Keeping it golden

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In today’s society of Kim Kardashians, flighty celebrities, and the constant search for the best new thing, short-lived marriages seem to have become an accepted norm.

Long-lasting marriages are now an accomplishment, and as such, JNS.org felt they should be celebrated. The couples below were born, grew, and built families in a different time. These are their stories.

Click photo to download. Caption: Henry and Millie.Henry and Millie—since 1950.

The first time they met, Millie shooed off Henry’s advances. They reconnected later that year during the high holy days services at shul, and Millie finally agreed to go on a date. “She had a very sexy body and I thought she was rich,” Henry jokes about why Millie caught his eye.

Millie and Henry’s relationship is just like this, full of witty banter, playful poking, and laughter. At the core of it is a clear and deep sense of love, admiration, and respect for one another.

“I just saw her as a very bright and sensitive kind of person, and one of the attributes is that our backgrounds are almost identical. We belonged to the same synagogue, went to the same high school, and shared a tremendous number of common feelings about ideals and philosophy,” Henry says.

Millie says she and Henry weren’t ready to get married, and they resisted her mother’s pressure by claiming that there were no available apartments in the area. Her mother responded by buying them an apartment. “That was a surprise,” Millie quipped.

Henry touts their similar backgrounds as a major cause for the success of their marriage. “I know what she’s thinking before she even realizes it,” he says.

Millie suggests that all newly married couples try to understand each other, and adapt to each other’s communication styles. That they listen. “One of the rules in our house is we never cuss. Sometimes we agree to disagree, but we never let the emotion get out of hand,” Henry says. 

“And when you do get mad, you don’t stay mad, you don’t go to bed mad, because then you wake up and multiply your problems. You make up before it gets too far,” Millie adds.

George says that humor has played a big role in their relationship. “He has none,” Millie quickly interjects.

“He has always been superior in whatever has to be done. He’s taught himself all of these things, handyman tasks, and took care of our home,” she says.

Henry says that love means, “my wife comes first over everything. I look at things from the point of view of what will make her happy. If she’s happy, I’m happy.”

“’Cause I can make him pretty miserable,” Millie laughs.

George and Adele—since 1955

The girl George ended up dancing with at a Jewish center dance was not the one he had meant to ask. Seeing three girls on a bench together, his eyes focused on Adele, and he approached to ask her to the dance floor, only to be interrupted midway by another girl who scooped him up and dragged him to the floor herself. George politely finished the dance, and then went up to Adele again, apologizing for dancing with her friend, and making clear that she was his only object. She agreed to dance with him, and that was the start of their next 50 years together. 

Adele gave up her career as a registered nurse to join George in the family bakery business, and they worked seven days a week, often until 10 or 11 o’clock at night, side by side for years. After the birth of their two daughters, George said they simply included them in their lives, never relying on babysitters. Everything they did, from vacations to visiting posh restaurants, they did as a family. George soon became a pilot, bought a small plane, and took his family on trips across the country, camping underneath the wings at night.

Whatever free time he and his wife had, they spent with the kids, and George says this was crucial to the happiness of their marriage and family. “Our time together was very precious, he says, “we never did anything without each other.”

George calls his wife “quite a lady.”

“When we were married I sort of took her hand and let her run. All I did was follow, honestly. I count my blessings to this day; if I did one smart thing in my life it was marrying her.”

Click photo to download. Caption: Tamara and Leonid.Tamara and Leonid—since 1959.

Tamara and Leonid met in Ukraine when they were 15 years old, when he’d walk her home from school every day. Due to his Jewish heritage, Leonid was rejected from university and was forced to join the army for three years. They wrote countless letters to one another, but the phone in the Soviet Union in those days was a different story. Leonid would write to tell Tamara that on a certain day at a certain time, he would call the main phone line at the post office. Tamara would then have to wait until the day and time, go to the post office, and wait for the attendant to call her name. If she was she late, or if another person’s phone call lasted longer than expected, she and Leonid would have to start from scratch. For three years, they nurtured their budding relationship in this way, until Leonid finally came home and proposed.

Honeymooning in Odessa, they decided to stay, and with no family in the area or means of living, began their marital home in the kitchen of a friend’s apartment.

Fifty years, two children, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild later, Tamara and Leonid say their success is due to treating their marriage like a basket: gently weaving themselves together.

When people come together, Tamara says, they come from two different families and influences, and they need to bend and integrate each other’s personalities and styles into a new marriage and family. This is always the hardest part, she says.

The kids, Tamara says joyously, are the bond between two spouses. “We’re like two bricks, and the kids are the glue that holds us together.”

Leonid adds that there are always the minor things that make life difficult, but if you focus on the important—that you’re together, that you love one another, and that you can each feel each other’s hands for support—that’s what matters.

Tamara’s health recently took a turn for the worse. “The first thing I did [in the hospital] was open my eyes to look to make sure he was there. When I saw he was I calmed down. He’s my husband and my friend, and I am that same constant support for him to ensure that he’s happy, and he does the same for me.”

Posted on July 16, 2012 and filed under Senior Life, Special Sections.