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September 2, 2009

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Bride may be icing on cake for 'old man'

LIFE has certainly turned full circle for 74-year-old Lou Hezhi.

In less than a week he has gone from being homeless and selling garbage for recycling in Shanghai to being a "middle-class" citizen with about 200,000 yuan (US$29,283) in unclaimed pensions.

And now a woman almost 30 years his junior wants to marry him.

Li Ailan, 45, a middle-class retired widow from Xi'an in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, is asking for help to contact Lou so she can propose.

Li, 45, with a 20-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, said she did not wish to cash in on Lou's story.

She had endured a lot of hardship and believed she may have a lot in common with Lou.

Last Thursday a police officer found Lou picking through rubbish near Yuyuan Garden. When asked his name, Lou said: "I don't remember ... I am just called old man."

It was then established that he was a retired worker from the Shanghai Ballpoint Pen Refill Factory who had lost touch with the company and was owed all that money in back payments.

He had been living rough in the streets of Shanghai since 2007.

"I can feel the pain that Lou has been through," Li told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

Li and her husband were farmers in Shaanxi Province. Her husband died 18 years ago and Li raised her two children on her own.

Li said she was willing to move to Lou's hometown of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province, 1,615 kilometers from Xi'an, or Lou could move to Xi'an to live with her.

Li said she had not yet talked with her son but her daughter, Gui Juan, supported the idea.

"It's OK with me if the two get along well," Guo said.

Meanwhile, Lou's company has contacted a residential committee in Ningbo. Committee members confirmed that he owned a 40-square-meter apartment there.


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