Seniors give tips to keeping marriage fresh
By Donna Hill
For The Fort Bend Star
A special vow renewal ceremony was celebrated on Valentine’s Day at Watercrest at Sugar Land, an independent retirement community.
There were family members, chocolate fountains, champagne, a harpist, and heart shaped balloons surrounding couples as they renewed their vows spoken years ago. Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman presided, and spoke with several residents and members of the staff.
“It was a privilege to host couples of all ages at the Watercrest of Sugar Land retirement community as they recited their continued love and commitment for one another,” he said. “Several of the couples had been married for over 70 years! Ms. Christina Selesky and her team did an absolutely amazing job of hosting the Valentine’s Day-themed event, which included chocolate covered strawberries and specially prepared pastries and cakes for all. It was a chance for people from all over our county and city to spend time with that special someone.”
At Watercrest’s vow renewal ceremony, there were stories of being patient in a long marriage and staying steadfast when life throws in unpredictable moments. Many of the couples “met cute.” It was a lively group of seniors who work daily on keeping marriage fresh.
Janet and David Williams married 69 years ago. “Patience” was again the word of advice. Married at 18 and 22, Mrs. Williams worked her way up the ranks at the phone company to vice president.
“Kids today have to work at it,” she said about the stick-to-it attitude that couples sometimes lack today.
Mr. Williams was a Tuskegee Airman, a group of African-American military pilots (fighter and bomber) who fought in World War II. Officially, they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces.
Gloria and Tubby McCutcheon said,“Kids need to save for a rainy day.” Her brother and soon-to-be hubby were good buddies, yet Mrs. McCutcheon said they never met until she met him at a dance. They have two boys and two grandsons. Their son Mike said they are both great parents.
“They’re a team and we learn from them everyday,” he said.
Mike and Ann Kidda know about being soulmates and getting through the tough times. She had polio as the young mother and had to learn to work all over again. They have been married 72 years.
Her advice? “Be good friends to each other.”
They met at a USO dance during WWII. It was not love at first sight. He couldn’t dance. She could.
“I will give you my phone number if you come to my house and learn how to dance!” was the comment about their first meeting. She was pregnant and at home while he was at war “flying the hump” – one of the most dangerous airlift operations, which involved flying over the foothills of the Himalayas during WWII.
Mike and Leah Malloy celebrate 62 years together. Introduced by family members, each said “lots of pillow talk” keeps the sparkle in both of their eyes. Each agreed that, “The best part of marrying is doing everything together.” Now retired, he worked in sales, and she took care of finances at the family business, Marshall J. Brown, which sells piping and specialty products.
There are five generations in the Celeste and Aristides Trifilio family. Even after years together, she still refers to him as Romeo. More than 70 years ago, he saw her and declared, “I want to meet her.” She thought he meant her sister. He said it was love at first sight. A retired urologist who did his residency at Columbia University, he practiced in Baytown for 43 years. Commenting on the bonds of marriage and relationships, he said, “It’s a lot of work, patience and love.”
As long married attendee Dorothy Flores commented as the vow renewal ceremony wrapped up (and who has been married to Julian for many years) agreed, “There is no greater gift than love.”
At the ceremony there were generations of togetherness celebrated, which is no easy feat in today’s world where commitment seems like a thing of the past. These couples, however, are here to tell you that marriage and love are still alive. According to Julia C. Babcock, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Houston, learning how to make a long-lasting marriage takes respect of one another.
“I think one key to a long and happy marriage is to keep a culture of respect within the marriage,” she said. “It is easy to fall into cynicism, sarcasm and contempt, which erodes the foundation of a relationship.”
Yet in relationships, some things change, and other things stay the same. So, are married couples today that much different than married couples of say 50 or 70 years ago?
Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., author of “30 lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage,” said, “Women are less likely to stay at home full-time, people no longer wait until they are married for their first sexual experience, and the Internet has changed how people date. However, my research finds that the big issues have not changed in any fundamental way. Young people ask the same questions their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did: How can I find someone to love? How do I know that she or he is ‘the one’ for me? How can we keep the spark alive for a half-century or more? That’s why our elders have good advice for relationships: The fundamentals are still the same.”