she met her husband in 1950. They met on a blind date, were married for 52 years and had two daughters. Dating has changed drastically since then. These days, there are many more ways to date and meet people, organizers of yesterday's event said.
"The point of this isn't romance," Lorraine Schack, coordinator of senior social services for the City of Rockville, said about the event. "It's just companionship."
Gay Dorn, 76, was looking to make friends. She has many friends in the District, where she spends much of her time volunteering, but few in the city she resides in. "All my friends who used to live in Rockville are dead," she said.
Frank Braisted, 77, was hoping for a little more than friendship. A widower for 10 years, he had tried to reenter the dating scene by asking out co-workers at a thrift shop in Rockville. "I'd been asking them out for lunch, and they had reasons not to go with me," he said.
They encouraged him to go to the speed-dating event instead. He wore a bow tie, a gray sweater vest and a blazer. "I thought I'd better dress up," he said.
Sturza, who declined to give her age, said she was not looking to find another husband. She said she has a comfortable retirement from her earnings as a travel agent, manager of antiques shows and stock market aficionado. She simply wants someone to keep her company. Someone with brains. Someone full of adventure. And someone who isn't too cheap. "He must have high energy and a spirit of adventure and enjoyment of life," she said.
Schack, the moderator, rang a bell. The 14 men and 15 women had four minutes to talk to each prospective companion before moving on to the next. They had a list of conversation topics. Where did you grow up? What is your favorite movie? What is the best trip you have ever taken?
Sturza sat across from a recently retired 71-year-old man whose name tag identified him as Dan. "I'm looking specifically for people who, like myself, are classical music freaks," said Dan, who did not want to tell a reporter his last name.
"I like classical music, but I'm not a freak. I like all kinds of music," Sturza replied.
"I'm also looking for people who don't expect me to provide all the tickets or meals," he said.
"You want them to share? That makes sense," she said.
The bell rang again.
"Comme-ci, comme ça," she said of Dan. "He made it perfectly clear he doesn't like to foot the bill."
At another table, Doug King, 87, sat in front of Wilma Morgan, 79.
He wore a red tie with white hearts on it and a red sweater.
She wore a red dress, matching red pumps and a gold anklet.
He told her he was from the Bronx. She said she had been to New York.
He told her he had been a budget analyst for the federal government. "I'm a jack-of-all-trades," he said with a chuckle.
She didn't crack a smile.
"Do you dance?" she asked, this time smiling.
"I like dancing, too," he said. "Except now."
He pointed to his cane. She looked disappointed.
"It'll get better," he assured her. "It's just infected," he said of his left foot.
She started looking around. The bell rang. They each moved on to the next person.