After 88 years, first-time bride says 'I do' to Mr. Right
It was last Valentine's Day that Betty Jane Allshouse moved into Masonic Village retirement community in Sewickley. But, she says, love was the last thing on her mind.
That all changed in November when the 88-year-old woman married for the first time.
“I'd given up; I never thought I'd get married,” said the former Harrison resident and retired Allegheny Ludlum employee.
When she was younger, she says, she had dated but never met Mr. Right.
“I just gave up thinking about it, and then this one came along.”
“This one” is Walter Lowman, a 78-year-old fellow Masonic Village resident whom Allshouse-Lowman met in the months after her move.
The newlyweds tied the knot in November at a simple ceremony at the retirement community and nursing home. It was the first wedding that the Rev. Tim Reichard, Masonic Village's pastor, had performed there.
Loved ones and friends, like her pastor, the Rev. Cameron Malcolm, of Natrona Heights Presbyterian Church, helped prepare the wedding and the reception.
Malcolm, who performed the ceremony along with Reichard, says Allshouse-Lowman was a “marvelous bride.”
“She was absolutely glowing. She was smiling ear-to-ear. She was the happiest I've ever seen her,” says Malcolm, who has been her pastor for 25 years.
“A lot of people had a lot of joy for her,” he says. “It was just a very heartfelt service. You could just feel the love going from Betty to Walter and Walter to Betty.”
The bride wore a white pantsuit with a bright-pink blazer and carried a bouquet of orchids. The groom wore a sport jacket. A vocalist performed “Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical “South Pacific.”
Allshouse-Lowman says the romantic song has always been a favorite.
Its lyrics now remind her of her own enchanted evening, when she and her husband first met.
“I guess it was love at first sight for him — and also for me,” she says.
The first time they met, she says, Lowman sat next to her at dinner and kept up a steady conversation.
“The next day, I thought, ‘well, this is good,' and I kept after him.”
The two would talk every night after dinner, lingering in the hallway on the way back to their apartments. That continued for about six months; although, neither knew that the other one had love in mind.
“He didn't know I was chasing him, and I didn't know he was chasing me,” she says.
Then, one day, Lowman asked her a surprising question. He walked down the hall, looked at her and said, “Will you marry me?”
She later learned he had been planning to pop the question for a while, and had even consulted his son. Lowman's wife had died about 10 years ago, and the Pennsylvania native had moved from New York to Sewickley.
Allshouse-Lowman may have been a bit surprised by the proposal, but she wasn't the only one. Her friends were, too.
“They were shocked beyond words. They still can't believe it. The shock of the century,” she says, adding, with a laugh, that, because Lowman is 10 years her junior, they joked that she was “robbing the cradle.”
Also surprised was Lowman's daughter, Melissa Lowman Callaway.
But it all made sense when her dad explained how he and his wife-to-be had become fast friends and formed a deep bond; and employees at Masonic Village told her what a good influence the two were on each other.
“I could tell she was just a great person and loved my dad, and he loved her,” says Lowman Callaway, a Tennessee resident. “They're great for each other.”
“At a time in life when a lot of people's families are shrinking and contracting, for theirs to be growing, it's a real blessing.”
Allshouse-Lowman, who speaks with her stepdaughter by phone just about every night, agrees.
“From age 50 on, I've been by myself, and now I have this family. And they have accepted me. It's so nice to be affiliated with a family, because I've been alone for years.”
Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.