Thursday, February 9, 2012

For North Shore Seniors, Love is Still in the Air

Bob Mizzy and Nancy Johnson
of Beverly. Photo by Katie Thompson

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
February 9, 2012
(This story appeared February 14, 2012, in The Boston Globe, Beverly, and on page one of the print and online editions of The Gloucester Times.)

For two couples on the North Shore, Valentine’s Day means nothing. Not because they don’t like chocolate or roses, but because for them, every day is Valentine’s Day.

Bob Mizzy, 89, met his fiancé, Nancy Johnson, 90, both of Beverly, seven years ago at the Beverly Council on Aging and Senior Community Center. They sat across from each other at a bingo table.

“I looked over and said, ‘That’s a nice looking young lady,’” Mizzy said.

Mizzy asked Johnson out to dinner, and after an “I’ll let you know,” Johnson eventually said yes. Two years later, on Nov. 9, 2009, Mizzy proposed to her with a ring that was placed in the center of a box of chocolates. Though both had been married before, neither was expecting to find love again.

“I was a 12-year widow,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t looking for any man at all.”

The couple now lives together in Beverly and enjoys reading and socializing at the Community Center. This Valentine’s Day, they will attend the Center’s party.

Twelve miles north on Route 128, John Richard Larkin, 85, and Leah Havener-Larkin, 90, are known as the ‘love birds’ at the Golden Living Center nursing home in Gloucester.

“I loved him the first day I saw him,” Havener-Larkin said.

Both lifelong residents of Gloucester, the Larkins met nine years ago in their apartment building. John lived on the third floor and said he intentionally made many trips to the second floor where Leah lived. After dating for several months, Larkin proposed and the couple was married in Gloucester on Oct. 3, 2004. Leah’s son walked her down the aisle, and the couple’s children from previous marriages made up the rest of the wedding party.

“He just saw me coming down the aisle and was all smiles,” Havener-Larkin said, a widow of 21 years before meeting John. “I waited for the right one.”

Havener-Larkin is not a resident at Golden Living Center, but said she comes to spend every weekday with John. For Valentine’s Day, the couple may attend the Center’s party, but said they are content just to be together.

Linda Koby, of Beverly, is the activities director at Golden Living Center. She said that Valentine’s Day is important for couples like the Larkins and even for seniors who have lost their spouses to still celebrate. 

“Valentine’s Day should be an experience of all types of love,” she said. 

The holiday can be tough to get through at a nursing home, Koby said. That’s why she will emphasize love from children, friends and pets, not just from a spouse, at the Feb. 14 party.  The party will feature a famous couples trivia game, a Valentine’s Day craft, and lots of sweets. For couples, private tables are set up with rose pedals and candles.

“You can’t just assume that because people are older that they won’t want to celebrate,” Koby said. “There are so many types of love.”  

Kendra Seavey, 24, of Rockport, agrees. Activities coordinator at the Beverly Council on Aging and Senior Community Center, Seavey said the Center provides activities, social services and events for seniors in the Beverly area. Valentine’s Day is one of the Center’s favorite holidays because it’s fun to see the relationships people still have, Seavey said.

The Larkins of Gloucester
“No matter your age, you’ll always have love in your life,” Seavey said. “Just because you can’t buy someone roses doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the holiday.”

This year’s Feb. 14 party will feature Big Smile Entertainment’s A cappella quartet, lunch and raffle games. The party, open to anyone over 60, costs $4 and will last from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For these two couples, though, there’s more to romance than celebrating the holiday at the local Center. 

“Valentine’s Day means love,” Havener-Larkin said.

“We’ve already got plenty of that,” John interrupted. “It’s every day, not just one day.”


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