Betty-Ann Baxter knew as soon as she saw Hubert Romer that he was the one.
It’s a Valentine’s story for the ages.
“I saw him walking across the floor to the dining room and I thought, ‘Well, that’s got possibilities’” Baxter said, her hand subconsciously finding Romer’s beside her. “I just thought, ‘Whoa,’ while I pretended to be reading a book.”
And he had noticed her.
“She had this book, and every day she’d start on the same page,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.
That was in June. Baxter, 90, and Romer, 92, will wed on March 15.
“We clicked,” Baxter said, softly rubbing Romer’s arm. “We didn’t plan it.”
The two live in Amica White Rock, she for 10 months and he for four years.
Located three blocks from Peace Arch Hospital and other amenities, Amica is a retirement residence with in-house medical clinic, pharmacy, lab and denturist.
A large lobby and reception greets you as you enter, with the dining area across the foyer. On the first floor is a well-stocked library, where Baxter grabbed her book from. Each suite has a balcony, and the roof of the building is an 8,000-sq.-ft. terrace with views of the ocean and Mt. Baker.
It was where Baxter’s husband, Garth, wanted her to be.
Garth played centre for the Blue Bombers in Betty-Ann’s hometown of Winnipeg before the couple moved to the Lower Mainland and started a fire-security business that today employs more than 100 people and has an American branch in Dallas.
She and Garth were married for 68 years before he passed away in early 2022. His dying wish was that she move into Amica.
Romer had been caring for his wife Margaret of 62 years — she had Alzheimer’s — before she died in early 2020. One of the last lucid things his wife said to him was, “Don’t stay alone. You will find somebody.”
Born in the Netherlands in 1931, he remembers Canadian soldiers liberating his country from the Nazis in the Second World War.
“We had nothing and the soldiers handed out chocolate and cigarettes, all kinds of things” he said. “They invited us into their mess hall and I remember playing table tennis in there.”
An accountant by trade, Romer moved to Canada in 1980 after the family business had been sold in Holland.
When Baxter and Romer marry it will be well-attended: She has two sons, two daughters (one of whom Baxter stood up for when she remarried at 70), 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. He has two daughters, one son and seven grandchildren.
As the two told their stories, they would finish sentences for each other and offer corrections when the other might have misstated a date, like a couple that had been together forever.
Their first date last June is a bit of a blur.
It was on one of Amica’s daily bus tours and, even though one of his daughters had joined him for the tour, Romer had saved the seat next to him for Baxter.
They don’t remember where the bus was taking them, only that they couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.
“We didn’t pay much attention to where we were going,” Romer said.
The bus was going to a Fraser Valley farm, said Mehdi Ammani, Amica’s life-enrichment coach and the man driving that bus.
“Pretty quickly you could see there was something between them,” Ammani said. “On that bus trip, there was a winery on that farm. They sit down, they have a glass of wine, that’s where it started.
“Since then they are always on my bus trip, holding hands, kissing.”
As Ammani talked, it was with part amusement, part tenderness and a wee bit of blushing over the couple’s public displays of affection. Even at their daily yoga/exercise classes every morning after breakfast, the two can look like a couple of pre-adolescents in puppy love.
“When you see them it looks like they have been together forever. Sometimes he’ll answer for her, she’ll answer for him. Betty-Ann says, ‘We are one.’
“They have coffee together, meals together. They are always together, even in the fitness centre holding hands, kissing: ‘Get a room guys!’” he said, laughing.
It’s no wonder the two say they feel like spring chickens 20 years younger than their birth certificates testify to.
Romer proposed just before Christmas. After their wedding, the couple will embark on a journey to Las Vegas and San Diego before boarding a cruise liner for home.
“I’ll tell you the reason we’re getting married,” he said. “We’d like to go on a trip with Holland America Line and I don’t like that our kids and grandkids would think that we are living together (out of wedlock). So I said maybe it’s better we get married.
“And we love each other.”
Baxter gave him a loving punch to the arm.
“I’m glad you added that,” she said as the two of them, hand in hand, broke out in giggles.