Linda Wilson had just volunteered to be an ambassador in her retirement community, The Palms at Ponte Vedra. And she was excited when she received her first assignment — a newcomer she was to greet and show around.
When she got the piece of paper with the person’s name on it, she assumed it would be a woman.
“But when I looked at it, I said, ‘oh, it’s a man,’” Wilson said one recent day during lunch in the dining room.
“And it was this man,” she said, pointing to Kay Campbell, the handsome gray-haired man next to her. “And he’s been with me ever since.”
Campbell, 91, nodded and gave Wilson, 87, a warm grin. “I liked her from the beginning,” he said. “We got along right from the start, and we’re together all day long.”
Campbell and Wilson have indeed been together ever since that day last October, when Campbell moved to The Palms from New Jersey to be closer to his son, who lives nearby.
They go to daily morning exercise class together. They eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. They sit next to each other in rocking chairs, chatting and gazing into each other’s eyes.
They go for walks, strolling the community hand-in-hand.
And they both love music. She plays the piano and organ, and he’s right there helping her.
Wilson has played all her life, and even though Campbell used to play the piano, he lets her do it now.
“I turn the pages,” Campbell said with a smile.
When they regularly volunteer to play for folks in the memory care unit, “they enjoy having me play,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who was married once for a brief time many years ago, and has since been divorced, said she feels fortunate to have Campbell, a widower, in her life at this stage of it.
“He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” she said. “He really is a lovely man.”
Campbell said he feels the same. “When I came here, I was not enthusiastic about coming here,” Campbell said. “But after I met Linda, things changed.”
He said he doesn’t feel 91.
“And he doesn’t seem as old as 91,” his sweetheart said.
Seeing Campbell and Wilson together, they appear to have known each other all their lives.
Wilson, who said she doesn’t feel 87, admits she feels that way. “If we had met each other when we were younger, we might have gotten married,” she said. “But he was married, and I was divorced way back when.”
Campbell smiled and nodded when she said that.
“One of my favorite expressions is: one day at a time,” Wilson said. “I think it’s both of ours.”
Campbell smiled and nodded in agreement again. “I guess we are kind of lucky,” he said, “that we met each other when we did.”
Campbell played football as a young man. He wears a Rutgers University championship ring on his hand, and said it is one of several he owns. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania and was once a marathon runner and high school coach.
Wilson worked as a secretary for most of her life, as a single mother while raising her daughter, who now lives nearby in Neptune Beach.
Wilson and Campbell’s relationship touches the staff at The Palms, because they both seem so happy.
“How sweet and warm it is to be working at my desk and look out my window and see love bloom,” Sales and Marketing Director Kay Tober said. “It’s touching. It’s never too late. It’s never too late for love.”
“It’s adorable,” agreed Cathy Hoffman, the community’s concierge. “That they have each other. They weren’t looking for love. They just clicked.”
Wilson said she is enjoying her retirement years. “This is makeup time,” she said. “Time to do things you like to do for fun and pleasure. When you were younger, you were too busy working, too busy to do the things you wanted to do.”
Campbell smiled in agreement. “I like my retirement years, too,” he said.
Then he pointed to Wilson. “But I do so because of her. If I didn’t have her, then I don’t think I would like it as much.”