At 92 years old, Lawrence woman becomes the state’s oldest bride
Isabella Watson walked down the aisle in her blue wedding gown with family and friends from across the country watching a moment she would remember the rest of her life.
Chills ran through her that October day as she neared her soon-to-be-husband, Drury Forinash. The little chapel hadn’t seen a wedding before, mainly because it’s located at Meadowlark Estates Gracious Retirement Living — a senior retirement community. When the ceremony ended, she was pronounced Isabella Forinash.
“It gave me a chill. It was so thrilling really to have the whole family there,” Isabella said.
Isabella is a short, lively woman with snow-white hair, a New England accent and a big laugh. Her husband, Drury uses a wheelchair and his hands are prone to shaking. He wears glasses, but the caring and love in his eyes remain visible as he gazes at his new bride.
“The man across the hall calls us lovebirds,” he says with a smile.
The state of Kansas may call the couple something else: a new record.
At 92, Isabella appears to be the oldest bride in Kansas. The previous oldest bride was 89 years old and married in 2015, according to the Kansas Department of Vital Statistics.
Senior weddings are not as uncommon as in the past. In 2015, 1.5 percent of brides were over 65 years old. And 51 brides over the age of 75 remarried, according to the Kansas Department of Vital Statistics. Those statistics are even higher for men, who remarry at a higher rate than women.
According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a national trend in senior remarriage. A study by the center found that about 50 percent of people aged 65 and older who had previously been married ultimately ended up marrying again. People are living longer in the 21st century, which is creating new needs and research areas. Remarriage research shows that for seniors, remarrying or cohabiting with a partner can provide physical and mental health benefits.
Dr. Marvel Williamson, the executive director of the Senior Resource Center of Douglas County (formerly known as Douglas County Senior Services) says senior marriage is a healthy trend.
“The people who have chosen to get married have done so for really good reasons,” said Williamson, who is a former nursing educator. “There is something about marriage that makes it better. …Just having somebody to share your life experiences with, to be like you’re on the same team together, to have common contacts and relatives and in-laws and kids and all that sort of thing, that creates this communal relationship, riding through all the stresses of life together.”
She said close relationships, including marriages, generally create types of intimacy — emotional, spiritual, psychological and intellectual — that help people live longer, happier lives.
Drury and Isabella both attested to the happiness of having not just a partner, but being in love again.
“And, so when Liz and I met and it clicked,” Drury said. “It’s kind of like the answer to a dream.”
Isabella says it a little differently.
“It was an everyday feeling for one another, the warmth, the caring, a whole new life,” she said.
Drury, 79, had been married twice before. He divorced his first wife in the 1980s and later witnessed his second wife’s decline from Alzheimer’s.
Drury said he made peace with how his wife died and was “assimilated to the concept” of being alone. At that point, he did a bit of traveling to see family around Washington state and Texas before coming to Lawrence and ultimately to Meadowlark.
Williamson said learning how to live without a spouse day to day is a difficult adjustment.
“It’s really tragic,” she said. “I think it’s not fair that the people who are entering their most vulnerable years have some of the hugest challenges that they have to face.”
Isabella said her marriage to Drury is her second, and she never really dated after divorcing her first husband in the 1950s.
“I married him while he was in the Navy, but he was loose, and you know what I mean,” Isabella said. “I couldn’t put up with that.”
As a single mother, Isabella worked as an operator and a secretary for a New York telephone company while her children grew up. Her children have since died, but she and Drury have family in Lawrence. In fact, Drury’s sister, a Methodist minister, married the couple.
“Drury made up for all my problems,” Isabella laughed.
Drury said the feeling is mutual. The marriage has served as a good reminder that life is for living, no matter at what age.
“You have to be over 60 and have something happen to you, I think, before it really sinks in that we’re mortal,” Drury said. “We may not make it forever and ever and ever.”
— Deanna Ambrose is a University of Kansas senior from Frankfort majoring in Journalism.