Though Chuck Scheffey and Margot Shay had lived in the same retirement home for several months, they had never met despite their shared passion for classical music and classic movies.
Lucky for them, they owned an unlikely pair of canine matchmakers.
Scheffey’s Harriet, a 72-pound mix of Golden Retriever and Labrador, and Shay’s 11-pound Shih Tzu named Lula noticed each other during a social event at the Sunrise Senior Living Facility in Bluemont Park in November 2004. While the dogs were sniffing each other and furiously wagging their tails, the two owners had the opportunity to get to chat.
Both couples seemed to like what they saw. From that point onward, Scheffey and Shay, and Harriet and Lula, became inseparable.
“We hit if off immediately because we like so many of the same things, but it was all because of the dogs,” said Shay, 80, who married Scheffey in December. “They introduced us.”
The pair bonded over their love of classical music, and went to a performance at Wolf Trap for their first date. Shay was attracted by Scheffey’s lively personality and piercing sense of humor, but she was really won over when he agreed to take her to the ballet.
“Not all men want to go and see a ballet, but he was brave enough to go,” she said.
Scheffey said he was immediately enamored by Shay’s good looks and her adorable British accent. “The first thing I noticed was that she’s the best looking woman in this facility,” the 84-year-old said.
The pair “hit it off famously,” Shay said, though Scheffey quickly interrupts to point out, in a self-deprecating chuckle, that it helped that they were the same size, since he’s “shrinking a little.”
SCHEFFEY FIRST CAME to the region to work as a civilian for the Army Corps of Engineers at Ft. Belvoir during World War II. After the war, he attended graduate school at Berkeley, where he met his first wife Ella. In 1964 he moved to Washington on a sabbatical to work for Federal Highway Administration, and never left.
After retiring from the FHA he opened a private consulting firm and taught civil engineering at George Washington University. When his wife fell sick, he placed her in Sunrise’s care and eventually moved into the facility himself. Ella died in August 2004.
Shay was born in India and grew up in a small town outside London. During the war she worked for the British Secret Service, and met a young U.S. Naval officer named Jerome. She returned with him to the states after the war, and they lived in Arlington for more than 40 years. After Jerome died in 1990, Shay continued to take care of the house and family garden, but decided to move into the assisted living facility in October 2004.
Last November Scheffey proposed to Shay, and the following month the two were married in a small ceremony at Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean. Together they attend services at the church each Sunday.
They are the first couple that has met at the Bluemont Park facility and gotten married, said Bethel Negash, the home’s activities coordinator.
“We’re so excited for them,” she said. “They are two special people and are wonderful together.”
The newlyweds are heavily involved in the facility’s activities, and in January, Scheffey became president of the resident’s association. He is also the home’s handyman and is regularly called upon to fix the banisters or help with woodwork.
Shay regularly visits the residents who are in declining health, and often brings Harriet along when she spends time with the Alzheimer’s patients. Unfortunately, Lula died last year.
The couple plans to spend Valentine’s Day dancing at the facility’s annual party, though they are also hoping to travel to London in the coming months.
“We spend all of our time together now,” Scheffey said.