A Second Chance at Love




photo by Natalie Haywood

photo by Natalie Haywood

Vee and Ron Collins point out three large canvases hanging on the wall in their home office. On each of them is a stunning photo of three couples: Ron and his late wife Julie, Vee and her late husband Tom, and finally, a photo of Ron and Vee together. “Ron was married to Julie for 53 years,” Vee said, “and Tom and I for 52.” Ron finishes the thought. “Together, we’ve been married 105 years. That’s a lot of marraige for one couple, and now we’re newlyweds!”
The newlywed couple is delightful. Their overwhelming joy and happiness spills over into their

home and into the words they share. The two found each other after losing both of their spouses in 2017; both were grieving and lost as to what happens after the death of a significant other. “We both attended bereavement groups; mine was a men’s group sponsored by Hospice Texarkana,” Ron said, “and Vee met with a group of ladies.”

Vee explains that she started a group for women who had experienced the loss of a spouse. “I tried to attend several groups after losing Tom, and while they were all nice people, none of them were led by someone who had actually lost their spouse,” she said. “I started my own with three people attending the first night, and by the next meeting, we had 12. It just took off from there.”

Ron and Vee met one night in October of 2017 at Jeans and Bling, an annual fundraiser event benefitting Hospice Texarkana. Ron recalls the night vividly. “My group’s leader, Richard Martin, wanted to go to the event, but didn’t want to go alone, so I said ‘I’ll be your date!’ and when we got there we ended up sitting with Richard’s longtime friend, Vee Daniels, and the other ladies in her group.” Vee interrupts his story saying, “I like to tell this part.”

Vee and Ron on their wedding day, October 20, 2018, with Bentleigh Barnett (Vee’s granddaughter), Leigh Barnett (Vee’s daughter), John Collins (Ron’s son), and Aaron Collins (Ron’s son). (Photo by Bryan Jefferies – Fresh Focus Films)

Vee and Ron on their wedding day, October 20, 2018, with Bentleigh Barnett (Vee’s granddaughter), Leigh Barnett (Vee’s daughter), John Collins (Ron’s son), and Aaron Collins (Ron’s son). (Photo by Bryan Jefferies – Fresh Focus Films)

“I know you do,” Ron concedes, and Vee picks up where he left off. “I got up with some ladies to get a drink, and while we were gone, one of my girlfriends asked me, ‘So, what do you think?’ and I said, ‘Richard and I have been friends for a long time—nothing more, but that guy next to him is cute! When we got back to the table, Ron and Richard had switched seats so Ron was sitting next to me.” Vee lights up remembering the moment. From then on, the couple continued to see each other in a group setting. The two bereavement groups agreed to attend events together throughout the year to provide safety in numbers. Early on in their relationship, Ron gave Vee a resumé to introduce himself to her. “That was the best way I knew how to explain my background,” Ron said. “It had all my involvement and my work history. I wanted her to know what she was getting into.”
Vee explains that she was intimidated by what she read. “I’m just a plain girl,” she

told him, but anyone who knows her would say Vee is anything but plain. She continued to research her new friend, and said everyone she spoke to about him had nothing but good things to say. “I didn’t hear one bad word about him,” Vee said. “I heard that he’s a wonderful man, that he’s generous and so kind. Even people who don’t know him well said he’s the kind of guy who can change the demeanor of a whole crowd when he starts to speak.”

Ron and Vee texted back and forth and talked to each other for a couple months in the fall, and eventually, Vee hosted several events at her home for the group of singles, including a Christmas and New Year’s Eve party. “On New Year’s Eve, the party wrapped up and everyone left by 12:30,” Vee said. “Except for Ron. He stayed, and we stood at the island in the kitchen talking until close to 3 a.m.”

Ron smiled. “We talked about everything, really just getting to know each other,” he said. “We talked about how we didn’t know how things like this worked, when it was okay to move on, what was expected, and so forth.”

Eventually, Ron called Vee and asked her on an official date. “He knows everyone in this town,” Vee said, “So I told him I’d go, if he was sure he was ready to make this thing public.”

Ron was, and they did. “When I got to the house and she got in the Jeep, I looked over and saw her hand just shaking,” Ron said. “I knew she was nervous, and who wouldn’t be? Both of us had never really dated before, as she got married at 19, and I married my high school sweetheart when I was 22. I just looked at her and said, ‘Hey, it’s just me, and we’re just going out to eat.’ She calmed right down after that.”

The pair went to Twisted Fork for their first official date. “As soon as we walked in, he knew half the restaurant, and the ones he didn’t know, I knew,” Vee said. “It was a public relationship from then on.” The couple began to travel together, Vee accompanying Ron for work, Boy Scout and U.S. Chamber of Commerce trips, and other trips to association meetings. In October of 2018, they were married in an intimate ceremony in the Chapel at Williams Memorial. Afterward, a large reception was held at Northridge Country Club and the two honeymooned in Bermuda. Ron and Vee are both confident their late spouses would have wanted them to find happiness again after loss. “Tom was sick for a long time,” Vee explains. “The last year of his life was a bonus year, because the doctors didn’t expect him to live that long, so in that year he did a lot of talking, and I did a lot of listening. He expected me to find someone after he passed away. He said, ‘You’ll get married again. You need to, I want you to, and you don’t need to be

An avid sailor, Ron took Vee to Jamaica for her first sailing adventure two weeks before their wedding.

Ron agreed, “It’s not in your nature

to be alone.” Then he continued, “Julie died very suddenly. Her health had been deteriorating for a couple years,

but she always wanted me to keep going, keep travelling, and be around others. I just wanted to be with her. But when she had the accident, she fell and broke her back, and died within the week. There wasn’t a lot of time to talk about what came next. She did tell me that if anything ever happened to her she expected that there would quickly be a line of ladies around the block with casseroles. After her death my friends used to tease me about it, asking how many casseroles I had in the fridge at any given time.”

An avid sailor, Ron took Vee to Jamaica for her first sailing adventure two weeks before their wedding.

An avid sailor, Ron took Vee to Jamaica for her first sailing adventure two weeks before their wedding.

“I never brought a casserole!” Vee said. “But I’m so thankful we found each other.” Ron and Vee are undoubtedly perfect for each other. The two light up any room when they are together, and have plans to keep travelling, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends.

Ron summarizes the struggle of losing a spouse late in life, and the joy of finding his bride. “You know, when you read through all the books on life, they stop after age 50,” he said. “There’s nothing telling you what comes after you’re a senior, so you have to write the rest of the chapters yourself. You realize that you haven’t had enough time to travel, and enjoy life and the company of others, so when you lose your spouse, you have a choice to make. Are you going to fold up your tent and sit at home and wait to die, or are you going to go on and live? We chose to keep living.”