Alaina Leadbeter/Special to the Sun
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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Sitting at her kitchen table and looking sweetly into her husband’s eyes, Karen Pastel explains how she landed Arthur, the man of her dreams.
“My age group calls it the casserole brigade,” she says. “When there’s a desirable man on the market who is of a certain age, who is a widower, the women bring baked goods and dinner.”
So when Arthur Pastel showed up on the scene, the casserole brigade marched into action “and I had to move fast.”
She did, and who knew that this time it would lead to love? They married in June.
Love isn’t redefined by age — “You’re never too old for love,” she says — but maybe sometimes it is framed by a greater sense of urgency.
Karen is 67; Arthur is 86. But based on the nervous jitters that marked their first weeks together, they might as well be teenagers.
Karen, who in August retired from her career as a high school English teacher and principal, and Arthur, a retired Navy pilot, met at a Tuesday night bridge classes in the clubhouse at Spanish Trail.
Individually, they knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with someone by their side. Arthur’s previous wife passed away a few years ago and Karen had been single for 19 years.
She made the first move. Noticing how handsome he was, she pulled up a chair between rounds of their bridge games and introduced herself.
Captured by her beauty and smarts, Arthur called a few days later at A-Tech High School, where she was the principal.
“I was flirting with the man on the phone during business hours,” Karen said.
During that call, Arthur asked her out to dinner.
“I haven’t done this in a while. How am I doing?” he said.
Their evening reminded them of the butterflies they had when getting ready for first dates as teenagers, even if the ground rules were a bit different. Over dinner at Morton’s, Arthur purchased a $150 bottle of wine.
Then came a second date, and a third.
But days went by without seeing each other, and days turned into weeks. Again, insecurity settled in. What went wrong?
“He dumped me,” Karen concluded. “I couldn’t figure out why.”
So she tried to surreptitiously track him down. She would take the long way out of the neighborhood to cover more streets and keep an eye open on the street in front of her house, hoping to catch Arthur walking his dog Charlie. When she spotted him, she would secretly watch him from afar, not wanting her bachelor on the block to disappear.
But it turns out he wasn’t trying to dodge her and was wondering why he hadn’t heard from her. It was a misunderstanding: When Karen had canceled a date due to a cold, Arthur asked her to call him when she felt better. Karen didn’t hear that part — and had been raised by her mother not to be the pursuer by calling boys.
A mutual friend came to the rescue. She and Karen went on their own walk, with Arthur and Charlie as their target. It worked, and the dating resumed.
It wasn’t long before their relationship evolved into a comfortable, unpretentious rhythm — unlike decades earlier when things like age, status and fraternity affiliation seemed to matter.
“Art is gentle; he is soft-spoken, plus handsome, well educated and accomplished. There is always a respect with the way he lives his life. I never worry about what fraternity he was in.”
Eighteen months after their first date, they married. The proposal came over coffee. Kneeling was out of the question, the couple says, laughing, because Arthur wasn’t sure he’d be able to get back up.
Tonight, they’ll share a Valentine’s dinner with another couple at the country club. With the right music — Andrea Bocelli, perhaps, or Celine Dion — Arthur says he may lead his bride onto the dance floor.
But if they simply sit next to one another, that will be enough, he says.
“Being together is romantic,” Arthur says. “I’m very happy being with her. That’s romantic.”
When asked to define love, the two pause and look into one another’s eyes. Karen describes it as “an emotion for the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
She looks toward Arthur.
“I think it’s a joy reserved for just you. ... You’re the person I want to spend the rest of my life with,” she says. “Whatever that means.”
Arthur nods in agreement and smiles.
Alaina Leadbeter is a UNLV journalism student.