You can't always anticipate the next bend in the road. Just ask Tom and Kris Allison.
"I'm as surprised as anyone," says Kris. "If you told me two years ago I'd be married and living at Highland Springs, I wouldn't have thought it possible."
The fun-loving couple are celebrating their first Valentine's Day as newlyweds this month. Tom and Kris married on September 8, 2018, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Dallas, Tex., three months to the day after Tom proposed.
"It didn't take long after we started dating for me to realize I wanted Kris in my life," says Tom.
The couple's whirlwind romance belies their long history as friends. Tom and Kris met at Eastfield Junior College in Mesquite in 1970.
"We ran around with the same group of friends," says Tom, reminiscing. "My late wife Sherry was also one of the group. One day, I mentioned to Sherry that I was going to ask Kris if she wanted to go bowling. Sherry's eyes got big, and I realized that as far as she was concerned, we were in a committed relationship. Like most 18-year-old males, I wasn't very sophisticated with relationships at the time."
Tom graduated with a degree in criminal justice from Southwest Texas State University. After he and Sherry married, Tom worked for the Houston Police Department for 14 years before he accepted a position with the federal government in Virginia.
Meanwhile, Kris graduated from North Texas State University and went to work as a speech language pathologist, spending 21 years of her career with the Dallas Independent School District.
Kris retired in 2009 to care for her ailing parents.
"It was a tough season," says Kris, who ultimately lost both of her parents within a year and a half of each other.
Social media connection
When Tom retired in October 2014, he and Sherry returned to Texas, where they purchased a home in Murphy, northeast of Dallas. Sherry was battling breast cancer and passed away in 2017.
"Our place in Murphy went from being a home to a house," says Tom. "I'm social. I like to be around people. I knew I didn't want to stay there after I lost Sherry."
Social media played an integral role in Tom's path forward.
"I reconnected with my Texas friends through Facebook when Sherry and I moved back from Virginia," says Tom. "They helped me get out of the house after she passed away."
Kris was one of those refreshed connections.
"Kris and I would go to the [Dallas] Arboretum and walk around," says Tom. "After a few months, it almost felt like we were teenagers again."
The pair was out to dinner when Tom told Kris, "When I get myself together, I'd really like to see more of you."
"It took me right back to being 18 again even though I'd just celebrated my sixty-sixth birthday," says Kris. "You don't think somebody wonderful will come back into your life that way."
New address, unfolding love
The couple's tacit understanding that their future included each other played out in a number of ways.
When Tom began exploring a possible move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), Kris was by his side.
"I attended a transition seminar right before I retired, and the presenter told us if we ever ran across a great CCRC, we should consider it," says Tom. "As I looked at options in Dallas, I kept coming back to Highland Springs. The location is terrific, and everyone who lives and works at the community is friendly and smiling."
Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas, is situated on a scenic 89-acre campus and is home to more than 1,000 residents who enjoy an amenity-rich, maintenance-free lifestyle.
"Tom and I came to an open house at Highland Springs and toured a two-bedroom, Westin-style apartment," says Kris. "When we walked in, I saw Tom's face light up. I could tell he liked the apartment, and I did too. I liked the den, and I liked the way the guest bedroom and bathroom were on the opposite side of the apartment from the master suite."
The Westin that caught their eye is one of 18 apartment homes in Magnolia Place, a new clubhouse that opened at Highland Springs in April 2018.
In addition to the apartment homes, Magnolia Place features an arts and enrichment center, a classroom, a catering room, and an outdoor dining patio.
Tom reserved the apartment, but he had one more mission before moving day. He proposed to Kris with a sapphire ring at Love & War in Texas, a local steakhouse, in June 2018.
"[The proposal] caught me completely off-guard," says Kris. "We'd talked about marriage, but I didn't see it coming that evening."
Tom moved to Highland Springs a month later, and Kris and her dog Dixie joined him in the new apartment after their September wedding.
"I didn't think this outcome was possible," says Kris. "To find love, humor, and kindness after all these years is truly remarkable."