The New York Times
January 27, 2013
Ada Bryant and Robert Haire
By MARGAUX LASKEY
A Lifetime of Happiness, Part 2
Ada Laurie Bryant and Robert Mitchell Haire were married Saturday in Hockessin, Del. Robert L. Bryant, a Universal Life minister and a son of the bride, officiated at his home.
The bride, 97, is keeping her name. She graduated from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass.
She is the daughter of the late Ada Lee Laurie and the late Richard Laurie, who lived in Hingham, Mass.
The groom, 86, a chemical engineer, retired as a manager of labor relations from E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company in Wilmington, Del. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and received a master’s degree in history from the University of Delaware.
He is a son of the late Pearl Quinn Haire and the late Emmett E. Haire, who lived in Jacksonville, Fla.
The bride was a widow and the groom a widower.
The couple met in 2007, when Mr. Haire and his first wife, Jean, moved into Country House, a retirement community in Wilmington, Del. Mrs. Bryant had lived there since 2001 with her first husband, Leonard, who died shortly after they moved in. Mrs. Bryant and Mrs. Haire became close friends.
In January 2010, Mrs. Haire was given a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and died 15 months later. In August 2011, Mr. Haire asked Mrs. Bryant, an artist whose murals adorn some of the walls of Country House, to paint a portrait of his late wife, and Mrs. Bryant agreed. Mr. Haire was “blown away” by the finished work and asked Mrs. Bryant to help him choose the perfect frame at a local shop. Afterward, they had lunch at a tearoom, and both were surprised to discover that they had a lot to say to each other.
“There was some kind of feeling,” Mr. Haire recalled.
They began going on regular lunch dates and became very close, revealing to each other that both hated going to dinner alone at Country House. Even though they knew it meant they might be labeled a “couple” by the other residents (a “couple” being a widow and a widower who do things together), they started going together.
On Jan. 25, 2012, Mr. Haire, a hobbyist poet, slipped a sonnet vowing “friendship and affection” beneath Mrs. Bryant’s apartment door with a note that said “this represents how I feel in our relationship as a couple.” He was afraid to give it to her in person.
“I was desperately trying to strike a balance between too timid or bold. I didn’t want to mess things up,” he said about the courtship. “I can attest that it doesn’t get easier even in advanced age.”
He needn’t have worried. The next morning, he found a note outside his apartment door. Mrs. Bryant was delighted with the sonnet, and “she would heartily enter into that relationship.”
Jane Bryant Quinn, one of Mrs. Bryant’s daughters and the author, columnist and financial adviser, recalled speaking with her mother on the phone around this time.
“Her voice was kind of glowing,” she said. “She loved having someone to talk to again. Since my father died, she just didn’t have someone to talk to in the deepest sense.”
On Valentine’s Day, Mr. Haire presented Mrs. Bryant with a loose sapphire that he said he wanted to have mounted as an engagement ring. Mrs. Bryant refused the proposal, but a few days later said she would accept the stone as a friendship ring.
“I said, ‘I’d very much like you to accept it in whatever way you’d like,’ ” Mr. Haire said.
Their feelings continued to grow. Mr. Haire presented her with another sonnet in late March, and by April they had professed their love to each other.
The subject of marriage came up occasionally, but Mr. Haire never pressed the issue.
“I told her repeatedly that whatever care she needed, I’d already committed to,” Mr. Haire said. “She could rely on me no matter whether we married or not.”
Mrs. Bryant finally accepted his proposal on Aug. 6, and they will move into her apartment (“It’s slightly bigger,” he said) after the wedding.
She explained why she first turned him down. “There’s a great difference in our ages, as you can see,” she said. “I didn’t think it was the thing to do because I don’t have that many years ahead of me, but he said, ‘That’s all the more reason.’ I like him very much. I love him. So we’re going to be married.”