Bensalem, Pa. The smell of warm maple syrup sticks to the air, coffee cups clang, and over scrambled eggs and pancakes, 76-year-old Ella Marmon is talking about playing hard to get.
It's 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday at Michael's Restaurant, and Marmon has love on her mind. Love's name is Tom. And they met at this very restaurant, in the back dining room, around the same time two years ago.
"He called me the day after we met and asked me out," she said proudly. "I said, 'No. Call me back on Thursday.'"
Sure enough, the retired machinist with the white mustache punched up Marmon's number that Thursday, and they have been a couple ever since. "I was tired of being with women all the time," she said without a hint of a smile.
For Marmon and other ladies and gentlemen her age who want to find love a second and third time around, Just Singles is their social nexis. It's a group that comes together every Saturday in search of good food and long-term companionship.
What started as an informal gathering of 10 people in their 50s a quarter-century ago has evolved into a circle of lives in twilight people who were widowed or divorced late in life and came to the group looking for some company, or maybe, like Marmon, looking to get another chance in love.
They meet for breakfast, sipping coffee, sharing their lives, trying to find someone to take them to the movies, or hold their hands.
The love connection
The group, which has more than 100 members (average age: around 70), will celebrate its 25th anniversary this month. And while some of its members walk with canes, and others don't have all their hair or hearing anymore, their hearts are still young and pumping.
Over the years, the members have watched amorous eyes and head-turning lead to lasting relationships and wedding ceremonies. There have been more than 40 marriages, group members estimate, and dozens and dozens of love connections.
Other than Ella and Tom, there are Bobbie and Harry, MaryAnna and Andy, Jim and Jean, Sue and Ray, and Rosalie and David, who happen to be two founders of the club.
Rosalie Hankins, who said she was in her 70s, wanted to start the club to get golfing partners. "I never thought I'd meet him," she said, pointing to David Bradstock with a twinkle of flirtation in her sapphire eyes.
One afternoon, during one of Just Singles' first meetings, she said, she was craving a golf outing. So, clubs in hand, she and a friend made plans for a tee time.
"Can I come?" Rosalie recalled David asking. He watched her as she told the story, and smiled sheepishly.
She pinched his cheek. "He is so sweet, isn't he? Sweet as a puppy," she cooed.
A lasting relationship
Loneliness, and longing for a male, drove Marmon out of her tiny community in Bensalem where "in a two-block area there are 11 widows. Make that 10. One of them recently died.
"I needed a change," she said. "I needed a man."
On Labor Day weekend, she and Tom DeCarlo, her 77-year-old boyfriend, whom she sees three or four times a week, will celebrate their two-year anniversary.
"We'll probably go out to dinner to celebrate," she said. "Tom likes to eat."
Will they get hitched?
"Oh, heavens, no," she said. "We have separate lives, separate bank accounts. And we all know, you can't live on love."