An ageless romance: Couple meet and marry in sight of adopted family at Elk Run

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By Vicky Gits

Cupid works in mysterious ways.

Like cooking up a match between a Costa Rican chef and a Colorado math major who grew up Italian.

A 34-year-old woman doesn’t necessarily go to work in an assisted-living facility thinking she’s likely to run into romance, especially after a virtual lifetime of singledom.

Nevertheless, Angela Pedotto, the activities director at Elk Run Assisted Living, who graduated with a degree in accounting, met her husband, Cristian Chaverri, 26, when she went to work at the Evergreen facility over a year ago.

Their first “date” on Feb. 16, 2008, consisted of a stroll around Evergreen Lake, followed by watching DVD episodes of the sitcom “King of Queens,” which they both love.

On Christmas Eve, Chaverri asked Pedotto to marry him and gave her a diamond ring.

“We were at the house. I was shaking. I was sweating. I didn’t know if the words were going to come out,” he said. “She cried.”

The couple decided to get married on Valentine’s Day in Elk Run’s recreation room in the presence of the entire community of mostly people in their 80s and 90s.

“We feel like this is our family — people that like us and would love to see us walking down the aisle,” Chaverri said.

Giving away the bride was Julian Kerbel, 80-something and “Papa Bear” of the clan. He was proud of the honor but also a little sad at the turn of events.

“I really didn’t want to. He stole my girl,” Kerbel said.

It was a lovely night for a wedding, with a chill in the air, a little snow frosting the ground, and a clear, moonlit sky.

Pedotto wore a diamond tiara, a full-length strapless satin gown with a train and a crystal-beaded bodice, showing off an impossibly tiny waist. Her chin-length dark hair was adorably bouffant.

The groom wore island attire: a white untucked linen shirt over white slacks. (The pants were hemmed with duct tape about one hour before the wedding march began.)

“I didn’t think a tux was him,” Pedotto said. Chaverri had been busy all day cooking the wedding buffet.

A maid of honor, a best man and a couple of toddler-age flower girls made up the wedding procession, accompanied by a wedding march on an electronic keyboard.

At the far end of the room by a curved wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, a stand of potted ficus trees dotted with mini-lights framed the wedding party. About 75 people jammed the room to overflowing.

As soon as she started reciting the vows, Pedotto started to cry. (In fact, the tears were still flowing well into the receiving line.)

Seated in the spellbound audience were Elk Run resident Peggy Everhart and a friend, Sally Archer. Everhart said she was surprised the couple had marriage on their minds.

“We weren’t aware of a romance,” she said. “They were always very professional about it.”

But everyone was thrilled about the ceremony.

“We all love weddings,” Everhart said.

In fact, the romance got off to a rocky start. It wasn’t so much mutual attraction at first as mutually exclusive philosophies.

“Historically, diet and activity departments tend to collide,” Pedotto explained. “I said, ‘Let’s shake things up. Let’s start the meal with the cake instead of the carrots.’ It didn’t go over well.”

So how long before romance kicked in?

“It took about six months,” Pedotto said. “I didn’t like him. I thought he was being so narrow. Then I saw the residents warm up to him.”

She realized that Chaverri was something more than a culinary traditionalist.

“He’s a lot different than American men. He’s more driven, serious, grounded and has good family values,” she said.

“He started creating food and letting go a little bit more with the menu,” Pedotto said.

The residents of Elk Run had lots of advice for the couple.

“The biggest thing is, don’t go to bed fighting. There isn’t anything that can’t wait until tomorrow,” Pedotto said. “That’s what they all said. You need to be able to let it go and refresh your mind and talk about it the next day.”

“The men all told Chris to get used to saying, ‘Yes, dear,’ and (to) say you’re sorry even when you’re not,” Pedotto said.