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Despite some reports that show almost half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, many men and women have found the key to marital bliss. As shocking as it may seem, some SJ couples are celebrating 50, 60, even 70 years of marriage. And to top if off, they say they’re still happy and in love.

 

Clarence and Eleanor Davis

Married 59 years
Though the Camden neighbors met when they were both 16, it took another year and a catastrophic event before Clarence asked Eleanor for a date. During a brutal storm in 1926, the roof on Eleanor’s home blew off and Clarence came to check out the scene. They dated for the next several years, until Clarence joined the military. He proposed marriage, by mail, four years later while stationed in Arkansas.

“I asked her to marry me in a letter,” recalls Clarence, 80. “I said what was in my heart, so she couldn’t refuse.”

They were both 21 when they married and soon after, Clarence went to fight in Korea. All these years, he’s kept the letter with the proposal, as well as every other letter that he and Eleanor exchanged. Clarence also keeps a detailed scrapbook chronicling their lives, including the births of their six children and eight grandchildren.

After returning home from Korea, Clarence joined RCA, working on the first computers and televisions to come off the assembly line. When their youngest child started school, Eleanor began working as a nurse.

Throughout their lives, the Cherry Hill couple has enjoyed traveling all over the world, visiting Bermuda, the Bahamas and Hawaii. Today they are snowbirds, spending the winter months in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The couple says their grandchildren keep the spark in their lives, and when-ever possible they attend the grandkids’ activities, like ballet recitals. They also take time to exercise, though they have different routines. Eleanor, 80, takes exercise classes and lifts light weights at the gym three days a week. Clarence prefers walking around the Cherry Hill Mall. He also spends time in his garage tinkering with his collection of cars.

The couple believes the force behind their long union has been their strong desire to stay married through thick and thin. While they admit to speed bumps along the way, they have worked tirelessly to keep their marriage going. They also say their strong faith has helped. “Our secret is that we wanted to stay married,” says Eleanor. “He takes care of home, me, the kids and the grandkids, and is an excellent provider.” Adds Clarence, “I couldn’t imagine going through life without her.”

 

Sam and Betty Streep

Married 69 Years
The couple met the very first day they entered The University of Maryland in 1937 – amazingly, both were gifted and were only 16 when they began college. By their senior year they were going steady, and they married on November 29, 1941. “We got home the day of Pearl Harbor, and his orders were in the mailbox,” says Betty, 89.

“I was 21 years old and I was on orders to go as a Second Lieutenant in the Second Armored Division in Fort Benning, Georgia, reporting to the Commanding General George Smith Patton, Jr.,” says Sam, 90. He moved around to various U.S. bases until ultimately heading to Okinawa and Korea by the end of the war. Sam returned to the United States in December 1945 to reunite with Betty in Maryland. He left the army and went to work as a chemical engineer.

Betty initially taught school, but quit to travel with Sam until he left the country. The first two of their eight children were born on army bases. When their youngest child was in kindergarten, Betty went back to work as a high school science teacher. “That made a big difference to us financially,” says Sam.

Their large and growing family remains important to the couple, who keeps track of their 20 grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren’s birthdays on a calendar their daughter makes for them each year.

Sam recently had his 90th birthday. What did he do to celebrate? “Tried to stay awake!” he jokes. “We had a real bash, attended by about 40 family members.”

The pair has passed down their wonderful sense of humor to other family members. “After the party I found fake mice every place I looked for the next two weeks,” says Betty.

The Streeps faced many difficult challenges throughout their lives, beginning with the war. More recently, they lost a child and grandchild. “I think the secret to our long marriage is survival,” says Betty. “Do the best you can under difficult circumstances. Life is not going to be easy, and you just have to go with the flow and do what you feel is right.”

The couple spends about half the year in Long Beach Township and the other half in Marco Island, Florida. They are very active, with Betty enjoying regular games of bridge. “When we’re desperate for another bridge player, he will become ‘Samantha’ and wear the most gosh-awful, orangey- red wig you ever saw, and he’ll play bridge with us,” Betty says.

Sam is still passionate about racing sailboats, which he’s done for 40 years.

“I am a past Commodore of the Brant Beach Yacht Club and my wife is a former chairlady,” he explains. Both Sam and Betty have volunteered with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, and are proud of many of their sons and grandsons who who have become Eagle Scouts.

Today, Betty loves cooking and Sam enjoys eating what she’s prepared. “She has many specialties, but fortunately I have not allowed them to gather around my middle,” Sam insists. “I swim a quarter to a half mile every day and walk about two miles, two or three nights a week.”

The secret to their long marriage? “It’s very important to find things to do not just with each other, but away from each other,” says Betty. “When you come back together you can bring some interests and conversation into your life.”

 

Joseph and Dorothy Singer

Married 71 Years
It wasn’t love at first sight. How could it be at 11 and 13 years old? When Joseph Singer visited Dorothy Polasky’s Camden home for his Bar Mitzvah lessons, he couldn’t imagine they would celebrate 71 anniversaries together. Married on February 25, 1940, the Singers say they have always been best friends. They believe enjoying common interests is the secret to their seven-decade love affair.

The Maple Shade couple spends much of their time at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, where they take classes and enjoy various activities. Joe still plays golf and works out regularly in the gym. Volunteer work has also been important to the couple, supporting Jewish Family Services throughout their lives.

“The two of us are so proud of our community,” says Joe, 93. “The Jewish Community Center started in Camden and we were active in it. I would think the two of us are among the oldest charter members.”

They keep the spice in their lives through dancing, reading and games of bridge, but they admit the hardest thing is losing their longtime friends. The pair has enjoyed traveling, including trips to Israel to celebrate their 25th and 50th anniversaries. They still hold hands and never leave the house without kissing each other goodbye.

Family is most important to the Singers, who have two children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Dorothy, 91, founded the Polasky Cousins Club 66 years ago. Members of their brood can still be found every Saturday at Cherry Hill’s Short Hills Deli for lunch.

“It just leaves me with a very warm feeling because I know I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me,” says Dorothy. “It’s really been a wonderful way of life.”

The Singers certainly faced challenges throughout their lives, most notably losing their 50 year-old grocery store in Camden to looters in the early ’70s. “It was very traumatic because it was something Joe had worked in most of his life, and when the place was practically destroyed we had no desire to ever go back there again,” recalls Dorothy. After the store was destroyed, they started fresh, opening Joe Singer’s Prime Meats in Cherry Hill.

Joe credits their long, happy marriage to keeping active, whereas Dorothy thinks their ability to communicate so well has been the key. “After all these years we have so much to talk about,” Dorothy says. “You need a lot of patience, a lot of love and a lot of understanding for each other.”

 

Sidney and Yetta Kleiman

Married 65 Years
Never underestimate a summer romance: When she was 22, Yetta met a cute guy while vacationing with her girlfriends in Atlantic City. Sid, who was 20, happened to be that guy’s friend. By week’s end Sid was dating Yetta, and when they returned home to Philadelphia, the romance continued.
The young couple would go to the movies and then come back to Yetta’s house where they’d listen to the same show on the radio. At 1 am, a woman sang Bluebird of Happiness to mark the end of the show – that was Sid’s cue to leave. He’d get on the trolley to head home and usually fell asleep before reaching his stop.

The Kleimans, who now live in Mount Laurel, married on October 14, 1945, and remain hopelessly devoted. A generous uncle treated them to a trip to New York for their honeymoon. “We had a suite of rooms at the Piccadilly Hotel off Broadway for $12 a night,” says Yetta, now 87.
Their secret? “First of all, you have to love each other,” insists Yetta. “We’ve had ups and we’ve had downs, but if you love each other you manage to struggle through. Keeping active is also very, very important.” Adds Sid, “Kiss and make up before you go to bed.”

Sid, 85, says that it’s important to be friends as well as lovers. The couple enjoys separate interests, and they support each other’s passions. Sid still works every day as an engineer for H & H Industrial Corporation in Pennsauken, though dialysis three days each week has forced him to cut back his hours.

Yetta loves to act and participates in community theater. She is known for her always well-coiffed hairdo and dedication to looking good every time she leaves the house. She has followed her hairdresser from town to town for decades. In fact, during a time when the couple faced financial difficulty, Yetta’s sacrifice was that she stopped dying her hair. At times, Sid has even washed and bleached his wife’s hair.

When Yetta worked a part-time job typing medical forms, the younger women asked her how she kept her hair looking perfect every day. She responded, “I’m a little older and wiser than you girls. I sleep with two sheer hairnets and a nightcap.” They said, “You sleep with a nightcap?” I said, “Listen. Everyone knows where the P’s and Q’s are in the dark. It’s most important that you look better in the daytime!”

Yetta and Sid insist on having breakfast together every morning, no matter what their daily schedule might bring. “I set the table the night before and we’ve had breakfast together for 65 years, except when I was in the hospital twice to deliver and Sid was in the hospital a few times,” says Yetta.

The couple has two sons, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States, often when Yetta would accompany Sid on business trips. The main spark that keeps them together? It’s simple, says Yetta, “We have a good time.”

 

On their way!

How has having children changed your marriage?

There is less time (and sleep!) for just the two of us. We’re not always on the same page when it comes to decisions about the kids so we’ve had to put a lot more effort into our relationship to make sure it stays strong.
Ted Lewis, Voorhees
Married 18 years, 4 children

We became better communicators in our marriage. It has, without a doubt, brought us closer and made us more appreciative of smaller things in life, like having hot chocolate after building a snowman.
Lori Shaffer, Hainesport
Married 8 years, 2 children

 

How did you know your spouse was “the one?”

When I told him I wanted to go to college in North Carolina he didn’t ask me any questions other than “When do we leave?” I guess that’s when I knew we would be together for a very, very long time.
Becki Ellis, Southampton
Married 6 months

I knew he was the one when I missed him as soon as we were apart.
Amy Midgley, Collingswood
Engaged to be married

 

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being married?

Managing time, money and children.
Mark Parker, Mount Holly
Married 24 years

Making sure we allot quality time for just the two of us.
Eric Reynolds, Medford Lakes
Married 5 years

February 2011
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