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Couple finds harmony at center

Rudy Pavini and Tommie Ward find each other through dancing

Posted: February 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Valentine's Day is sure to be sweet for Rudy Pavini, 78, left, and Tommie Ward, 81, who found each other at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center after being partnered at a dance class held at the Newhall facility. (Josh Premako/For The Signal)

It started with dancing lessons.

Rudy Pavini, 78, had been coming to the SCV Senior Center for several years, taking part in the various dance classes, and getting involved in the chess club.

He’d lost his wife of 39 years in 2005, and didn’t know if he’d find someone to fall in love with again.

“I could never really find what I was looking for,” he said.

Originally from Massachusetts, Rudy moved to Southern California in 1960, and has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley since 1972.

It was nearly two years ago when dance instructor Russ Evans asked him if he knew a certain lady who was new to the Senior Center, who wanted to learn to dance.

Seeing the lady walked with a cane, Rudy wondered how much dancing she could do, but he obliged and was partnered up with her.

That lady was 81-year-old Tommie Ward.

It wasn’t long after starting to regularly dance with Rudy that she stopped using her cane.

“We dance every single day now,” he said.

The two enjoyed dancing with one another, but it quickly became apparent there was a harmony between them.

Rudy realized he liked Tommie as more than just a dance partner, and Tommie felt the same way.

The two have been inseparable since.

They’ve become fixtures at the Senior Center, whether dancing, playing bridge or mingling, often in coordinating outfits.

Last year, over dinner at Claim Jumper Rudy proposed to Tommie and put an engagement ring on her finger.

“We love life, and we put God first,” Rudy said. “We do things together; we have a lot of similarities.”

While they haven’t yet set a wedding date, “we’re married in our heart,” said Tommie, who spends time with Rudy almost all day, every day.

In addition to finding love with Rudy — after being divorced from her husband of 30 years and unsure if she’d be with someone again — Tommie has gotten a second wind in life since coming to the Senior Center.

“I didn’t really care if I lived when I first got here. I was so sad,” she said. “I give credit for my life to the Senior Center, and I encourage people to come here.”

Tommie was born and raised in southern Georgia, growing up in the small town of Edison.

She attended Albany State University and Valdosta State University and taught special education students, in addition to having been a caregiver for her late mother, father, sister and brother. She moved to California several years ago with her ailing sister and niece.

At the urging of local physician Dr. Gene Dorio, she first came to the Senior Center for Judith Harris’ Grief Support Group after her sister died.

“I had to make a change,” she said. “Everybody was so kind; they made me feel welcome. … The Senior Center has become my home away from home.”

Named a Goodwill Ambassador for the Senior Center, Tommie makes sure to constantly greet people at the center and see how their day is going.

“I want to give back what I received when I got here,” she said.

The two are vibrant and show no signs of slowing down. Even after Rudy broke his leg last year, he’s recuperated and is back out on the dance floor.

“It’s a life that’s brought us youth, vigor and happiness,” Rudy said. “We’ve found peace; we’ve found joy. We feel that God had his hand in getting us together.”

Tommie seconded that emotion.

“I’m just happy, enjoying life,” she said. “I got a second chance in life, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”


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