2017-02-12 / Insight

‘I’m falling in love with you’

Couple young at heart at ages 71, 94
BY KRYSTAL MORALEE
810-452-2609 •


Mary Jo Daum, 71, and Tom Latimer, 94, are a sweet example of how it’s never too late in life to find true love. Mary Jo Daum, 71, and Tom Latimer, 94, are a sweet example of how it’s never too late in life to find true love. LAPEER — After Mary Jo Daum, 71, lost her husband, Leslie, in 2013, she continued to attend Mass at Immaculate Conception like they had every Tuesday morning. She sat alone, up front, in the place they always sat together. She cried a lot, and she just figured that was the way things were going to be.

Then, she said, divine providence set in.

Two of her girlfriends saw her sitting by herself, week after week, and they invited her to sit with them so she wasn’t alone anymore. She joined them, and after some time, she noticed someone else sitting alone.

“In front of us is this dear man here,” she said, patting the knee of Tom Latimer, 94, who was seated beside her on the couch, “and after a month or so I’m thinking ‘oh my gosh, he’s all alone, and here’s the three of us sitting so comfortable together.’”

He seemed “safe,” Daum said, so she asked if he’d like company.

“He slowly turned to me and said, ‘I would be honored, Mary Jo, if you came and sat with me,’” she said.

And so, she did. And a few weeks later, he asked her out to breakfast, which turned out to be their first date. On their third breakfast date — “Always at Leo’s,” she said — amidst the chaos of restaurant noise and wait staff rushing about, Latimer slowly put his fork down and said, “Mary Jo, I just think I should let you know that I’m falling in love with you.”

The following week, she was gone on vacation with family, but upon her return, they again went to breakfast, and again, Latimer made his feelings — and intentions — clear.

“Mary Jo,” he said, “I’ve decided that I love you and I’ll be marrying you.”

“I said, ‘that’s too bad, I wasn’t planning on getting married again. My husband only has been gone 15 months,” she said.

She told him he didn’t even know her, and he said he knew her well enough. She told him he didn’t want to marry her because she cried a lot. His response is a testament to his romantic side.

“I will make it so that you don’t cry anymore,” he said.

That was March 2015, and it wasn’t until August that she said yes to his proposal, with one stipulation: She wouldn’t marry until after the two-year anniversary of Leslie’s death. The couple was married on April 23, 2016, at Immaculate Conception, where they first met. Around 150 friends and family members attended, and the reception was held at the Davison Country Club. They honeymooned for 13 days in the south of France, at the ages of 70 and 93.

She’s two years younger than his oldest son, which she said, “is a scream.” The age difference, though, doesn’t bother them a bit. Neither does the fact that they were both married to other people for a long time before they met — she for a little over 44 years, he for nearly 39. They accept the presence of their previous spouses in each other’s hearts, and she wears both wedding rings. They’ve talked about the likelihood that he will go to Heaven first, and his response to that was, “I’m going to find your Leslie and I’m going to tell him what good care I took of you.”

They also accept the fact that they are two people with their own lives, set in their ways. They have their deep love for each other, but they also have separate identities.

Tom, a World War II veteran who retired from General Motors at the age of 79, is very programmed. He wakes at the same time each day and engages in a rigorous workout program that would challenge most men half his age. He attends Mass every day, leading the Rosary before and saying the Divine Chaplet of Mercy. And then, when he’s home alone, he works on his art – he draws and paints, and will be featured in this month’s Black and White exhibit at Gallery 194 downtown.

Mary Jo is more of a free spirit. She began teaching at the Lapeer State Home in the 1960s, and then stayed home for 20 years, raising her four children. She then returned to work, teaching high school special education at Imlay City High School, and then first grade and preschool. She retired in 2006, but then substituted until she was 70, and she’s considering going back to help out in the classroom some more. In addition, she enjoys socializing with her friends, and she volunteers in the gift shop at the hospital.

“She enjoys as much freedom and gallivanting as she wants,” said Tom. “When I’m here alone, I’m at my drawing board.”

Their smiles, glances, pats on the knee and the way they speak of each other indicate a romance unlike many out there.

“He dreams big, he thinks big, and he does big,” said Mary Jo. “And he took on a huge responsibility of taking me in, and I was a really big responsibility. Still am.”

“She’s my moonbeam, and I define that as being a little bit loony,” he said. “So, chasing moonbeams, I find it quite delightful.”

It all comes down, they say, to the fact that they each had a need, and God chose to fulfill that need by supplying them with each other. They make it a point to be thankful every day for that blessing.

“Tom is full of wisdom. That’s another reason I love him,” said Mary Jo. “He said, ‘Mary Jo, when you feel like you’re in total devastation, and you look, and people are dying or there’s danger, if you are still standing, it is your duty to wake up each morning and find something in God’s beautiful world to delight in,’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” she said.

“Because it expresses our appreciation to the Lord for what he’s given us,” Tom finished.

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