Macomb newlyweds in their 80s and 90s show it's never too late to find love
Macomb Township — Rich Rola and Dottie Williams can’t get enough of each other.
When they’re together, which is all the time, they’re kissing and holding hands. Even a trip to the grocery store is a delight.
People look at them and smile, marveling how lost they are in their affection.
Newlyweds? Of course — but not the way you’re imagining. Rola is 88 and Williams 93. Love is known for blooming in spring, but sometimes, and wondrously at that, it comes in winter.
“It couldn’t be any better,” Williams said. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to both of us.”
“We haven’t given each other a black eye,” he said. “It’s been nothing but giggles.”
Rola and Williams hadn’t been looking for love. After the deaths of longtime spouses, they figured Cupid had packed up, moved out and lost their contact information.
But 88 and 93 turned out to be mere numbers. When it comes to the heart, arithmetic doesn't stand a chance.
The couple not only found romance but seem to have stumbled upon their youth.
Their days are jammed with traveling, eating out, visiting friends or family, attending a bunch of graduations for their grandchildren.
And, because their dancing days aren’t over, they go to a polka party monthly, shuffling their feet to the oom-pah, both slow and fast versions.
The love birds are so busy they haven’t had a chance to make plans for their anniversary, which arrives in two weeks.
“We’re always doing stuff,” Williams said.
A mix of laughs and seriousness
Rola, who was a computer serviceman for IBM, is always chuckling like he can’t believe his good luck. He laughs before, during and after sentences, like a happy punctuation.
He frequently tells jokes that he’s the butt of.
Williams is the serious one. At 15, she hitchhiked 55 miles from Marysville to Detroit to get a job as a waitress. She did that type of work for half of a century.
After the death of her husband of 48 years in 1993, she wasn’t looking for another one. She seldom dated and swatted away a marriage proposal.
Instead, she was satisfied with spending time with her children and grandkids.
“I just didn’t want to (get remarried),” Williams said. “I had no interest.”
Rola had been married 58 years when his wife died after a six-year fight with cancer in 2014.
He was devastated. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. His children tried to cheer him up.
“I just wanted to be left alone,” he said.
A year later, Rola was receiving an estimate to repair a leak in his roof. The contractor noticed some Polish memorabilia on the wall, and the two men talked about their Polish roots.
The repairman, John Williams, thought Rola was a fun guy, if a bit lonely, and invited him to go polka dancing with the rest of his family.
When Williams told his mother, Dottie, who lives with him, she flipped out, he said. She didn’t want a stranger intruding on their monthly shindig.
John assured her he wasn’t trying to set them up, just that Rola wanted to enjoy some polka.
When Rola arrived at the Williamses’ house, he made a beeline for Dottie, asking for her name.
“I never met a Dorothy I didn’t like,” he told her.
It began with a polka
Rola began joining the Williamses on their polka excursions. Before long, sparks began to fly.
He showed up at the Williamses’ home three days in a row, bearing candy and flowers for Dottie, and little presents for John Williams and his wife.
“He basically started courting my mother,” John said. “It was a shocker to all of us.”
The couple began spending all their time together.
Dottie Williams said Rola is a gent from the old school, opening doors for her and taking her by the arm.
Also, he is fun. Her first husband could be a little stern, but Rola is anything but, she said.
“He’s more jolly and happy,” she said.
About 18 months after they met, Williams told Rola she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
Rola was so wobbly with happiness he felt like he had been hit with a baseball bat.
He went out the next day and bought an engagement ring.
When the couple vacationed with Williams’ family in Key Largo over the winter, everyone went out to dinner one night. At the restaurant, Rola intentionally dropped a quarter under Dottie’s chair. He asked her to move her chair back so he could retrieve it.
You know what happened next.
He got on bended knee and asked the question she had already answered.
“Dorothy Williams, will you marry me?”
At the wedding last year, they danced the polka for hours, he in a white dressy hat and she in a short pink dress, gold sequin tennis shoes, and flowers in her hair, which represent blooming youth.
Her legs were a little sore afterward, she allowed. But not Rola’s. He felt like he was floating.
Not bad for a bride and groom who already have six children, 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
'That's the past, honey'
Rola and Williams keep separate schedules, but that might be from a force of habit.
They do everything together. It just so happens they have the same interests: socializing, doing crossword puzzles, playing euchre and pinochle.
They also do household chores in tandem. She cooks. He washes the dishes. She does the dusting while he does the cleaning.
If this fledgling love song has one note of discord, Rola sometimes reminisces about his past a bit more than Williams would like.
He was telling a reporter about his first wife’s illness when he was interrupted by Wife No. 2.
“That’s the past, honey,” she said. “It’s like I’ve said to him. Whatever happened in his past is his business. What happened in my past is my business. Now that we’re together, it’s both our business.”
So what advice would these veterans of life and love share with the rest of us?
Rola keeps it simple: Be considerate of others. The kindness will be returned manifold, he said.
He is always telling Williams how wonderful she is. He smiles and dances around the house. No day ends without a kiss goodnight.
“Someone could be nice or terrible, but you treat them all the same. You treat them like a queen,” he said. “And, look at that, I married a queen.”
As for the queen, Williams had always told people her first marriage would be her last. Now she says, never say never.
Sharing your life with someone is a whole lot better than going it alone, she said. It certainly beats watching TV all day.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” she said.
Williams has two milestones in September. Besides the first wedding anniversary, she’ll be celebrating her 94th birthday.
Given her age, she wasn’t sure she’d reach either, she said. She broke her hip just before the Key Largo trip.
She persevered and made the trek anyway. The hip is feeling better. And now she has some celebrating to do.
“We’re doing great. It’s wonderful,” she said.
One of her friends, who’s also in her 90s, is now pestering John Williams. She wants to know when he will set her up with somebody.