With porcelain dolls, a small piano and greyhound lying in the corner, Rose Mary (Johnson) Toebbe has fostered a small museum in her living room after years of traveling. Her new husband, Lawrence, jested – also referring to himself – “Old things can
Rose Mary and Lawrence, 84 and 80 years old, respectively, have been married for a year and a half. Rose Mary chuckled to herself about their unique relationship, “We’re just two senior citizens getting together.”
While working at Joseph E. Seagrams and Sons, she and Lawrence both lost their previous spouses within a month of each other. Lawrence’s first wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and he saw it as his duty to take care of her until the end. In fact, Lawrence wears two wedding rings on his left hand, one for each of his loves. “The last five years, she had no clue who I was,” he explained. “All I can say is it teaches you a different kind of love to be able to take care of somebody like that.”
He said his niece used to tease him, saying, “Now Uncle Lawrence, you can’t wear that wedding ring all the time. Nobody’s even going to be interested in you!” His response was simply, “If the ring is going to keep us apart then nothing’s ever going to happen.” Rose Mary actually heard Lawrence tell this story at one of their work luncheons, and she doesn’t mind his first ring at all.
Lawrence didn’t have many opportunities to go out on the town while taking care of five children, but Rose Mary has completely changed his lifestyle. “Now she’s got me going to the opera, the ballet and Actor’s Theatre,” he said. “(Before, my family) just never did that for lack of funds or health reasons.”
Rose Mary is actively involved in the community, and Lawrence has jumped in to support her. She is the current president of Goodwill Industries Volunteer Organization (GIVS), during her 37th year as a member, and was the winner of the group’s volunteer of the year award in 2005. She also recently resigned as treasurer of the Delta Zeta Alumni for the University of Louisville chapter after 58 years, and has been the chair of the international relations group for the American Association for University Women (AAUW) for more than 30 years. Lawrence has volunteered with fundraising events like the GIVS 50/50 event, and even provided comic relief by dressing up as the Mad Hatter for the annual GIVS luncheon.
Lawrence and Rose Mary both possess a natural inclination to compromise, which has been key in blending their established routines. Even with differing faiths Rose Mary agreed to marry in Lawrence’s church, where the same priest from Lawrence’s first wedding officiated. Lawrence moved in with Rose Mary, passing along most of his furniture and belongings to his children. “There was no excuse for us not to get along. There’s almost 90 years of experience between us,” Lawrence joked.
“He can cook, and he plays the piano. He helps me out a lot,” Rose Mary said, surprised by his help. “I didn’t think he would do all that.” “We just feel so comfortable with each other,” Lawrence said. “It’s like we’ve always been married. You can say anything, and you’re not bashful about any part of the relationship.”
Making any relationship work only requires four phrases, according to Lawrence: “please,” “thank you,” “I love you” and “you look nice.” “But they have to be genuine,” Lawrence emphasized. “You can’t just say words. You have to say it and mean it.” Despite her objections, Lawrence often tells Rose Mary she looks great, even with no lipstick and her hair undone. As Lawrence affectionately called her his “sweetie” and squeezed her shoulders, Rose Mary commented, “He’s a very loving man. He really is.”
Category: In Tandem