Everyone loves a good how we met story, and Washington seniors Gene Brez and Shirley Rethemeyer have one that’s better than many.
It was last year at Washington High School’s annual Senior Citizen Prom. Neither had originally wanted to be there — Shirley went to help her daughter, Sandy, who works at The Homestead at Hickory View and takes many of the residents to the prom; and Gene was talked into attending by his neighbors who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Both had been married and were now widowed, their spouses having died of cancer around the same time.
Just as the names were being drawn for Prom King and Queen, Shirley’s granddaughter asked her, “What if they call your name?”
Then they did. So she accepted her crown graciously.
Next was the drawing for king, and Gene’s named was called.
When the couple met on the dance floor, it was only a matter of minutes before they knew there was a chemistry.
“We talked quite a bit and found out we had a lot in common,” recalled Gene.
“I asked her to dance again, and we talked some more. Then I asked for her phone number.”
When he called a few days later, Shirley didn’t answer. Then her daughter provided the encouragement she needed.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you call him back? He seemed like a pretty nice guy.’ So I did.”
And the more time they have spent together, the more they have found they have in common.
“We both like fishing, going out to eat . . . We like to go dancing, watch TV together, casual stuff,” said Shirley.
“We found out both of our dads had 1935 Terraplane Hudsons,” added Gene.
Also, neither is interested in getting married again.
“I’m perfectly happy where I am,” said Gene, as Shirley shook her head in agreement.
Before meeting Shirley, Gene said he would stay home most of the time rather than going out alone.
“I got used to being alone,” he remarked.
That’s what makes his companionship with Shirley so enjoyable, he said.
“You don’t realize what loneliness is until you lose your mate after 48 years. We can talk with each other about that because we understand.”
Shirley admits she was nervous at first, worrying about what other people might think of her spending time with Gene.
“But then you realize, they don’t have to live your life,” she said.
“It’s not healthy to stay home, to just sit and brood all the time.”
So Gene and Shirley’s advice to others who may be staying home alone after losing a spouse or even if they had never married is to “get out and give it a try.”
“We have found something out of it,” said Shirley. “I’m so glad we both went (to the prom) and met.”