Harris Wofford is about the start a new chapter of his life. At the end of this month, the 90-year-old will marry a man 50 years younger.
The ex-senator from Pennsylvania, special assistant to President John Kennedy, and advisor to Martin Luther King, wrote about his journey today, 24 April, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times.
The essay starts in 1996. Wofford is in the hospital room of his wife, Clare. She is dying from acute leukemia. The couple were married for 48 years, meeting during World War II.
‘For our three children and me, Clare was at the heart of our family,’ Wofford writes. ‘When I told her, “You’re my best friend,” she would reply, “and your best critic.” And when I said, “You’re my best critic,” she responded, “and your best friend.”’
‘We were both about to turn 70 when she died,’ he continues. ‘I assumed that I was too old to seek or expect another romance. But five years later, standing on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida., I sensed a creative hour and did not want to miss it.’
As he swam alone he met two men, one of them being Matthew Charlton.
‘As we talked, I was struck by Matthew’s inquisitive and thoughtful manner and his charm,’ the ex-senator explains. ‘I knew he was somebody I would enjoy getting to know. We were decades apart in age with far different professional interests, yet we clicked.’
Wofford and Charlton became traveling buddies, visiting spots in the US and Europe. Their friendship, however, turned into something deeper.
‘We both felt the immediate spark, and as time went on, we realized that our bond had grown into love. Other than with Clare, I had never felt love blossom this way before.’
The pair have been together for 15 years, with both families accepting the relationship. Wofford declines to attach a label to his love, or renounce his affection for the woman who shared his life for 48 years.
‘Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall — straight, gay or in between. I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.’
An interesting fact about the Wofford story: the Democrat lost his senatorial seat in the mid 1990s to Republican Rick Santorum, a politician known for his anti-LGBTI positions.