Happy Valentine's Day!
We hope you've been following along all week as
we've delved into 'matters of the heart'.
After talking to people in love, people getting divorced,
people pining for love lost, we thought who better to
feature on a day that symbolizes all things love,
than a couple celebrating 65 years together.
No, that was not a typo.
So join us as we continue our journey...
each day… a different person…
a different story…. a different reason…
a different heart.
WOW! WHERE DID YOU MEET?
"Clem: After WWII, I got discharged from the army in 1945. Six months later I enrolled in Pierce Business School, which is now Pierce College. That was January of '46. I met some other GI's there. I was in a class of 16 returned veterans that were all taking accounting. I'll jump to September of 1947, and that's when I first met Liz. I met her at Pierce. They had a cafeteria in the basement. Sitting in the cafeteria, I eyeballed her across the tables where we were having lunch. Then I followed her, she was going up the steps. I started at the shoes, up the ankles....."
Liz: "He was a nice Italian boy and he's not married. That's a no no. So he was actively looking for a female."
C: "I was 25 then, when I first met her."
L: "I was only 18. He scared me a little bit. Cause the war was on, there were no men around while I was going to high school. So I go to Pierce College. My father decided that was what was best for me. I saw all these men! They're men, not boys. And I went crazy! I liked him. He would come on the steno floor, cause that's what I was taking, and tease my instructor. She was an officer (a lieutenant). After he would leave the room, her face would get violently red and she'd giggle. But there was something about him that was so likable that when he started to flirt with me, I listened."
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
C: "Well, that was '47, then in '48 I graduated. I was dating Liz in the meantime. She'd invite me down to her parents house in Glassboro (NJ) for Sunday dinners now and then. I'd go down on the weekend and stay overnight and her father would give me jobs to do around the house, like painting a fence and whatever. So we got engaged. And on November 26,1949 we got married. (Pointing to the plate pictured in this article): a next door neighbor in Glassboro made that for us."
L: "It's faded (laughter)."
C: "Then we rented an apartment in Germantown, across from the high school. We lived there, had one child there. The other day he turned 62. We used to drive up Route 1, they used to have a drive in theater there and then found out about Levittown. We bought a house, a rancher, on Coral Lane. We had a couple of kids there. Then we moved here (their current residence) in 1959 and have been here ever since."
L: "Can I backtrack a little bit? Do you know how long it took us to save $100 to put down on the Levittown house? That particular style was most inexpensive, with a GI bill. It took us a year just to save it! I mean, you know you live hand to mouth. We didn't starve or anything like that, I don't mean to say that, but in those days, that's how long it took."
C: "Then when we went to settlement, and needed $900 (on the current house). I was doing some accounting work on the side. So I borrowed $900 from a client of mine. We've had 5 kids; 3 boys and 2 girls. Now we have 16 grandchildren; 8 boys and 8 girls. 13 great grandchildren; 6 girls and 7 boys, or the other way around. One granddaughter is due any day and another granddaughter is pregnant and due in March. So that'll make 15 great grandchildren."
L: "We lost one great grandchild and a grandson to a motorcycle accident when he was 23. Our great granddaughter had a heart condition nobody knew about. She was 4. Within a month of each other. We only met her once. They live in Portland, Oregon. They were here for my husbands 90th birthday. And every year we rent a house in Ocean City so all the cousins can see each other and that year they came to that. I want them to always get to know each other."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE SECRET TO STAYING MARRIED 65 YEARS?
L: "He was so busy, number 1."
C: "Extremely busy. I've always done accounting work. I had a full time job. When we lived in Germantown, I worked for Segway gas station in Philadelphia. Then when we moved to Levittown, I traveled from there in a VW to Bryn Mawr on City Ave for about five years. Then I decided to come up here (current residence) and I started my accounting practice. Then in the 70's I got a job at the county controllers office. I worked there for 7 or 8 years. I'm a Republican and I worked for a republican controller. Then the democratic controller came in and when he was sworn into office on January 5, I was fired, because I'm a Republican. But you live by the political sword, you die by the political sword. But luckily, I had my own accounting practice. I've been a public accountant for all these years. I've still been doing it until this year, and now I'm semi retired."
L: "Ok, so she wants to know why we're still living together after 65 years."
C: "She tolerated all my being away from home on evenings and weekends and that kind of stuff."
L: "Ya know, it was tough. He was gone day and night. But he always came home for dinner. And I liked that. People don't do that anymore. Then he went out again. He just did it. When we were in Levittown, I remember those days. He put an ad in the paper and got a lot from that. As far as the businesses were concerned, he knocked on doors. That's how he built it up. That and word of mouth. But he did it, a lot of leg work. I was very grateful, especially after he was fired, that he started his own business on the side."
AND YOU STAYED HOME WITH THE KIDS?
L: "Yeah. He wouldn't let me go to work until four of the kids were all in high school at least. Then when our youngest came, which was ten years later, there was always someone here when he got home from school. So he was never left alone."
DID YOU WANT TO WORK AT THAT TIME?
L: "Yes. It would've just made things easier. And the kids were gonna be in college and I just felt that I wanted to do that. I mean we didn't pay for the whole thing (college). I mean, they had to help themselves. They all helped themselves. The kids always had jobs."
WHEN THEY WERE YOUNG, DID YOU WANT TO WORK?
L: "I did cause I thought it would make things easier. But he absolutely refused."
C: "When our youngest was in kindergarten, Liz had a part time job. Then when he went into first grade, she worked for the health department part time and then she got a full time job there. She was there for 30 years. That's when we were living off of my accounting work. I was paying all the bills. And then most of her money went into retirement money. So that's why today we don't have to worry too much about the finances part of it. I was also on the school board for ten and a half years. In the meantime we were my two favorite words: frugal and prudent."
L: 'To answer the question, he's involved in all these things. He's busy. And I was so busy. I would never think of (not being together). He made me mad every once on a while, it was really over the kids more than anything. But I'd rather have him than not have him. He's always been good and worked hard. He needs a rest but he doesn't know how. "
IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE NEED THAT. TO STAY PRODUCTIVE.
L: "You do. I think that's very important cause it keeps his mind sharp. He read a lot. But he doesn't have any real hobbies. He calls himself "semi-retired". For him to give it all up...he can't do it. That's okay. 'Cause his office is out front and this (the other side of the home) is all mine. (laughter)"
C: "We don't wanna have 24/7 together all the time. She has 12/7 here and I have 12/7 in the office."
L: "He loves people. And the people were coming in all the time . I don't care if they were there for business or just chatting. He needs that."
IT SOUNDS LIKE FAMILY IS VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU BOTH?
C: "Just for a little background; I come from a family of 11. 6 girls and 5 boys. Now our family, we like getting together. About a month ago, our son from Seattle who is a motivational type speaker, was in the area and spent a couple of nights with us. So in the meantime, we got all the kids here...the two daughters and two of the sons, and some of them have their kids. So 13 of us got together at a restaurant in Newtown. They say, "We love coming to your dinners grandpa". And I said, "I love taking you out and spending your inheritance" (laughter). So we like family. The last two Christmases we had here. We had gone to Seattle for Thanksgiving and when we came back, my son and his wife and my two daughters had the house all decorated for Christmas when we came back."
L: "We hadn't had Christmas in a long, long time 'cause they all had families and what not. I'm always talking to the girls and saying "When I die, take this and what not". Two years ago, my one daughter puts in an email ""Since Mother says she's not gonna live for another year, we decided to have Christmas at their house". And that's what they did. They came in and decorated. And when I found out they were gonna have Christmas here I almost had a stroke. I'm not gonna cook for all those people! So what I did was called a caterer and it was great. They did everything. I just picked up the food. I did that again this year cause they decided I lived, so might as well..."
C: "Going back to my family: Every year we have a family reunion up state since 1947 the Saturday of Fourth of July weekend. This year will be our 69th consecutive reunion. Cousins, and nieces and nephews show up. The 50th reunion, we had 230 of us there. Now there's about 100 cause out of the 11 of us, there's only me and my younger sister, who's only 87, left. That's why we like to get our own immediate families together a few times a year."
L: "It's really interesting to me how his mother and father immigrated to this country and how everything just progressed. And the 11 kids had their kids and so on."
OTHER THAN FAMILY GATHERINGS, WHAT OTHER THINGS DO YOU LIKE TO DO TOGETHER?
C: "We've had some nice trips. We went to Italy, Mexico, England, Alaska, Bermuda. We've had some nice trips."
HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED SEPARATELY?
L: "I went to England once by myself, well with my daughter. That's the only one. But that was a busy time for him. I went for a wedding."
WHAT'S YOUR FONDEST MEMORY?
C: "Just being together and sharing things. We like having a big family. The fondest though: the day we got married."
L: "I was going to say that. At the time, I really wanted to leave home. My family was cold. They were good parents but they were cold. I guess I just always wanted somebody to love me. I think that's one reason when I saw him, you saw that warmth. You did. It sounds crazy maybe. From the time he came in and was teasing my instructor, there was just something about him. It was a "feeling". I can still see myself sitting there and grinning. When he turned around, he had a bald spot on the back of his head and I thought "oh, he's an old man!" (laughter)."
L: "He gave me a birthday party at the Brick Hotel in Newtown. We went there and all the family came and I said to the kids "Eat, drink. Daddy's paying for it!" The one (grand) kid, the one that lives in Italy now...."
C: "...got the most expensive whiskey at the bar. $12 a shot! 2 of them!!"
L: "There were hors d'oeuvres and what not. There was a porch around it and it was quite nice. So the bill came and he looked it over, went into his pocket, he didn't bring his credit card. So I paid for it. After I told all these kids to eat, drink!"
C: "I had paid my auto insurance (earlier) with my credit card and I left the wallet and all behind after the phone rang. I left the office without it."
L: "He's been very colorful through the years."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE ROUGHEST PART IN YOUR MARRIAGE?
L: "I think finances were probably always it. I gotta tell you the truth, he doesn't worry. He says there's no point in worrying. He says people that worry are wasting their life and their time. That if something goes wrong, you fix it the best way that you can. I've never known him to be down."
C: "We went for a lot of years of living, as they say, paycheck to paycheck. We kept up with the bills as best as we could. If we couldn't pay the whole mortgage or another bill (we paid cash for anything, we didn't have credit cards)...we only bought what we needed. We always seems to have enough to buy what we needed."
L: "You see, that becomes a habit. He likes to spend and I don't. If I want something, I know I can get it, but I don't want to. Why do I need it? I'm 85 years old. I'm gonna die pretty soon. (laughter)"
C: "When? (More laughter) That's another thing: for years we talked about who's gonna leave first, what's gonna happen? I know for my side, God forbid, if Liz should leave first, I'm going to Woodriver Village. I love that place."
L: "We already have that planned cause he can't live by himself. He needs help. I mean he does most everything for himself but I'm always afraid he's gonna fall or something like that. He can't stay here. For me, I haven't made a decision. It's easier to stay in your own home than it is to move to one of the retirement places or what not. Then I thought "What if something goes wrong? Do I have to get a new roof?" I'd have to do it. So you don't know. I'm not gonna worry about it. If I'm still in relatively good health, I'll make a decision later. And I don't wanna go to a place where all those old people are 'cause they think old."
DO YOU HAVE ANY VALENTINES DAY TRADITIONS?
L: "That's another story."
C: "Tell her about that!"
L: "He's been sending me the same card for over ten years. All he does is put a new date on it."
C: "And a $100 bill. You know what I do? I give it (the card) to her, I give her 3 seconds to read it and I hold out my hand to get the card back. (Laughter)"
DO YOU GO OUT SOMEWHERE SPECIAL FOR VALENTINES DAY?
DID YOU EVER?
L: "We might've. I don't really remember."
WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN AN IMPORTANT INGREDIENT TO STAYING HAPPY IN YOUR MARRIAGE?
L: "We laugh at everything. Especially now cause we're a little crazy. We're getting old and will do dumb things like "Where are my glasses?" And he'll ask if I tried looking around my neck. It's stuff that happens."
C: "If you say "What is love?" At our age, it's reliving these beautiful memories that we have. How we met, how we enjoyed things. How great the kids are. How some are pains in the asses. (Laughter). The thing is, we're able to communicate. Good, bad or indifferent. We like to talk about it. We don't always agree."
L: "I think the only time we disagreed about anything was with the kids. Sometimes I thought he was a little too strong, verbally. Anymore, when you get older, you wanna preserve each other. I don't want anything to happen to him. It's a part of life that one of us is gonna face, but I'm not ready to accept that. I'm really not. My one daughter says "you're gonna be a basket case if anything happens to daddy". Well, maybe that'll be so, but you're never gonna know it."
C: "One thing too, is that when we go to bed at night, it's always a kiss and when we get up in the morning it's a kiss or touch or whatever. And even if we've had a discussion before we go to bed, we still have a touch. And then the next morning when we get up, we don't even remember what the discussion was about."
L: "Our minds can't remember that much (laughter)."
C: "And on my bureau there's an envelope and you open it up and there's a card that says "I love you". Ain't that sweet?"
THAT IS SO SWEET! AND AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!
C: "I blow a kiss to it every morning. It's the little things. You don't just wait for big things. All the little ones add up to something big."
DIVORCE IS A LOT MORE COMMON THAN IT WAS WHEN YOU GOT MARRIED? WHY DO YOU THINK HAS CHANGED ABOUT PEOPLE'S ATTITUDES ABOUT MARRIAGE OVER THE YEARS?
C: "I think society has changed. It's loose. I don't think people care about that kind of stuff anymore. The family unit has gone to the devil. And I think it's become easy. Back in our days when we were growing up, a family unit was a family unit. All my friends, I knew their families and I don't know any of them that got divorced. None."
THE ONLY GOOD I SEE ABOUT THE EASE OF DIVORCE, IS THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT ARE IN BAD RELATIONSHIPS THAT NEED TO GET OUT.
L: "Well, that's different. For the sake of their kids, they should get out of it cause it makes the kids awfully unhappy. Kids are affected one way or another."
C: "You know when I think things really changed? The 60's. When people were taking on mortgages and they would consider the wife's income. So they weren't taking care of the kids. (Liz was here for them when they were going to school.) And then the woman's income was considered in order to get a mortgage and they worked full time and didn't have time to spend with their kids. That's when I saw it starting to go downhill."
L: "I also think women going into the workplace made some sidetracked. Maybe they found somebody better than they had before. That happens in offices. I worked in plenty of them."
DO YOU FELL THAT WOMEN SHOULD JUST STAY HOME OR WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN OKAY HAVING THE WOMAN BEING THE BREAD WINNER?
L: "I'll tell ya something about him. He's the kind that if I made a lot more than him, he would've been happy to stay home. Right?"
C: "Yeah. I stayed home when I was doing accounting work."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE THAT IS JUST GETTING MARRIED?
L: "I would hope that they were mature enough and looked at all aspects. I didn't really, but I was lucky. I would look at who he is, is he dependable, going to keep a job, be lazy, a good father? And that takes a while to figure out. Not just knowing him a couple months and then marry him."
C: "The age you get married has something to do with it. If you want to live with them first, then fine. But some of them do it for like 5, 8, 10 years and then get married and then six months later they get divorced. You know why? 'Cause when they were single, they had their separate nights out with their girlfriends or guy friends and then they get married and still want the same thing. You don't. You've got companions now. I think they forget that. Right away, they get their wife pregnant and she's home with a kid and he still wants to go out a couple nights a week and bowl or a night out with the boys or something like that. And what does she do? All her girlfriends are gone, she doesn't communicate or anything. So it's a hardship on the woman I think."
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT MARRIAGE?
L: "I really feel like lot of people don't wanna be alone and when they get older they'll realize they don't wanna be alone. A lot of widowed ladies kill their men off and I'm bound and determined to keep him alive."
C: "Thank you."
L: "I don't care if he's deaf. I don't care if he can't walk. I'd rather have him than not have him. That's the way it should be. Unless they're married to a son of a gun, then fine. But I don't ever wanna be lonely. Maybe when you're young, you don't care, but when you get older, you're gonna feel a lack in that. I see too many miserable people."
C: "You know, when you're together for 65 years, there's a lot of stuff that's happened. Good stuff, bad stuff, things you don't wanna think about anymore. I can't remember any of that Liz."
L: "Me either Clem."
C: "Thank you."