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Tucson Singletarians club helps seniors find friendship, love
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Tucson Singletarians club helps seniors find friendship, love

Men and women in their golden years are finding love, companionship and new leases on life, thanks to the Tucson Singletarians, a singles social group for people ages 50 and over.

The group, which recently celebrated its 45th anniversary, creates plenty of opportunities for members to socialize, with four social hours each month, as well as game days, luncheons, dinners, trips, movie nights, potlucks and outings.

Members of the group say it’s a great place to find friends, companionship and love, to heal after loss and to create a support system.

“I am a widow of five years and 74 years old. I can’t express in words how much this group helped me to get on with my life after my husband died,” said Karen Kol, the group’s marketing director. “We were very happily married for 43 years and I did not join until he had been gone two years. I see many men and women join the group and start getting emotionally healed. You see the heartbreak and fear when they first come to events and little by little you see them change and get their smile back.”

MAKING FRIENDS

If you have to go somewhere alone, chances are, you won’t go, said Jan Brown, 78.

That’s why Brown, a widow for 17 years, joined the Tucson Singletarians three years ago. And to form a reliable support group with like-minded people.

“Most of us here have the same thing in common. We’re widows,” Brown said.

That support and friendship extends beyond group gatherings.

“There are probably 10 girls I could call in the middle of the night and they wouldn’t hang up on me,” Brown said.

When Bobbie Lutich’s husband of 40 years died a few years ago, joining Singletarians was her “salvation.”

“Ever since I joined, it’s been uphill,” Lutich said.

Lutich enjoys the activities the group does together, but she is especially thankful for the camaraderie and support.

“It’s really one of the best things that has happened,” Lutich said.

Being able to get out there and make friends after the loss of her husband was a huge step to feeling alive again, said Donna Perone, the group’s president.

“If you want to stay home and cry, you can,” Perone said. “But some day, you have to wake up.”

Kol shared the story of a member who met a man in the group. The couple was together for 20 years. He died right before Christmas. The only other people she has in Tucson are the ones she met through the Singletarians, who were by her side for comfort and support.

“She states that she could not have made it without those relationships,” Kol said. “That’s the beauty of the group. “That is why we have lasted 45 years. Those friendships you make are ever lasting.””

Friends are really important, especially as people get older, Kol said.

Edie Staples, 79, hates to be alone, but she doesn’t have any family in Tucson, so she joined the group.

“Mentally and health-wise, I have to be active,” Staples said. “Between this and the Udall Senior Center, it fills the void.”

“Everyone here is in the same boat,” Lutich said. “We’re all single and here for each other. We are young at heart.”

DATING HAS CHANGED

“It’s hard to get back out there,” Kol said. “Dating has changed. Morals have changed.”

Not to mention, there are about 10 single ladies to every one single man that joins the group, Kol said. So, when a man joins, he’s snatched up pretty quickly.

Group membership has seen a decrease with the popularity of online dating, Perone said.

“At one point in time, we had 276 members, before online dating,” Perone said. Now, there are about 140 members.

“But, some people meet each other,” said Sandy Pattillo, 71.

FINDING LOVE

Larry Springs, 76, didn’t join the Tucson Singletarians in 2013 to find love.

It had been about eight years since his wife of 43 years died and he was “doing a lot of sitting around.”

“I was interested in socializing and maybe learning to dance a little bit,” Springs said. “Not really looking for someone, but looking for social activity.”

That changed when he saw Marsha Vertnik, 68, at a Singletarians function.

“She’s very elegant, very, sort of statuesque,” Springs said. “She’s tall, slim with beautiful silver hair. Just an elegant lady. She sort of stands out and we danced together and it just felt good.”

Vertnik wasn’t looking for love when she joined, either.

“I wasn’t really looking for a partner,” Vertnik said. “I just wanted to meet some people and socialize. They do a lot of socializing.”

But, when Vertnik saw Springs, there was an immediate spark.

“I have to admit, he caught my eye right away,” Vertnik recalled. “Larry always looks very sharp. He’s very to the minute. His appearance is always just really sharp...Everyone had their eye on him. I found that out later.”

Four or five months later, the couple had their first date at the 2014 Singletarians Valentine’s Day event.

“It just kept growing from there,” Springs said. “We got engaged on January 1 this year. We are getting married in the middle of April.”

Out of its current 140 members, there are 11 couples who have met through the group. Two of those couples are engaged, Kol said.

Getting married means they won’t be eligible to be members of the group anymore, however, the friendships they’ve built are here to stay.

“We’ve formed a handful of really close friends,” Vertnik said.

“They’ll be our close friends for a long time, I’m sure,” Springs added.

Contact Angela Pittenger at apitteng@tucson.com. On Twitter: @CentsibleMama


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