48 Years After Divorce, Couple Is Giving Marriage Another Shot

Aug 2, 2012
Originally published on August 2, 2012 5:39 pm

As Lena Henderson says, she hadn't been expecting to remarry Roland Davis some 48 years after their divorce, but "you never know what tomorrow is going to bring."

All Things Considered today tells the touching story of how the two 85-year-olds are set to tie the knot again on Saturday in Buffalo, N.Y.

Davis and Henderson first married in 1944. After having four children, they split 20 years later. Each of them remarried in subsequent years. Each of them lost their later spouses. Davis' wife died earlier this year. Then, as the Buffalo News reported earlier this week, it was at the suggestion of a daughter (from his first marriage, to Henderson), that he decided to move to the Buffalo area to be near the rest of the family.

The two had stayed in touch over the years and as the prospect of relocating to Western New York started to become real, their conversations "turned to something much more serious," as the News reports:

"We were talking on the phone one day and he said, 'Will you marry me again?' Henderson recalled. ""I said 'well, well ... yes.' "

Davis tells the News that "I always thought it might happen. ... It was always in the back of my mind."

One of the couple's sons died in 1996. The now adult "kids" who survive seem thrilled by their parents' reunion. Daughter Renita Shadwick tells All Things Considered that:

"I see the way that he comes along beside her and wants to help her as she walks inside a building or the way he scoots around her to open a door. I look at the way my mother smiles at him when he's talking about something. Those are the moments I pray that all children are looking at when they are looking at their parents loving one another."

They will tie the knot again Saturday at Buffalo's Elim Christian Fellowship Church. Unlike the first time around, when a justice of the peace did the officiating, the groom had to go to work the next day as a bellhop and there was no time for a celebration, this second wedding has been "blown into great proportions" compared to 1944, Henderson says. In attendance and taking part in the ceremony: Four generations of family, including more than 20 grandchildren and a growing number of greatgrandchildren.

More from All Things Considered's conversations with Henderson and her daughter is due on today's broadcast. We'll add the as-aired audio to the top of this post later today.

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The Elim Christian Fellowship Church in Buffalo, New York, will host a special wedding this Saturday between two people who have more than a little history. They're both 85; both grandparents; and both survived the deaths of their previous spouses. Oh, and they divorced each other 48 years ago.

LENA HENDERSON: I never thought that I'd get married again.

CORNISH: That's Lena Henderson. In 1944, she and Roland Davis were high school sweethearts when they married. They had four children before divorcing amicably, 20 years later. Eventually, both remarried. He moved to Colorado; she had another child; and life went on. Then, in 1996, one of their sons died. After that...

HENDERSON: He would call, to see how I was doing. And his wife and I, we would get on the phone and talk to each other. Everything was, you know, nice and friendly. There was no, how come you're calling her? or, how come you're talking to him? - or nothing like that. I had a nice rapport with her.

CORNISH: Last winter, Davis' wife died. His eldest daughter convinced him to move to Buffalo, so he could be closer to the rest of the family. She didn't realize he was already growing closer to her mother - his ex-wife - over the phone. Then, near Easter, Roland Davis popped the question to Lena Henderson - for the second time.

HENDERSON: He says, would you marry me? I say, what? Would you marry me? I say, well - um - hmm. And then I said yes, I will.

RENITA SHADWICK: Immediately, my sister and I began to plan a wedding. That was it. We were sold. (LAUGHTER) Abeedabeedabee - sold! (LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: That's Renita Shadwick, the couple's youngest daughter. She was 6 when they separated, and admits her parents reuniting is a childhood dream come true. Growing up, she never heard them speak ill of each other. But until now, she says, she never realized exactly what she missed by not seeing them as a couple.

SHADWICK: I see the way that he comes along beside her, and wants to help her as she's walking inside of a building; or the way he scoots around her, to open up a door. I look at the way my mother smiles at him when he's talking about something. Those are the moments that I pray that all children are looking at, when they're looking at their parents loving one another.

CORNISH: Four generations will participate in the wedding - daughters as bridesmaids, grandchildren as groomsmen, great-grandchildren as ring bearers. Again, here's daughter Renita Shadwick.

SHADWICK: It is very unusual, I think, but it's also very precious because all of us now, collectively, get to kind of be a part of our past (LAUGHTER) in our future - or in our present. (LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Shadwick's mother, Lena Henderson, will be sporting a light-gray dress as she marries the man she divorced nearly five decades ago. And she has this advice for anyone who thinks love has passed them by.

HENDERSON: Never give up. You never know what tomorrow's going to bring.

CORNISH: Eighty-five-year-old Lena Henderson will take 85-year-old Roland Davis - again - as her lawfully wedded husband, this Saturday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.