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Super Senior love story: How Ken met Alya

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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You already met Super Senior Ken Wilkins, the submariner who told us harrowing stories about his time aboard the USS Skate. But what happened after World War II? Our Joe Carroll shows you how the 95-year-old found love.

Ken Wilkins and Alya Baker are about to take you on a romantic adventure that starts a half a world away.

They met on an Elderhostel trip to Asia. Both Ken and Alya were widowed.

"So I said, 'Oh! I think I'll go to China!' That's when I met her," Ken said.

Their backgrounds couldn't be more different. Ayla grew up in the former Yugoslavia speaking multiple languages. She came to America in the 1950s, eventually becoming a Russian studies professor at Middlebury College. Ken, a California native, served on a submarine during World War II. After the war, Ken became an electrical engineer.

Both have one thing in common: a love of travel.

"Without her, I would sink," Ken said.

Ken, who is hard of hearing, started depending on Alya's ears to get everything right on the China trip.

"From then on, breakfast, lunch and dinner, we were sitting next to each other," he said.

They were having a wonderful time but that changed in an instant.

"While we were in China, 9/11 happened," Alya said. "That got us all even closer together."

Reporter Joe Carroll: Obviously, it dampened the trip.

Alya Baker: Of course it did, because you were constantly thinking what was going on at home.

"I was awed like everybody," Ken said. "This can't happen in the U.S. This doesn't fit."

They came back to a different country.

"Flags everywhere, police everywhere-- it was really unbelievable," Alya said.

They parted ways, she to Middlebury and he back to California. But Ken kept thinking of Alya.

"He emailed me and said, 'You know, I have this timeshare,'" Alya said.

It was in Hawaii with two bedrooms.

"I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do," Alya said. And so... I called my daughter and I said, 'What do you think about this?'"

She said, "Go for it." The trip to Hawaii was on. Alya was to meet Ken at the baggage claim.

"She wasn't there and I thought, maybe she won't show," Ken said. "But she showed up!"

The trip was a success. It was the start of a budding romance. But Alya wanted her daughter's approval.

Joe Carroll: You wanted her to check him out?

Alya Baker: Yeah, sure.

She approved, and on a trip to Russia, Ken popped the question in a matter of fact way.

Alya Baker: This is really ridiculous, we should really get married.

Ken Wilkins: And there was a long silence.

"I never thought about remarrying or anything like that," Alya said. "Some of my friends were absolutely amazed."

That was nearly two decades ago. Ken is now 95 and Alya, a decade younger. Showing you’re never too old to love and live again.

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