- Associated Press - Saturday, February 13, 2021

CODY, Wyo. (AP) - Romance is the last thing Leatha Houghtaling and John DiMeglio expected to find at the Cody Senior Center.

Both widowed, the two were regulars at the center, where they routinely sought the companionship of other seniors.

While they knew of each other, the two hadn’t really spoken until one day about three years ago.

John had just gotten a haircut and Leatha took notice.

“I was growing my hair to raise money for cancer research because my wife passed away from cancer,” he said. “After I cut it she came up and we had coffee together and then she kissed me on the cheek.”

Later when he saw his daughter Tina Amarillas, he told her he didn’t want to wash his face, the Cody Enterprise reported.

“It made my day,” he said. “I think I fell in love with her as soon as she kissed my cheek.”

From that first meeting a relationship grew. Leatha, 85, is nearly five years older than John.

“I’m a cougar,” she joked.

The couple began spending more time together at the center, with Leatha helping John set up for bingo.

They eventually set up their first date outside the center and went out to eat, something they frequently enjoy. They also enjoy spending time with their families.

Leatha moved to Cody 49 years ago and worked for the schools for several years. Her entire family lives in the area including her five children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

She began going to the senior center in 2003.

“It’s a good place to go to meet people and relax,” she said.

John came to Cody to visit family from his home in California nearly four years ago. A few months later he made a return visit and decided to make Cody his home.

His two children live in the area. He also has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

When he arrived, John decided to go check out the Senior Center.

“I wanted to know what it was about,” he said. “It’s a place to go and talk to people on your level because we all have a lot in common.”

They encourage other seniors to check out the center.

“It’s an ideal way to get out and without it we wouldn’t have met,” John said. “I never would of dreamed we’d be where we are right now.”

The couple share similar interests and enjoy helping people.

“We like going places and meeting people,” Leatha said. “We take care of each other. We’re fortunate we met because there are a lot of people by themselves. They’re lonely.”

During the past year of isolation the couple said it’s been nice to have companionship.

“It’s the simple things,” John said. “We never dreamed this would happen. We met and our lives started all over again.”

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