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How We Met: Joni Evans and Bob Perkins

Late-life romance



Joni Evans and Bob Perkins, along with bearded collies JB and Mulligan, have found the third time the charm.

Photo by Joseph Henry Lipstein

“It dawned on me eventually that there was something there, but it took me awhile. You know how men are,” says Bob Perkins, tossing a mischievous glance across the table at Joni Evans, the woman with whom he shares a late-life bond. On a recent afternoon, we sat on the deck of their ultra-modern Pound Ridge home, sharing a drink and talking about how they met. Now together 12 years, Perkins and Evans live here full-time—with never a wistful glance backward at having given up their city pied-à-terre. 

They are seemingly opposites. Perkins is tall, with the bronzed complexion of a devoted golfer, clad in shorts and a blue-gray polo shirt. Evans is petite, impossibly chic in a beige sweater and slacks and saffron driving shoes, as attractive and polished as any movie star. But their shared tastes are many. They met at a TED conference in California in 2003 and stayed in touch. 

Over the ensuing months, they met up occasionally at conferences and events, each possessed of a sharp intellect and a deep interest in cultural and political trends. Unbeknownst to Perkins, Evans—a legend in the world of publishing—had fallen hard for him. And though she carried her torch silently, she did confide to her sister, Joyce Buchman, that she’d fallen head over heels for a guy she’d met. “He’s perfect!” she revealed. “He’s intelligent, he’s not neurotic, and he’s from the Midwest!” 

Several months later, feelings still shrouded, Evans invited Perkins to her annual summer party in Pound Ridge, a fête usually attended by a hundred or so of her impressive array of famous friends and colleagues, accumulated throughout a career that included posts as the president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, the president of Random House, and a senior VP at the William Morris Agency.

It was the perfect venue for Buchman to meet Perkins and weigh in—without putting him under a microscope. When Perkins arrived, Buchman was stationed near the front door, receiving guests. They introduced themselves, and as he wandered in to mingle with other guests, Buchman found Evans and gushed her approval, “He’s here, and he’s everything you said he was! There’s only one problem,” she cautioned. “He’s with someone, and they asked for the name of the best hotel to stay in tonight.” 

Evans was crushed, having hoped that he was unattached, just as she was. But she soldiered on and finally, a mere six months later, Perkins broke off the relationship he was in, and he and Evans began to go out. 

The path of late-life romance is usually strewn with the fortunes and failures of long lives lived at full tilt. Perkins and Evans discovered early on that for all their affinities, there was plenty to sort through.   

On the very day Perkins went to collect her at her New York apartment for their first date, Evans greeted him warmly upon arrival. But there was no such greeting from her beloved bearded collie JB (named for the Scottish whiskey), whose only response was a constant low growl. And every time Perkins visited thereafter, JB repeated the performance. Finally, Evans called her breeder for counsel. “Has Bob fed the dog yet?” the breeder asked. “No,” Evans answered. “Have Bob feed the dog.” Perkins finished the story, “So, I fed the dog.” JB comes over at that moment and rubs up against his chair as if on cue, and Perkins absentmindedly puts a hand on JB’s back. “And we’ve been fast friends ever since.”

Evans and Perkins play golf whenever they can and still dabble in professional endeavors. Perkins is currently the CEO of Sharp Arrow Consulting, having made his mark over the years in political fundraising, advertising, and marketing. And when Evans left the world of paper publishing eight years ago to start purewow.com, a website devoted to women’s issues, Perkins’s marketing savvy was indispensable. It’s no wonder they ended up together—both are focused, no-nonsense high-achievers. 

One can’t help but wonder—had they met earlier in life, would they have fallen for one another? “She never would have looked at me twice when we were younger,” Perkins muses. “She had a certain degree of sophistication I didn’t have and wasn’t interested in when I was younger.” Evans chimes in, “I was sheltered in a different way. All I ever knew was the world of publishing. I was so focused and New York–oriented—I never looked around me. “

The couple recently acquired a second bearded collie to keep JB company, and they named him—wait for it—Mulligan. For those unfamiliar with golf terminology, a mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first one went wrong. A “do-over.” 

Perkins and Evans, it could be said, were given a mulligan in the game of life.

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