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New partners in a new life

A widower and a widow tired of being lonely decide to tie the knot: He is 86, and she is 80.

By BRADY DENNIS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 4, 2001


HUDSON -- If you close your eyes and listen, the Rev Bill Covert and Marian Richards sound like teenagers in love.

"He's just so lovable and tender, nice and happy," Richards said Friday. "He has a tremendous sense of humor."

Covert smiles as he describes the couple's first date, a Valentine's Day dinner more than a year ago.

"I asked her to go with me, and then we started going together," Covert said. "It just grew from there."

Open your eyes, and you see them standing at the altar, gray-haired and grinning. Richards last strolled down the aisle in September of 1940.

The last time Covert got married, it was March of 1936.

He is 86. She is 80.

Most people are winding down their lives after 80. But Covert and Richards on Saturday started a new one -- together.

In what a recent church bulletin dubbed "the Wedding of the Century," they were married at 4 p.m. amid a flock of relatives and members at Faith United Methodist Church, 12128 State Road 52.

Covert has been an assistant pastor there for more than 20 years. Richards has been a member even longer.

Richards lost a husband 12 1/2 years ago. Covert lost a wife five years ago, two months after they had celebrated their 60th anniversary.

Both widow and widower tired of being lonely.

"Our time here is getting short, and we might as well enjoy what years we have," said Richards, who cried Saturday as her sons walked her down the aisle.

Covert agreed.

"You're not supposed to be alone, you know?" he said. "I think it will be wonderful."

They might not be young anymore, but they certainly play the part.

Covert sends Richards a card every week. They don't go anywhere without holding hands.

And when the time came to propose, he had a special ring made to give her for Christmas. It had three diamonds: one each for past, present and future.

"She called it a friendship ring, but I didn't really think it was a friendship ring," Covert said. "I had to convince her it was something else."

He finally did. And that's why five generations of family members showed up from every corner of the globe Saturday to send them off.

It's not every day you get to see your great-great grandfather get married. Drew Cox, 5 months old and wearing a blue plaid shirt, probably won't remember the occasion. But he can say that he sat third row, sucking on a pacifier.

Besides Cox, Covert has had four children, 10 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

Richards has three children and five grandsons, one of whom came from Okinawa to see the wedding.

Relatives said it was strange to see the head of their families saying their vows so late in life. But they approved nevertheless.

"I think it's great," said Sandra Manson, Covert's 61-year-old daughter. "They both need somebody, and they are a great couple. He treats her like she's gold. I think he fell pretty hard for her."

Richards' oldest son joked that despite their ages, they will be like any married couple.

"Now they can get into each other's hair," said Bruce Richards, 59. "But my mother is going to be happy. She's going to have a companion. I'm really glad."

True to form, Covert and Richards didn't spend time planning a honeymoon.

They are going to hop into the car and wander for a week or so, just following the roads to see where they lead.

In a way, that's exactly what they have done with their lives.

"Neither one of us ever thought this would happen," Covert said. "But we are pleased with it. We love one another."

Richards agreed.

"I think it will be wonderful," she said, "having somebody on the other side of the table, somebody to lock the doors at night."

- Brady Dennis' phone number is (352) 521-5757, ext. 23.

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