FORT GEORGE — When William Hamilton, 85, and Anne Mule, 79, walk around their Washington Heights neighborhood hand-in-hand or hop the subway to head to a jazz show Downtown, they often attract attention. More than once, passersby have asked to take pictures of the stylish couple.
“We must look cute or something,” Hamilton said.
“Love among the ruins and all that,” Mule added.
When the admirers ask how long they’ve been married, they have an answer ready.
“We just tell them 60 years and walk off laughing,” she said.
In fact, the couple is not married. Hamilton, 85, and Mule, 79, are about to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day after dating for just 11 months.
Both Hamilton and Mule live at Isabella House, a senior residence and nursing facility at 525 Audubon Ave. They first met in a Shakespeare reading group at Isabella. Hamilton soon dropped out of the group because they started reading Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde instead of The Bard.
But Hamilton couldn’t forget Mule. He wanted to ask her out, but rarely saw her because they lived in different buildings.
“Finally I caught her one day in the laundry room, just the two of us,” Hamilton said. “We arranged to take a little walk and we’ve been going for walks ever since.”
They sometimes venture as far as Fort Lee, N.J., across the George Washington Bridge.
Mule said that at first, she was nervous about spending time with Hamilton.
“I was a bit reluctant to get any closer to anybody,” she said. “I was divorced in 1978, and I hadn’t had any romantic interest in anybody since then.”
However, Mule found that she and Hamilton had a lot in common. Both are interested in literature and history, and both have children who are jazz musicians.
“We talk about everything under the sun,” Hamilton said. “Except religion and politics. We don’t agree on those.”
Mule also enjoyed hearing about the adventures of Hamilton, who traveled around the world as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corp and later owned a lobster-catching business in Maine.
She said the relationship has also pushed her to be more adventurous.
For example, the first time that Mule ever sat at a bar was when she and Hamilton recently visited Coogan’s, his favorite local pub.
“I got married young, I was 20,” Mule said. “Women didn’t sit at the bar in those days.”
The pair often travels Downtown to go to the opera or to hear their children’s bands perform. They even went to Maine this past December to visit Hamilton’s hometown.
“It’s benefited me enormously,” Mule said of the relationship. “It’s like a second life for me.”
Hamilton moved to New York City from Maine to be closer to his daughter. Mule has helped ease the loneliness of those transitions, he said.
“I have a little company in the evenings, something to look forward to,” Hamilton said. “It’s not same old-same old every day.”
For their first Valentine’s Day, the couple is going to see Hamilton’s daughter sing at The Lexington Hotel in Midtown and then out to dinner.
“He said a week ago he didn’t believe in Valentine’s Day,” Mule said. “He teases me a lot.”
“Bah humbug,” Hamilton replied.
But his laugh gave him away.
“I might have a little something in mind,” he said.