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Cupid's arrow can strike at any time, at any age

Merle and Doris Candler are enjoying life together, having married when both were in their 70s. -
Merle and Doris Candler are enjoying life together, having married when both were in their 70s.
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By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Nearly four decades ago, Merle and Doris Candler were friends in a Seventh-day Adventist Church club, climbing mountains in the Pacific Northwest together. Today they are husband and wife ascending new peaks in their relationship.

"I never thought that at 70 years old we could have those teenage emotions, but it's happened," said Merle, 73, and Doris, 75.

In their younger days, Merle and Doris and their respective spouses belonged to the mountain climbing club together. The group never put a husband and wife on the same team, so Merle and Doris were often roped together.

"It was nothing romantic at all, just part of the group," Merle said.

Over time, close to 30 years, the couples lost contact.

Last year, Doris lost her husband to Alzheimer's. Two weeks later Merle lost his wife to cancer.

Through a mutual friend, Doris learned of Merle's loss and attended his wife's funeral. They made general conversation, but didn't put any stock in the reunion.

Doris lived in Buckley, Merle in Bellingham.

Merle said after about three months, he decided the single life wasn't for him. He started dating, casually. But he kept thinking about Doris.

He found her phone number and they made a date to visit Mount Rainier. The day of the date, the weather was miserable, and they opted instead to go to Northwest Trek.

"I prayed about it," Merle said. "I asked the Lord if I should still be grieving."

What Doris didn't know was the outing was a "test date," Merle said.

"I wanted to know if I can hold a lady's hand and not feel like I shouldn't be doing this," he said.

"I reached down and held her hand. And she said, 'All right, just as long as it doesn't go any further,'" he laughed.

Afterward, Doris sent Merle a letter.

"I didn't want him to feel rejected. I wanted to contact him," she said.

They made a second date to attend a church concert in North Seattle.

"May I kiss you goodnight?" Merle asked.

Doris gave her consent.

"It was like two magnets," Merle laughs.

By their fourth date, Merle proposed. He created a card on the computer and inside it said, "Will you marry me, Doris, my dear?"

They were married Nov. 23, 2002, during a Sunday service at Bonney Lake's Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Doris said she wasn't taken totally by surprise. Merle started dropping hints during their second date.

During their courtship they were e-mailing each other regularly, seeing each other weekly and praying a good deal, they said.

They said there were definitely things working in their favor. They had similar interests, they shared a belief in their church and God and they'd been through marriage before.

"At our age we know what we wanted," Doris said.

"We both had happy marriages," Merle said. "We're not closing those chapters in our lives," Merle said. "We're starting a new chapter in our life."

Merle and his wife Jean were married for almost 50 years and Doris and her husband Ward were married for 58. In the hallway of Merle and Doris' Buckley home hang three pictures - one of Merle and Jean, one of Doris and Ward and, in the middle, one of Merle and Doris.

"We're just so thankful that we have each other," Doris said.

"At our age you're a heartbeat away from a stroke or heart attack. We want to enjoy our time," Merle said.

On that, and most everything else, they agree.

"I got the best of the bargain," Merle said.

"No he didn't, I did," said Doris.

"See. We don't agree on that," they smile in unison.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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