By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sometimes when you least expect it, life springs a surprise.
Ken and Darlene Ussher met over pancakes at a Lions Club breakfast. "I keep telling him God meant it to be," she says.
(Megan Booker photo)
Ken and Darlene Ussher, who live near Union, and are 76 and 61, respectively, know it can happen anywhere, anytime. During a pancake breakfast at the Florence Lions Club, for instance.
Which is where Darlene connected with Ken almost 10 years ago, in May 1994.
Ken, a genteel fellow with thinning gray hair, was born in the Bronx and grew up in New Jersey. In the late '40s and early '50s he served first in the Army, in Japan, then in the Air Force, in Germany. After his discharge, he met a young woman named Norma, whom he married. Ken eventually found a niche in sales, and provided for the two daughters he and Norma had together.
Ken and Norma were in their 36th year of marriage when Norma got terribly sick. Lung cancer.
Ken told her he'd never marry again.
Yes, you will, she said.
After all those years together, Norma knew her husband well. Even when she was ill, she knew he needed something to occupy himself. He needed people. So she arranged for someone to introduce Ken to the Florence Lions Club. He joined in 1991. Norma died the following year, at age 57.
Except for two months as an infant, Darlene has lived her entire life in Boone County.
When her first marriage ended in divorce after 14 years, she raised her three children by herself. She eventually remarried, but 14 months after the wedding her second husband suffered a fatal heart attack. That was in 1987.
Her heart broken twice, Darlene didn't seek another relationship. She kept busy with her children, grandchildren and friends. And she enjoyed her women's group, the Florence Lioness Club.
The Lionesses often prepared meals for the Lions. Darlene assumes she must have seen Ken - even served him meals - on any number of occasions. But for some reason, she never noticed him. Until that pancake breakfast in 1994.
"I saw him from across the room," she says. "I just looked at him and I said, 'Who is that guy?'
"I'm not an aggressive person. I would never have done this years ago. I don't know what hit me."
For his part, Ken says, "I had no intention of either looking (for a relationship) or asking someone for a date." The first few times someone told him a Lioness wanted to meet him, he said he wasn't interested.
Finally, he asked who it was. He and Darlene were introduced.
"We hit it off so good," she says.
They dated for four years. Each was warmly embraced by the other's family. And when the topic of marriage arose, Ken, as is his nature, slowly and carefully considered the matter before setting a date: Oct. 24, 1998.
Since they first met, life has continued to spring a number of surprises. Ken surprised Darlene with a trip to Hawaii, which was her first airplane ride. Darlene has surprised Ken with a 75th birthday bash, and singers on Valentine's Day.
But nobody is surprised they're together. "I keep telling him God meant it to be," Darlene says.
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