Aunt Florine – Part 2
Florine coped with being a widow well, if not happily. She had never learned to drive but had a multitude of friends who took her to church, shopping, to lunch and games of Canasta and Samba. But after a few years, she wanted to be married, and she had the man all picked out. He just didn’t know it.
Tom Porch was a widower, a retired railroad man, and someone she had known through the small town and the church for many years. She began the campaign by sending him a card that had a praying mantis on the front and inside said, “I’m preying for you.” At this point Florine was 68 and Tom was 78. When she told my father of the plans, he said, “Florine, you old fool. You’ll just end up taking care of him.” But she went ahead and married him, and, you know what, they had twenty – yes twenty – wonderful years.
Tom was an amazing man. He was never sick a day in his life although he did have a hernia operation at age 95 and walked to the dining room the next night. At some time during each day, he would take a short nap which consisted of sitting in a recliner, a handkerchief over his face. Like Florine he was a story-teller: tales of the early days in Millville; stories about life on the railroad as a caboose man. He drove a car until it was no longer safe – maybe when he was 93. Until just before his death at 98 he took care of the plantings at Wesley Manor, and he and Florine got a laugh out of the fact that his favorite was Portulacas. Get it? Porch Portulacas.
Florine had always wanted to go to Ocean City (NJ) for the summer, but instead had gone to Union Lake. Tom had an old caboose which he had fixed up for living quarters in Ocean City, and they sold that and their Millville houses and built a great house in Ocean City.
Florine had always wanted to go to Florida in the winter but did not. She and Tom went , by train, for at least a month for many years.
Florine had never been in an airplane , but she and Tom flew to and from California to see one of Tom’s sons. They flew back via Milwaukee and visited with me, Orrin, and the kids. When I commented on her first flight, Florine said, “I always knew that if you ever needed me I would fly to you. I just got in a practice flight.”
Almost every night of their married life, Tom and Florine played either cards – Railroad Pinochle – or a game such as “Trouble.” On Sundays they went to church at The Tabernacle in Ocean City, and when Tom stopped driving, to services in Wesley Manor. They also read a daily devotional and sometimes led the evening Bible Study.
Florine seemed to have a knack for knowing when to make changes, and once decided, she went ahead with whatever was required. She would just sort and weed belongings, get rid of what she felt they didn’t need, and off they would go to a new home. When they felt their house was getting to be too much for them, they moved to Wesley Manor, a continuing care facility right in Ocean City. At first they had one of the cottages, but after a few years she told me, “I’ve done enough cooking in my life.” With that they moved into the main house where they had a very large, pleasant room.
Toward the end of her life, I asked her how she knew it was okay to marry Tom at their ages. Her reply: “I just knew.” When I asked if there was a secret to her long life (91), she said, “I had two good husbands, and I never had to scrub floors.”
© Dorothy C. Judd
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