Ken Hutchin counts himself lucky to have a good-lookin’ girl.
“I’m twice blessed,” he says, eyes crinkling as he slips a sidelong glance at his bride of 10 years.
Jean Jackson wasn’t looking for love.
“It was friendship that developed,” she explained. “Something just grew, there was no big flash. I’d been on my own for 15 years and I wasn’t looking for a partner.”
Judging by the way they readily smooch like unchaperoned teenagers for a photograph, the love is strong.
Ken and his wife Jean were in their 70s when they met. Both had already been married; and forced to deal with the death of a partner. Ken’s wife Dora died in 1998; Jean’s husband Bob died in 1989.
Each summer Ken enjoys working in their Sidney garden, created by Dora, now tended and tweaked by Jean. They share a love of gardening. Jean’s first husband Bob Jackson created the parks department in Sidney and the rose garden by the library in Sidney. After his death she tried to help out with the holes he left in the gardening club, where Ken was also a member. Amid that shared love of gardening, a friendship blossomed.
Both are also volunteers with Beacon Community Services, Jean for 25 years (she was the first Hearts of the Community Award winner for service to seniors) and Ken for the past two decades. Then there were a few church events that included dancing.
“I never stepped on your feet, so we were compatible,” Ken says with a twinkle in his eye.
“We don’t go dancing anymore,” Jean says. “Maybe now with Ken’s new hip.”
On Valentine’s Day, Ken proposed.
When they married in 2000. “We picked an easy number so it would be easy to remember,” Jean jokes — the Sidney senior opted to keep her name. “When we got married I’d had my name for 50-odd years so I decided to keep it,” she explains.
Jean eloped the first time she was married.
This time her youngest son drove them around in a vintage car, stopping to snap photos followed by a reception at Theo’s (with dancing of course). As Ken says, they “did it up royally.” Then took a three-week honeymoon that saw them cross the country twice by car.
Being later in life, Ken points out, they had a decent car, didn’t have to worry about missing work, and knew the mortgage was paid.
“You’re much more mellow when you marry the second time. The stresses and strains are different the second time around,” says Jean, who was 19 the first time she married.
“You don’t have to mess with babies,” Ken interjects.
“Now we just have our health to worry about,” Jean gestures to the cane Ken is using after hip replacement surgery.
Being newlyweds is a little different too.
“It’s more staying at home and getting to know one another,” Jean says.
“And gardening,” Ken adds quietly, leaning toward his wife.
What doesn’t change is the remote control issue, according to Jean. Ken still likes to keep that under his thumb.