Alexandria’s Nancy Hulkower shares her experience on ‘The Golden Bachelor’

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Alexandria’s Nancy Hulkower shares her experience on ‘The Golden Bachelor’
Nancy Hulkower enjoying a moment of reflection, captured during episode three of ‘The Golden Bachelor.’ (Photo/ ABC/John Fleenor )
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By Wafir Salih | wsalih@alextimes.com

Nancy Hulkower, a 61-year-old retired interior designer from Alexandria, recently captured the hearts of viewers nationwide on ABC’s inaugural season of “The Golden Bachelor.” Describing the experience as “serendipitous,” Hulkower spent her time on the show continuing her ongoing search for new love, while also forging friendships with other contestants and stepping out of her comfort zone. 

What makes this spin-off of “The Bachelor” different from other iterations of the franchise – which debuted back in March of 2002 – is that the prospective bachelor, Gerry Turner, is 71 years old, while all of the female contestants are aged 60 and above. 

Unlike the younger contestants in previous years of “The Bachelor,” many of whom were searching for their first or “true” love, Hulkower and this group of mature, beautiful women have experienced much more of life, including love and loss. 

“I met these 21 other women, and we all, you know, had had loss,” Hulkower said. “We’d all lived life.” 

Journey to the show 

Hulkower’s path to “The Golden Bachelor” began unexpectedly. The idea came from her niece who suggested the idea last year during Thanksgiving. 

“My 28-year-old niece told me last Thanksgiving that, ‘Aunt Nancy, they have a new show for older people who want to date!’ And I was like, ‘what?’” Hulkower said. “She said, ‘You need to apply,’ And I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not doing that!’ And she said, ‘No, no, no, I’m serious. It’s the Golden Bachelor!’” 

Despite initial hesitation, Hulkower embraced the idea and began the extensive application process. 

Contestants are required to fill out a detailed questionnaire covering personal background, family history and education. The more critical part of the application delves into questions about love, relationship preferences and how important religion, race and politics are when dating someone. Applicants are also asked to submit six photos of themselves to showcase different aspects of their personality. 

“We sent [the application] in and it was kind of like, when you buy lottery tickets, you think it’ll never happen. Well, literally three months later, I get an email and I was like, ‘What?’ And then that’s sort of what led me to where I am now. I was so excited,” Hulkower said. 

How the show works 

“The Bachelor” is a reality television dating show where one man dates a group of 20 or so women during the course of several weeks. Through a series of rose ceremonies, the man or woman narrows down their choices until they find their potential future partner. The main cast member, the bachelor or bachelorette, takes contestants on group or solo dates to gain a better understanding of their personality and dynamic. Contestants of the original show typically range from their early 20s to mid 30s. 

The show has turned into a franchise, now regularly running “The Bachelorette,” which is the same premise, but men vie for the single bachelorette. There is also “Bachelor in Paradise,” which has dozens of previous cast members on either “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” – most often the fan favorites and controversial characters. 

“The Golden Bachelor” follows the same formula, but with a mature cast, which has led to interesting storylines and twists not previously seen. 

Spanning nine episodes, the show is primarily filmed in Los Angeles, California, where Hulkower spent the majority of her time. The later episodes bring a more personal touch – the bachelor and a finalist visiting her hometown – and the season finale takes place in the scenic landscape of Costa Rica. Oftentimes, the finale is filmed in a tropical location. 

Turner, a retired restaurant owner and an Indiana native, is the “golden” bachelor for this season. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Toni, for more than 43 years until she passed away from kidney failure in 2017. Six years following Toni’s passing, Turner is starring in “The Golden Bachelor” in an effort to find new love. 

On the set 

Entering the world of reality television for the first time, Hulkower said she was hesitant at first. 

“Of course I was scared. It was unknown. I’d never done anything like that before,” Hulkower said. “We all really came together, even on the first day. As [the] days went on we all bonded and it wasn’t scary. Although we did do some things that were out of all of our comfort zones.” 

As Hulkower’s time on the show progressed, she found herself increasingly at ease. Among the memorable moments she had on the show, the evenings of laughter and friendship at “The Bachelor” mansion stood out. 

“At the mansion, we all laughed and especially my dear friends, April and Susan and Kathy, but all of us, we belly laughed every night,” Hulkower said. 

The decision to leave 

Hulkower’s journey on the show spanned four episodes. During a group pickleball date, she sustained a stress fracture in her foot. After visiting urgent care and being told she’d have to wear a boot for the rest of her time on the show, Hulkower initially did not think much of it. 

But, the physical toll started to build. Ultimately, upon further reflection, she made the difficult decision to leave the show early. 

“We’re going up and down stairs every day and changing clothes several times and just a lot, and my leg hurt, bottom line,” Hulkower said. 

Her initial concern about the inconvenience shifted to a realization that she was not falling in love with Turner. 

“I thought: ‘I would wear a boot across the desert if it was the right person,’” Hulkower said. “But I already could tell at that point – and that was maybe three weeks in – that [Turner] really did have, I think, true connections with a few other women other than myself.” 

During episode four, Hulkower expressed to Turner this sentiment, to which he said he wouldn’t dispute, resulting in a tearful moment among the cast when she exited. 

Hulkower said she wished things had played out differently. 

“I wish I could have had a one-on-one date with Gary, but that didn’t happen,” Hulkower said. “You’re competing with several other women for a few minutes at a time with him. So it was competitive, but not in a catty way. We were all also rooting for each other.” 

Love, loss and healing 

One recurring theme in “The Golden Bachelor” is the profound experience of loss shared by the contestants. Many, like Hulkower, joined the show after having lost their partners. 

Hulkower was married to Mark, a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer for 22 years prior to his passing in 2011. Hulkower recalls fondly their first time meeting each other. 

“We met on a blind date in Florida. He was an attorney in D.C. and I was working in Florida and he was down there on business. One thing led to another on [and] a friend that I worked with said, ‘I want you to meet this guy,’” Hulkower said. 

The connection between them was immediate and mutual. 

“We went out on our first date and then the next morning he had to fly back here to D.C.,” Hulkower said. “I got a dozen roses and he said, ‘That was the most wonderful night and I’ll miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’m in.’” 

Together they raised three children, navigating the ups and downs of life together until Mark’s death from colon cancer. Hulkower described how challenging that time was. 

“My husband was sick for three and a half years [prior to his passing] and so I felt like I’d been alone, even though I wasn’t, while he was sick. But that whole process was very long,” Hulkower said. 

In her grief, Hulkower, along with two close friends of her husband, established a foundation to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer research. 

“We started a foundation, we had it [for] seven years and then we joined with [Colorectal] Cancer Alliance to raise money for colon cancer awareness and also to spread the word about getting your colonoscopy when you should,” Hulkower explained. “That I think was the most cathartic thing, and I told my kids: ‘We have to do something to give back.’” 

In Mark’s memory, the three of them donated the money raised to Georgetown University Hospital, where Mark had received treatment. 

Continuing the search for love 

Hulkower emerged from “The Golden Bachelor” with a new perspective on her own loneliness, as well as her desire for companionship. She said widows should embrace the discomfort and seize the opportunity to find love again, whether it be in-person or through dating apps. 

“Do it, do it, do it!” Hulkower said. “The only person who’s coming to my house on a regular basis is the mailman and the UPS man. I’m not going to meet anybody other than those two to date. I think dating apps, especially for people my age and older, you know, it’s a newer area that we haven’t been familiar with growing up – but that’s the way people are meeting.” 

Hulkower said she’s single at the moment, but remains hopeful of finding love soon. 

“I still have a lot of life to live and I have a lot of love to give,” Hulkower said. “I’m going to push myself to make it more of an effort to meet more people and just get out there.” 

-wsalih@alextimes.com 

herself increasingly at ease. Among the memorable moments she had on the show, the evenings of laughter and friendship at “The Bachelor” mansion stood out. 

“At the mansion, we all laughed and especially my dear friends, April and Susan and Kathy, but all of us, we belly laughed every night,” Hulkower said. 

The decision to leave 

Hulkower’s journey on the show spanned four episodes. During a group pickleball date, she sustained a stress fracture in her foot. After visiting urgent care and being told she’d have to wear a boot for the rest of her time on the show, Hulkower initially did not think much of it. 

But, the physical toll started to build. Ultimately, upon further reflection, she made the difficult decision to leave the show early. 

“We’re going up and down stairs every day and changing clothes several times and just a lot, and my leg hurt, bottom line,” Hulkower said. 

Her initial concern about the inconvenience shifted to a realization that she was not falling in love with Turner. 

“I thought: ‘I would wear a boot across the desert if it was the right person,’” Hulkower said. “But I already could tell at that point – and that was maybe three weeks in – that [Turner] really did have, I think, true connections with a few other women other than myself.” 

During episode four, Hulkower expressed to Turner this sentiment, to which he said he wouldn’t dispute, resulting in a tearful moment among the cast when she exited. 

Hulkower said she wished things had played out differently. 

“I wish I could have had a one-on-one date with Gary, but that didn’t happen,” Hulkower said. “You’re competing with several other women for a few minutes at a time with him. So it was competitive, but not in a catty way. We were all also rooting for each other.” 

Love, loss and healing 

One recurring theme in “The Golden Bachelor” is the profound experience of loss shared by the contestants. Many, like Hulkower, joined the show after having lost their partners. 

Hulkower was married to Mark, a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer for 22 years prior to his passing in 2011. Hulkower recalls fondly their first time meeting each other. 

“We met on a blind date in Florida. He was an attorney in D.C. and I was working in Florida and he was down there on business. One thing led to another on [and] a friend that I worked with said, ‘I want you to meet this guy,’” Hulkower said. 

The connection between them was immediate and mutual. 

“We went out on our first date and then the next morning he had to fly back here to D.C.,” Hulkower said. “I got a dozen roses and he said, ‘That was the most wonderful night and I’ll miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’m in.’” 

Together they raised three children, navigating the ups and downs of life together until Mark’s death from colon cancer. Hulkower described how challenging that time was. 

“My husband was sick for three and a half years [prior to his passing] and so I felt like I’d been alone, even though I wasn’t, while he was sick. But that whole process was very long,” Hulkower said. 

In her grief, Hulkower, along with two close friends of her husband, established a foundation to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer research. 

“We started a foundation, we had it [for] seven years and then we joined with [Colorectal] Cancer Alliance to raise money for colon cancer awareness and also to spread the word about getting your colonoscopy when you should,” Hulkower explained. “That I think was the most cathartic thing, and I told my kids: ‘We have to do something to give back.’” 

In Mark’s memory, the three of them donated the money raised to Georgetown University Hospital, where Mark had received treatment. 

Continuing the search for love 

Hulkower emerged from “The Golden Bachelor” with a new perspective on her own loneliness, as well as her desire for companionship. She said widows should embrace the discomfort and seize the opportunity to find love again, whether it be in-person or through dating apps. 

“Do it, do it, do it!” Hulkower said. “The only person who’s coming to my house on a regular basis is the mailman and the UPS man. I’m not going to meet anybody other than those two to date. I think dating apps, especially for people my age and older, you know, it’s a newer area that we haven’t been familiar with growing up – but that’s the way people are meeting.” 

Hulkower said she’s single at the moment, but remains hopeful of finding love soon. 

“I still have a lot of life to live and I have a lot of love to give,” Hulkower said. “I’m going to push myself to make it more of an effort to meet more people and just get out there.” 

-wsalih@alextimes.com 

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