In Life's Golden Years, a Love Supreme
Last Friday, I wrote of the greatest love stories ever told and The Pilot's new "Bride & Groom" feature.
That morning, I got a call from Barbara Baum, who lives in Penick Village, in Southern Pines.
"I have a love story that might interest you," she began.
On Tuesday, I visited Barbara's pleasant little Penick cottage and listened to the story of the great love of her life.
"Talk about a love affair!" she said. "I couldn't keep my hands off him. We were called the lovebirds around here."
John Edwin Baum Jr. and Barbara Baum were no strangers to love. His first marriage had lasted 47 years; Barbara had been married 48 years. Both had been widowed for 15 years.
Ed and Barbara moved to Pinehurst in 1990, though they had never met except for one random encounter over the phone. She had called the local office for the N.C. Extension Service. Ed, a Master Gardener, had volunteered there, answering people's questions.
Barbara recalled this wonderful, friendly mellifluous voice over the phone.
Their short arc of love began Jan. 27, 2007. A friend of Ed's invited him to dinner at a little Southern Pines restaurant called Sonoma Cafe. The friend happened to think of Barbara and invited her to come along.
"The second I saw him, oh, wow!" Barbara said. "And my heart went jumpy and I just thought, 'Oh, I've got to know him better.' We stole looks at each other. The whole time was charged with sexuality."
Now, don't get the wrong idea about Barbara and Ed. As she says, "I wasn't a casserole lady."
That is, she didn't try to worm her way into single men's hearts with a hot dish.
And Ed, though lonely, wasn't looking for a hot dish.
But the next morning, there he was, calling Barbara at 9 a.m.
"I knew it was him," she said. "The first thing I said - which I flatly denied for a week - was, 'I was wondering when you were going to call.' He asked if I remembered him. Remember him? I didn't sleep at all the night before, but I didn't say that."
Ed was always pretty charming with women.
"We went into the Hallmark store one time, "and all the ladies came over. And in the restaurants? Oh, all the waitresses would come over!"
They made a luncheon date for the Holly Inn on Thursday, Feb. 1. Afterward, Barbara invited Ed back to her place.
"We looked through some family photo albums and some tennis albums. About 5 o'clock, I said, 'Would you like some wine and cheese?' He left about 8 p.m."
He agreed to come back Saturday evening for a dinner Barbara cooked. More dates ensued. On Valentine's Day, he gave her a couple of teddy bears, dressed in cheerleader outfits.
After that, until their wedding June 1, they were inseparable.
"I don't think we had a proposal," she said. "We both just knew."
Their wedding was a simple affair with a service in the Penick garden and a reception at the Longleaf Country Club.
The early days, like most marriages, had their ups and downs as they adjusted to their new lives together. Ed moved from his home in Pinehurst No. 6 and had to give away many of his possessions, including his prized grand piano.
"He was very frightened at first," Barbara said. "Suddenly, he had nothing. He was in a house where he wasn't in charge. It uprooted him for a while. Once that was all settled, we were so happy. We were like teenagers."
In September 2008, the two decided to take a bus tour through Michigan, where Barbara had spent much of her life.
One morning in the hotel room, while packing, Barbara tripped on a duvet and lurched forward.
"He broke my fall and I broke his leg," she said.
Ed went in to the hospital up there and was recovering when complications set in. Pretty soon, his heart began failing. They were flown back to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. Ed died Sept. 29, 2008. He was 92.
At 88, Barbara still gets around and makes sure she goes to her tai chi classes at Penick. But she misses Ed and the love they had, if only for a short time.
"Now, I feel like an old woman. We were married less than two years. My heart's broken. We wished we'd met in the very beginning. He always said, 'I had to be 90 to meet the girl of my dreams.'"
Contact Pilot Editor John Nagy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 693-2507.
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