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Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

RIVERVIEW

Jaime Rodriguez, 78, popped the question Friday morning but skipped the "getting down on one knee" part.

"If I get on my knee, you’d have to help me," he told the emcee a moment before asking Luz Rivera to marry him.

Rivera, 69, smiled and said yes. Then, at a prom for senior citizens, they shared their first dance as an engaged couple to the song of his choice, Love Me Tender.

The couple, each originally from Puerto Rico, met at the Town ’N Country Senior Center, west of Tampa, when Rivera started going there about a year ago. Rodriguez said he started chasing her "all over the place."

The pair became friends first. Then they went on a date two months ago. Rivera’s daughter, Variluz Soto, said they’ve been going to dinner ever since.

The couple decided to get engaged at the prom, organized by Hillsborough County Aging Services, to let everyone know they were in love.

"When I first saw this lady, I said ‘This is it,’ " Rodriguez said. "This is the woman I was waiting for."

The event was held in the ballroom of Hillsborough Community College’s the Regent in Riverview, where about 500 senior citizens celebrated the West Indies Carnival-themed prom.

A sea of flowing gowns, high heels, Hawaiian shirts and Skechers swayed back and forth on the dance floor. Some prom-goers relaxed around tables with pineapple and coconut centerpieces.

After the 18-pair prom court was announced and the prom king and queen were crowned, Rivera was given a special seat at the front of the dance floor.

That’s where Rodriguez proposed, and after she said yes, he put an engagement ring on her finger.

After a dance, they were met by a gaggle of excited friends.

"I’m very happy today," Rivera said. Rodriguez stood beside her, lipstick on one side of his face.

Rivera was married once before, for 38 years. When asked if he had been married before, Rodriguez leaned over and quietly said he had been married four times.

Frances Duran Brea is the general manager for six Hillsborough County senior centers, including the Town ’N Country center where the couple met.

Rodriguez told her he was interested in Rivera months before the pair began dating. He had asked Brea for courting advice.

"I think it melted everyone’s heart in the room," Brea said of the proposal. "It shows you can find love at any age."

 
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