If it’s surprising to you that a man in his late 80s and a woman in her 90s would meet, decide to marry, and then throw a big, rocking wedding, you should hear how much of a shock it was to them.
When they met, Dorothy Williams, now 93, had been avowedly single since the passing of her first husband almost 25 years ago. And Richard Rola, 87, had barely left his house since his wife of almost 60 years succumbed to cancer four years ago. Neither was looking to meet anyone new, and they certainly had no interest in romance.
“I was really depressed,” Rola said of the time after his wife died. “I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I told people to leave me alone.”
But he had a leaky roof one day in 2015 and he called John Williams, owner of a home improvement company in Macomb, Mich., where he lives, to come fix it. When Williams arrived at Rola’s home, the two started talking, and Rola showed Williams some of his Polish memorabilia on the wall. Williams thought Rola was a nice man and seemed lonely, so he invited him to a polka dance his family attends once a month.
To Rola’s own amazement, he said yes.
When Williams went home and told his mother, who lived with him, “she freaked out,” he said.
“She said, ‘I don’t want no man coming,’ ” Williams, 67, said. “I said, ‘Mom, he don’t care about you, he just wants to join the polka.’ ”
The day of the polka, Dorothy Williams remembers she went — but begrudgingly. She had no plans to talk to the stranger her son had invited.
But when Rola showed up at the house, he walked right up to Dorothy Williams and asked: “What’s your name?”
“Dorothy,” she answered.
He replied, “I never met a Dorothy I didn’t like.”
She said she figured maybe he wasn’t so bad.
They all had fun together at the polka that day, and Rola went along with them a few more times. But John Williams said he had no idea the two were getting sweet on each other.
“It was a little bit of a shock when I saw him showing up at the house with flowers two, three days in a row,” John Williams said. “He’d bring little gifts for us, too.”
John Williams looked to his mother and saw she was happy. Giddy, even.
Rola said his feelings came out of the blue.
“We went along, it was casual, and suddenly there were sparks starting to fly,” he said.
Dorothy Williams said she never dated after her husband died, even though she had opportunities.
“I never, never wanted to,” she said. “Then he came along and I couldn’t believe it. He’s a complete gentleman from the old school. He still opens doors and takes you by the arm, all the good things. He’s concerned about you.”
They started spending all their time together, and things got serious over a period of two years.
“Then the magic words come out: She said, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you,’ ” Rola said. “It was like getting hit with a baseball bat.”
One evening, they were out to dinner with the whole family and Rola dropped a quarter under her chair, pretending it was a mistake. He asked her to please move her chair back so he could retrieve it. He might be old, but he’s still got a few moves.
“As I kneeled down, I said, ‘Dorothy Williams, will you marry me?’ ” he said.
Of course she said yes.
“She was just as happy as you could possibly imagine,” John Williams said.
The family, including their combined six children and 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, helped them plan the 150-guest wedding, because “it’s even hard for young people to plan a wedding,” Dorothy Williams said.
Sons and daughters and nieces and nephews helped them find the hall, hire a band, select flowers and send out the invitations. “The only thing we did was plan the menu,” she said.
Relatives flew in from across the country to see the happy couple, who did the polka for hours at their Sept. 14 wedding. Dorothy Williams was thrilled to have a big celebration and said her only concern was that her legs were a little sore from all the dancing.
Her first wedding was at city hall without much ado, as was customary during wartime. Williams had dropped out of school in 1941 when she was in 10th grade, the middle of World War II, to get a factory job. But she was too young, so she became a waitress, an occupation she stayed with for more than 50 years.
Rola, a computer serviceman with IBM for 35 years, was happy to go along with a large wedding. And since their nuptials, both say, things have never been better.
“She’s very lovable,” he said. “They don’t come any better than that.”
Williams moved out of her son’s house and into Rola’s home across town.
“These two are walking around like two love birds, kissing and holding hands,” John Williams said.
Dorothy Williams said it has been the best shock of her life that she fell head-over-heels in love at age 90. And she wants others to know that love later in life is pretty similar to love early in life.
“You don’t have quite all the energy and the excitement, but it’s still there,” she said. “It don’t matter whether you’re 93 or 16, you still have the same feelings.”