Approximately, five years ago and within a one-year span, Caren Carr’s spouse of 16 years and Tony DiRamio’s spouse of 42 years passed on after struggling with terminal illnesses.
As a Catholic and a Jew, respectively, neither Tony, now 77, nor Caren, now 67, knew the other except in passing at the monthly Hospice and Pallative Care Charlotte Region Support (HPCCR) Group meetings. With family in various places across the country, neither had local relatives to count on. More importantly, both had just experienced the grief of losing long-time loves, and both already had long-established full lives in Matthews.
So, when the support group ended, in early 2015, Tony attempted to continue getting the group together – this time, at a local restaurant. Only Caren showed up. The meal lasted a full two hours with much discussion, reminiscences, and reflections on loss and grief.
Six weeks later, they went on a joint transatlantic cruise ship together. Six months later, after dating exclusively, Tony asked for Caren’s hand in marriage. “I was very surprised,” said Caren of the proposal. “I said, ‘you don’t have to tell me tonight,’ ” said Tony. “I didn’t [answer] him right away,” reflected Caren.
“After being married for 42 years, it was kind of lonely living in the house,” said Tony. “I didn’t [just] want to live with someone. I wanted a long-term commitment. I’d been married my whole life and I had a lot of life ahead of me,” said Tony.
“We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss,” Caren said. “I started being his friend; he started being my friend.”
While they considered an elaborate wedding, a suggestion at the county clerk’s office to keep their names made them consider an easier path – finding a judge or magistrate available immediately and determined by day. “I said, ‘let’s get married tomorrow,’ ” said Tony. The pair went to a jewelry store that afternoon to pick out rings and asked a neighbor and her husband to stand as witnesses for them.
The next day, they visited the magistrate (working) in the local jail. They brought $20 in cash to pay for the ceremony. The neighbor brought a cake from Publix. They were married on October 28, 2015.
When asked later about the event, Tony joked to friends that they “had about six hundred people [in attendance], but most of them were wearing orange suits!”
And, in answer to people’s judgment about their marrying again so soon, or even at all, after the loss of spouses, Tony is clear: “The grief is still there. Just because we got married doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings [about our previous lives],” he said, noting that they both had good marriages. “We go thru a process; we talk about it sometimes. There are still certain things you have to get over.”
Having lived for a few years in Caren’s old home, last January, they moved into their new home, together. Now, they share a love of travel, of going out to restaurants, and of living in Florida for a few months/year each winter. They also share religious traditions and visits to their respective houses of worship.
“In older age, it’s different than when you are younger,” said Tony. “We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.”
“We’ve been married four years. I’m happy,” he said. “It’s very difficult to change a lot of habits. She has her [ways]; I have mine,” said Tony, stating that in the end, they “work it out.”
“But, it’s a really happy story,” added Caren.
At their passing, the couple will bequeath money to HPCCR. “We’re so grateful for meeting and for the care our spouses got,” said Caren.