Usually at family events, it’s the grandparents asking the grandchildren about their love lives, but in a timeshare in Cancun last year, the grandchildren of Jim Spell listened with rapt attention as he shared the story of his first kiss with Pam Davidson at Presbyterian Village North (PVN). Spell was married for 60 years and has been a widower for the last six years. After her divorce, Davidson was single for 46 years. The two didn’t plan on dating during their retirement, let alone sneaking into a chapel on a Thursday evening after a dentist appointment to elope.
“I felt slightly embarrassed as I was telling my family the story of how I met Pam, but my children and their spouses were just tickled, and my grandchildren stared at me wide-eyed,” said Spell. “I had not been on a first date or tried to do something romantic with someone new in nearly 70 years. You could say I felt a bit out of practice. It was like I was stumbling over my words, knowing how I felt but unsure of how to communicate my feelings or take the next steps. I never expected life to bring Pam and I to where we are now, but fate is a funny thing. Our love story starts with a ukulele.”
Every year at PVN, the senior living community hosts a Senior Follies Talent Show. Spell was approached by the event organizer who was seeking more acts to fill up the show. He happened to have a ukulele he never learned to play, so he searched on the internet for a song with only four cords. He decided to learn a song called “Daisy a Day” and perform it for the show. Davidson was delighted by his performance and later approached him at dinner on a Sunday evening in March 2017, asking if her daughter and she could sit with him and his friend. She simply wanted to make his acquaintance.
“I am very social, so I am always trying to meet new people at Presbyterian Village North,” said Davidson. “That first dinner was a platonic evening filled with laughter and lighthearted conversation. A couple of months later, he called to ask if I would like to go to dinner in the dining room again sometime, and after I said yes, he hung up. It was a very direct call. We visited some more during this second dinner and then parted ways. A few summer months passed by, each of us traveling and doing our own thing. In August, some friends of mine decided it would be fun to go dancing, so I invited Jim because I knew he enjoyed dancing as well. While we shared several dances, we were still just friends. After that we met for more dinners, during which I would talk and talk, telling him every story I could think of, laughing all the while. Jim is a wonderful listener.”
After a few dinners in, Spell knew he was attracted to this sweet lady, though he didn’t know where it was going. He tried to explain his feelings and thoughts to her, but he stumbled over his words. Davidson thought he was trying to say they should just be friends, but he was actually trying to tell her he wanted more. Finally, after dinner one evening, Spell felt inclined to show Davidson how he was feeling. When words fail, kisses speak. He kissed her in a public place when no one happened to be around, and it was the perfect moment for a long, romantic kiss.
“After I kissed Pam, I was in a daze. I couldn’t wait to get to my apartment and call her on the phone to ask her what just happened between us,” said Spell. “The whole start of our relationship and our feelings went right over our heads, but looking back, we can see how everything fell into place. All through the village, people would comment on how they loved seeing us with each other and how they thought we belonged together – and they are right, it’s as natural as breathing.”
On the evening of May 14, 2018, Spell asked Davidson to marry him, to which she agreed. Not wanting to wait or go through the stress of planning a big to-do, the couple decided to get their marriage license and sneak into the Presbyterian Village North Chapel on the evening of Thursday, May 17. The day of their wedding, Davidson told Spell she would like to feel like a bride and requested that they pick up some flowers for her to carry in a bouquet. They picked them up later that day before her dental appointment at 3:00 p.m. Afterward, she went home and pulled something from her wardrobe to walk down the aisle in. Their wedding was simplicity at its finest – the beautiful union of two people in God’s presence.
“My son-in-law is a minister, so we asked him to marry us,” said Davidson. “Two of our five daughters were also present, as they live nearby. Other than the three children, we invited our friend who is a photographer to capture the union. We didn’t tell anyone our plan, and we weren’t planning on telling anyone after, but we could not keep the secret. The entire community was incredibly happy for us when they found out. Upon our first visit back to the dining room for dinner, we were welcomed with applause, much like when the bride and groom enter for their reception. So many people reached out to shower us with love and kindness. We are grateful to them for making this so special. As a way to say thank you for all the support we have received, we hosted a happy-hour style reception on September 1 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., during which our families got to know one another, and we did a blessing of the rings we bought a couple months after we got married. Family from New York, California, Washington, Florida, Nebraska and Oregon all came in to celebrate with us. More than 200 people were in attendance, and we are truly touched.”
Dating, let alone marrying at this point in life, can be intimidating for seniors. The Spells advise that people stay open to the possibilities that life presents – to grab them and run with them, to recognize what is happening and don’t let wonderful opportunities slip through your hands.
“Sometimes it can be hard to walk away from someone you think might be the right person for you, but don’t settle” said Davidson. “I needed to be divorced and single all those years because I needed to wait for Jim. If someone had told me 46 years ago that this is how long it was going to take, it would have been a crushing amount of time to grasp, but looking back, he was worth the wait. I fell in love with what I saw in Jim’s eyes – his strength, character, dignity and respect. He is a good man and I love his company. We laugh all the time and share many interests. Life is beautiful because we have each other.”
“I love Pam’s positive outlook, as well as her upbeat and lively personality. She is a sweet, attractive woman who is so friendly and outgoing,” said Spell. “We made plans to visit each other’s families later this year, and I cannot wait to take her to my annual high school reunion brunch to meet people I grew up with. We have so much in common, and it is nice to share my life with someone as lovely as Pam.”
“It is amazing to witness the development of a relationship into a marriage between two people who clearly belong together here within our 63-acre community,” said Bryan Cooper, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “It has been a delight to see all the residents come together to celebrate Pam and Jim’s union these last few months. We were all excited to commemorate the occasion during their reception in September.”