The couple, in Hawaii, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of Lena Nguyen
As A widow and single mother, Lena Nguyen, now 82, emigrated in the 1970s from Vietnam to Canada, where she settled in Ottawa with her four children, Lyn, Van, Tu and Tom Ly. In the 90s, she moved to Vancouver, where she owned and operated a beauty salon called Lena’s. Florida engineer Jack Barrett, now 90, had recently moved to the West Coast when he wandered into his store looking for a haircut. This is how they found love.
Lena Nguyen: Twenty years ago, Jack came into my living room for a haircut. He was tall and handsome – 6-4 – and a polite and proper gentleman. It was love to
Jack Barrett: She was so beautiful and vibrant. Full of life and energy. I started visiting more and more often. I like to keep my hair very neat.
NL: Soon he was visiting every day – whether he was getting a haircut or not. He would even bring lunch and snacks!
JB: I think after about the third haircut, I asked her out on a suitable date. We went to the Fairmont Hotel for their famous Sunday brunch. I was trying to impress her with my food-in-town know-how, but the truth is, I was brand new and just starting to get a foothold.
NL: I was impressed, but I prefer to cook. I like to draw inspiration from foods from around the world, then make the recipes my own. We rarely eat in restaurants anymore.
JB: Lena is very strong-minded and has such interesting stories to tell. I love listening to it. He’s a hardworking solo show, who ran a successful business for many years. She has the gift of being at the center of things and people.
NL: I would soon learn that Jack has a genius IQ. He was one of IBM’s very first engineers and even remembers the arrival of Steve Jobs to introduce the concept of personal computers.
JB: I think I said something clever like “Who would want that?”
NL: Jack also taught me how to trade and invest in stocks as I retired from the beauty industry. It helped us buy a house in Hawaii, which we needed because Jack is an American citizen and could only be in Canada six months out of the year. Being separated was the most difficult moment.
JB: But the house in Hawaii allowed us to be together the remaining six months of the year. We both fell in love with Hawaii because of the temperate climate and proximity to Vancouver.
NL: Twenty years later, Jack wanted to get involved. Together we chose a beautiful ring from Harry Winston. Jack convinced me.
JB: I said, “Life is too short for half a group!” Go full!”
NL: We are planning a ceremony later this year with the whole family in Vancouver. In the meantime, we had a civil wedding with a simple ceremony here in Hawaii.
JB: My favorite time of day with Lena is around 5:30 p.m., just when shade covers the pool and we’re about to swim for an hour. Then we sit together in the hot tub watching the beautiful sunset over Magic Island Beach in Honolulu.
NL: We are both true romantics. We were surprised at first, but love felt natural and comfortable. I believe that love is timeless at any age, and we feel the same as when we were 20!
JB: We take and treat each day as a precious gift and we make each other laugh every day. We can enjoy visits with the family (I never married or had children, but Lena has four children and four grandchildren) throughout the year in Hawaii and Vancouver.
NL: And, most important of all, Jack loves my cooking!
—As said in Rosemary Counter
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This article originally appeared in the August/September 2022 issue of Zoom in magazine