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Love Has a Long Way to Go to Retirement

October 15, 1991|DIANNE KLEIN

They were playing bingo here at the retirement apartments and Bill was the only gentleman among all these ladies and a few of them, they were carrying on about that--you know, saying things like, "Hey, we sure could use a man over here"--when finally, Myrtle just got up and grabbed him by the hand and brought him over and sat him down. Next to her.

"You hit the jackpot, huh?" Bill says, his eyes dancing like St. Nick's.

Myrtle snuggles in extra close and kisses this man on the cheek. He's fiddling with her hair, rubbing her shoulder, smiling like you've never seen. Why, yes, he certainly is a catch.

William Bell Davenport IV and the former Myrtle May Beaird are now husband and wife. It is the second marriage for both. He is 83 and the bride will be 86 soon. The age difference doesn't bother either one of them a bit.

"I'm the boss," Myrtle says. "I think if he wants to take a chance with me being an older woman, that's OK."

There is no honeymoon planned, although nothing can be ruled out.

"We're just going to be lovebirds," says she.

"We might walk around the block," says he. Then one of those smiles takes up most of his face.

Myrtle giggles, turning toward this man of her dreams and sort of nuzzling his neck. "If happiness and laughter does anything for you, we ought to live a long time," she tacks on.

The odds appear to strongly favor Myrtle and Bill. My guess is at least another 30 years.

"I don't know why--and I don't think anybody does--why a certain person will completely overpower you," Bill says. "All you want to do is be with that person."

"We had a kiss and wow! We couldn't quit," Myrtle offers up.

"Then she went back to South Dakota," says Bill.

It happened like this. Bill and Myrtle have known each other for almost three years. Not that they were friends right away. They lived here in the same Anaheim apartment complex and knew who each other was. Then, gradually, they started checking each other out.

"I studied him all the time," Myrtle says. "I'd listen to how people talked to him, the good things they said about him. And I thought, 'I can see all that.' "

Ditto for Bill.

"Well, she's cute for one thing," he says. "What made the impression was the way she conducted herself, always very friendly to everyone, always helping people who were sick, always very thoughtful for other people's feelings."

So then came that bingo game. Bill says that when Myrtle came to grab him, she gave his hand a little squeeze. He liked that.

Still, dating was not something that either of them had in mind. That is to say, not right away. Myrtle would catch him looking at her, but then he'd look away. Neither of them could really remember what dating was about.

They'd both seen love before--he was married for 53 years and she for 56--and those were partnerships that couldn't be topped. They weren't--and still aren't--looking to try.

Myrtle's husband passed on 11 years ago and Bill's wife did too. This is just one of a string of fateful coincidences that Myrtle and Bill cite.

"I didn't want anybody," Myrtle says. "He would have to be somebody real special because that's what my husband was."

And when he starts talking about his first wife, Bill's eyes are suddenly ringed with tears.

"It's not taking away from them," he says. "It's just a new life."

And a wonderful one at that.

Bill's granddaughter-in-law, Karen Davenport, says she's never seen Granddad so full of smiles, so quick to laugh. She says the family--and that's a lot of folks--are tickled too death.

When Karen heard that Myrtle and Bill were planning to just slip off to a justice of the peace, she put a stop to that. The extended family's semiannual picnic at Pioneer Park was where they tied the knot. There was a baby shower there too.

"But that's not for us," Myrtle says. "This is no shotgun wedding here."

No, this is a romance that has been well thought out. It was four months after the bingo game before Bill got up the courage to ask Myrtle if he might pay her a call.

"I was so afraid in the beginning that she might turn me down," he says. "I don't like to be hurt."

But Myrtle said sure, that she'd like to get to know this guy up close. So Bill stopped by her place at 7:30 p.m. and stayed for an hour and a half. That's when the two of them got to kissing like they'd just discovered it themselves.

Myrtle was heading for South Dakota, on vacation, the next day. Bill asked if she could give him a phone number so that he could talk to her while she was away.

"I thought, "Uh-oh. The old boy's getting serious," Myrtle says.

And, well, he was. He really rang up a phone bill is what he did. Then after thinking if over for about three weeks, Bill popped the question over the phone. Myrtle said that she'd get back to him, then wrote to say that she would.

So the rest, of course, is history and the future too.

"We got all sorts of love for each other," Myrtle says.

"If you can live a year and not be lonely, why not?" says Bill.

"We think that just because you're old doesn't mean you can't fall in love," Myrtle says. "No young people could be any more serious than we are. . . . I know I'm old. But I don't sit around and feel sorry for myself. I've got a lot to live for yet."

And besides, says Bill, the two of them have talked long and hard about what will make their marriage last: faith in God, mutual respect, honesty, and never going to bed before clearing up a fight.

They know what they are in for and they can't wait. Which is why they moved into their new apartment a day before the wedding.

"But we have two bedrooms!" Bill says.

"But we only have one bedroom set," Myrtle says.

Just to set the record straight.

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