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Being someone's first love may be great, but to be someone's last love is beyond perfect.

People are fortunate to find love for the first time. But finding love in the autumn of life — a second season of love — is a precious, often surprising gift.

Unlike the first time, an older couple will likely have conquered big life issues: kids, career and finances. But finding love when we're older offers other benefits: eliminating loneliness and encouraging us to stay physically and socially active.

Meet Joni and Hugh, and Loretta and Les, all of whom have participated for some time in activities and classes at the West Linn Adult Community Center. Each, when they least expected it, or as Joni and Hugh put it, "just in the nick of time" — fell in love again later in life.Hugh and Joni Black on their first official date at Multnomah Falls.

Joni South met Hugh Black 15 years ago in a WLACC tai chi class. They would attend class, along with other classmates, for the next 10 years, chatting occasionally.

In 2015, after an extended illness, Hugh's wife died. Around the same time, his longtime pet, an Alaskan malamute, died. After tai chi one day, Joni asked how Hugh's wife was doing. He explained his wife had died six months prior. He wondered if Joni might like to meet Tundra, his new malamute puppy. That meeting went well. Joni had just moved from West Linn to Oregon City. Would Hugh like to come for coffee and see her new home? They drank coffee and talked for hours.

Joni, a retired labor and delivery room nurse, was married 17 years, raised two children and has five grandkids. She'd been single for 25 years. Hugh was married 48 years, helped raise two boys and retired from the Forest Service as a wildlife biologist.

An official first date was set: a Columbia Gorge drive, a Multnomah Falls visit and lunch at Cascade Locks.

In early 2016, Joni and Hugh took their first RV trip together. On the way to San Diego, they visited friends and family, and journeyed to Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and Sedona. Heading north, they overnighted in an RV space at a Tonopah casino. After dinner in the restaurant, they heard Anne Murray's song "Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" They danced in the lobby, and "the deal was sealed," they say. The pair married in February 2017. In love with each other and with recreational vehicle travel, Hugh and Joni have happily traveled 30,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada.

Over five years ago, Les Reed learned he needed extensive knee surgery. Single, Les would require assistance following surgery. His sister in West Linn suggested he move in with her for the surgery and recovery. Back on his feet, Les resumed his walking, and visited the WLACC to orient himself to his new community and meet people. He also began volunteering at a local hospital one afternoon each week.Loretta Schwarz (note, no T in her last name) and Les Reed on their trip to the Oregon coast for Loretta's birthday.

Loretta Schwarz fell in love for the first time with Gerald, with whom she had two daughters. They were married 19 years when he died. Two years later, she met the man who would become her second husband, Bob. Loretta and Bob had one son and were married for 45 years before his death in 2016. Feeling blessed to have had a successful 35-year career with the federal government and to have loved and married twice, raising three children, Loretta entertained no ideas she might marry again.

Loretta visited family across the country in 2017. Back home, she enrolled in the center's aerobics class three days a week, and continued her participation in the writers' group. She began hosting international students in her home and walking.

In spring 2018, Loretta found herself seated at the same table as Les for lunch at the center. They talked, learning that Les had worked nearly two decades for the Dallas Public Library in Texas. They discovered they both enjoyed walking. Les invited Loretta to join him for his favorite West Linn walk in Mary S. Young Park. They also explored walks in the Les' Sellwood neighborhood.

Les joined Loretta in the Marylhurst Toastmasters Club, a group both find stimulating. Both were church members and active in Bible study groups, eventually sharing one church and Bible study group. By late 2018, they had a committed relationship. Les proposed to Loretta in June 2019 at their favorite sushi restaurant. They joyously married, surrounded by family and friends, on Jan. 18, 2020.

Indeed, all agree, being someone's first love may be great, but to be someone's last love is beyond perfect.


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