old couple 311.
(photo credit: .)
Arnold Stander has been waiting a long time to hear the words “you may kiss the bride.” Stander is 83 and his soon-to-be wife, Evelyn Klahr, 82. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight – but then Evelyn (née Glick) was only five years old when they first met, in England. Their parents were friends and played cards together while the kids played the games children play. Evelyn, in fact, was closer to Arnold’s sister Enid.
Their paths parted until their teens, renewed via the friendship with Enid. When he was 18, World War II broke out and the newly recruited Arnold was sent to Burma.
“I asked if I could write to him,” recalls Evelyn, speaking from their home in Moshav Kfar Daniel near Modi’in. “For three years we corresponded and exchanged photos.”
Although he had been too shy to even hold her hand, Evelyn’s picture went up on the wall by Arnold’s bed, like the distant sweetheart of a homesick soldier. When the war ended, he returned to England, bringing Evelyn a silk scarf, but still too bashful to make a proposal, decent or otherwise.
“Things were different in those days,” he says. “Youngsters weren’t so advanced and even after being in the army, I blushed when I was with a girl.”
Arnold learned chiropody in London; Evelyn worked as a secretary. His parents ran a kosher hotel in Cliftonville, Margate, a popular seaside resort. When Evelyn stayed there with friends, Arnold visited and they even met on the tennis courts, but the match was not yet made.
In 1950, Evelyn joined Young Poalei Zion and decided to move to the nascent Jewish state. While she took part in a hachshara preparatory program in Reading, Arnold came to see her but still failed to summon up the courage to tell her how he felt.
Evelyn immigrated in 1952 and married Zvi Klahr two years later.
Arnold, too, finally overcame his shyness and married. Each has two children and four grandchildren.
The course of true love does not run smooth. Arnold and Evelyn’s story skips and bumps more than most.
Fast forward several decades. Evelyn was widowed in 1995 and began attending a club for English speakers in Rehovot. There she met a Canadian immigrant with whom she had a five-year relationship, which ended when he became terminally ill.
In England, meanwhile, Arnold’s wife, Sonia, started suffering from Alzheimer’s. Their daughter, who lives in Israel, decided the best thing would be for them both to come here, and in April 1999 the Standers moved into the Ad 120 residential home in Rishon Lezion. Enid, Arnold’s sister, wrote to her friend Evelyn with the news of the arrival of her not-so-young former beau.
Making a long story short, Evelyn and Arnold renewed the contact, and remet on May 22, 2003.
He invited her over; she invited him back “out of politeness.” And that’s when, they both say, it happened: “We talked and danced and then he bent over and gave me a kiss,” Evelyn recalls. That kiss sealed it. Some 75 years after they first met, they both realized they were meant for each other.
When Sonia entered a nursing facility more suitable for an Alzheimer’s sufferer, Arnold continued to tend her every day. “It gave him the strength to look after her, knowing he could come back home to me in the evenings,” says Evelyn.
A few months after his wife died last year, Arnold felt free, at last, to propose to Evelyn. “He got down on one knee, but had to hold me to get back up as there was nothing else to hold onto,” quips Evelyn.
Their families are delighted by the late marriage. Evelyn says her daughter enjoys telling people she is busy with wedding plans – and then pointing out that it is her mother who is the bride.
Both seem bemused by the interest in their story since it was first published earlier this month by Moshe Ronen in Yediot Aharonot. A documentary filmmaker has also been in touch.
Arnold and Evelyn are set to marry in June but they are not waiting until then to celebrate. “Every month, on the 22nd, which is a significant date for us, we celebrate,” says Evelyn.
Having lost both a husband and a partner, she admits she didn’t initially want the commitment, but Arnold finally won her round, with “a mixture of romance, persistence and the promise he’d take care of me.
“He wanted to make an honest woman out of me,” she jokes. “And it was difficult introducing him to people at his age as my boyfriend.”
It helps having the same background, both say.
“It’s not like having to get to know a stranger,” Evelyn notes. “And we
both like the same things: dancing, music, rummy and computer games.
He’s good-hearted, easy going and he’s put me up on a pedestal and
thinks I’m wonderful.”
Arnold admits he has given up playing bridge, the previous passion of
the champion player. He wants to be with Evelyn as much as possible.
“At my age,” he says, “you don’t want to waste time.”