Living Grand: John and Carol

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic was full of uncertainty and anxiety. For John Ochsner and Carol Pagel, however, it was the backdrop for a blossoming romance. 

John and Carol met 18 months ago at a party in Wabasha, MN. Carol had recently moved to the city to be closer to her daughter, and she didn’t immediately realize that the casual introduction her friends were making was intended as a set up. Still, when John called two weeks later to invite Carol over for lobster bisque and a green salad, she quickly accepted. 

The two have been regular companions ever since. John liked Carol’s smile and her laugh and the way she lightened up his serious demeanor. Carol liked that John has stayed active. He started a bicycle club in Wabasha and loves to snowshoe. 

“I wouldn’t want someone who just wanted to sit,” she said. “He wants to go for walks or do something outside. Go on the boat. We just kind of clicked.” 

In addition to those activities, the pair took turns cooking dinner. They’d watch movies and track the progress of a fox family that lived below Carol’s house. 

John raised the topic of marriage a few months ago and suggested he give Carol a ring on her birthday, but Carol told him she didn’t want to know when the ring was coming. She wanted a surprise. So, John recruited a close friend who was starting a flower business and asked her to visit Carol’s house with a message that she’d won a month of free flowers. When Carol went inside to open the letter, she found a note with a proposal and three options: Yes, No (which was crossed out) and Yes again. When Carol returned to the front door, John had replaced their friend, dressed in an identical outfit with a mask and sunglasses covering his face and fake hair he’d created with a yellow towel. It took a minute or so of excited conversation before Carol realized she was talking to her new fiance instead of her friend.  

“I read the proposal and squealed and started laughing,” she said. “I loved it. It was wonderful.” 

The couple plan to marry on Sept. 25. The wedding will be the first time in months that John will have all of his children and six or seven of his 12 grandchildren. 

“The COVID year was bad for most people, but it was not nearly that bad for us,” John said. “Because we had each other.” 

Keeping connected

While John hasn’t seen his children all in one place since the pandemic began, he has embraced GrandPad as a way to stay in touch and active. They also use the GrandPad to keep up on current events, listen to music, and play games. The two recently signed on as Grand Advisors, a group of senior super users who provide feedback to help improve GrandPad for other users. Though they’re just getting started in that role, they look forward to having input on the direction of GrandPad’s development.