New Beginnings

By Octavio Serrano

Pete Lee sat next to Mary Jo Waters at church and asked to hold her hand. Six months later, they said “I do.”

The residents of Anthem’s Merrill Gardens, Pete, 92, and Mary Jo Lee, 85, celebrated their friendship and companionship when they married in late May. The couple became close after that first day in church.

“He explained that he had always held his wife’s hand at church for 65 years and he wondered if it would be okay if he held my hand,” Mary Jo says. “So ever after we sat in church together and held hands.”

Mary Jo and Pete had previous loving marriages — 45 years and 65 years, respectively — when they learned what it’s like to be devoted to someone. Both of their spouses passed away.

When asked what she learned about marriage, Mary Jo says, “You got to give and take. It’s not a one-way street and nobody can have their own way all the time.” Pete says that, for a marriage to be fruitful, people must “live and love.”

They enjoy life with each other and separately. Pete likes to play bingo and other social activities, while Mary Jo enjoys staying inside with a nice book.

Mary Jo was impressed by Pete’s gentle nature toward people with disabilities.

“I very much appreciated the way he treats handicapped people because I have a handicapped son,” says Mary Jo, who has three children. “When I saw Pete loving and taking care of the handicap people here, I knew it was a good man.”

When he was one, Mary Jo’s son suffered from red measles, which spiked a fever that left permanent brain damage. Mary Jo says, at the time there wasn’t social assistance, so she worked full-time so he could get the attention he needed.

Being with a man who cares for and respects people with disabilities is a dream come true for Mary Jo.

“He’ll talk to them when everybody else avoids them and he’s patient with them. He doesn’t get impatient with handicap people and that’s a beautiful thing,” Mary Jo says.

Marriage is an incredible commitment, Mary Jo says. After meeting him in church, she knew she wanted to be with him.

“You have to have a feeling before you can have an intention and I adore Pete,” Mary Jo says. “I just really enjoy spending time with him.”

When the day finally came, Pete wore a light blazer with a striped tie and he could not have been more excited. After listening to the long delivery, the pastor made, he couldn’t help but impatiently ask him, “Can I kiss her now?”

Mary Jo and Pete rose slightly from chairs and kissed. Soon after, they were met by friends and family and had their first dance to Bing Crosby’s “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Even at an advanced age, two people found commitment and meaning in marriage. This couple shows love and appreciation for each other with the heart of young people.

Pete adores Mary Jo for her accomplishments through her life and Mary Jo can’t get more than a few words out without saying something nice about Pete. Mary Jo, who worked for the Reformed Church in America, wrote 12 books and taught adult Christian education.

“The two major things that I admire and love about Pete is his sense of humor because he makes me life every turn of the switch,” Mary Jo says. “The second is his goodness to people that are less fortunate.”