'Go for it': On Valentine's Day, Northland couple will celebrate first anniversary at age 81

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Al and Jenny Lopez dated for three months before they decided to tie the knot on Valentine's Day last year.

"When you're 80 years old, why wait? You might wait too long and then you're sorry," Jenny said.

But whether they really dated before getting married seems to still be up for debate.

"Did we date?" Al joked. Jenny responded, "When you came and knocked on the door after supper, that was a date."

Six decades after they met while raising their families on the same block in Silver Bay, Al and Jenny found themselves widowed and living in the same senior housing complex. After a few days of seeing each other at a daily coffee social in their building, Al asked Jenny if she wanted to come over for a glass of wine. It was an immediate "yes" from Jenny.

"We got together and started talking about old times," Al said. Jenny chimed in, "We never ran out of things to talk about."

The decision to marry was an easy one for them.

"Maybe it seems funny to hear about 80-year-old people getting married, but it's foolish not to if you have somebody in your life that you enjoy being with. Why not?" Jenny said.

They're now 81-year-old newlyweds celebrating their first anniversary today in Duluth, where they moved into an assisted living facility a few months ago.

"This," Jenny pointed to Al's hand in hers, "this is very important to me." Al held up his other hand, "How about this one?" Jenny smiled and responded, "Yeah, that one too."

Shared history

Al first met Jenny 62 years ago when he moved to Silver Bay because his employer, the Reserve Mining Co., transferred him from Babbitt to Silver Bay. Over the years, some of Jenny's four children and Al's eight children attended school together and played together in the neighborhood.

"I was in the middle of the block and she was at the end of the block. Our kids grew up together, but we didn't know each other. We knew of each other, but didn't know each other," Al said.

Al's kids would play in her yard and she only knew him as "the father of those cute little girls down the block," Jenny said.

They were both busy raising their own families to really get to know each other back then, which was typical in Silver Bay at the time, Jenny said.

Al and Jenny went their separate ways when Al moved away from Silver Bay for work. After his wife passed away, Al's children coaxed him into moving back to Silver Bay, where some of his children still live. After Jenny's husband passed away, she decided to move into an apartment in Silver Bay to be closer to people to help with the loneliness she felt. Once she met Al, drinking coffee together every day just wasn't enough, she said.

"I highly recommend if you're lonely and there's somebody in your life that you enjoy being with, go for it," Jenny said.

Their long history meant that they had a lot in common for conversation.

"We had a lot of memories. Even though they were independent memories, they're sometimes about the same thing. She remembers things that I remember that happened years ago in town," Al said.

'Why part?'

Having had happy, loving previous marriages, they knew how good marriage could be and what it takes to make a marriage work, Jenny points out.

Al married his first wife when he was 19 years old. Jenny has outlived two previous husbands, both of whom Al worked with in Silver Bay. Joking about whether he should be nervous that Jenny's two previous husbands have passed away, Al said, "I keep one eye open at night, but I can't see out of this eye — macular degeneration."

Al proposed, but didn't get down one on knee, Jenny notes, because she probably would have had to help him get back up. But she wasn't surprised by the proposal.

"It felt like it was moving that way because we enjoyed being together so much. It was just constantly waiting for the next day or the next hour to be together again. Why part?" she said.

They were considering a different date for their wedding, but then Jenny suggested, "How about Valentine's Day? That way you'll never forget our anniversary."

The wedding was a small, quiet ceremony with family and close friends, like they wanted it to be. Between them they have dozens of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who readily approved of their marriage. Al joked that they have "his" and "hers" children in their blended family, but no "our children" yet.

Looking at the pictures of their wedding day, Jenny said, "I think of the fact that, like these pictures show, so many people that we love were there to support us."

Celebrating a first wedding anniversary at age 81 is an anomaly, Al said. Jenny noted that she doesn't have any regrets about marrying Al, nor have they had any serious arguments. Instead, they're just enjoying and appreciating being together.

Al explained, "We've both learned a lot in 81 years so sometimes you think, 'Why argue about something?' "

To celebrate their anniversary today, they're planning to go out for dinner with their family. Al noted that they're too old to do anything else.

"What do you do for your anniversary when you're 81 years old?"