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A Lifetime Together
How SJ couples make long marriages work
By Victoria Mier

After decades together, four SJ couples demonstrate that love – though it might not always be as sweet and simple as a fairytale – is very real, but does require some upkeep. From communication to compromise, these couples know what it takes to stick together through thick and thin.

 

Richard and Esther Wise

Richard and Esther Wise, LawnsideMarried 57 years
The ambulance was tied up, so Richard Wise – then a young police officer – had to drive two women to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital for X-rays. He expected a long, arduous night in the waiting room. Instead, he says, his whole life changed.

“My future wife was on that shift,” says Richard, a retired police chief. “She had marvelous dimples and was dressed in all white. She was so cute in her uniform, and I just couldn’t help talking to her.”

His wife, Esther, then an X-ray technician and registered nurse at the hospital, was pretty smitten with Richard, too.

“He was so handsome, so nice,” says Esther, now 84. “He called me right away that night, and we started talking.”

They haven’t stopped talking, says Richard, and the couple believes it’s one of the main reasons their marriage has remained successful for nearly six decades.

“If we did disagree, we always sat down to talk about it,” says Richard, 84. “We never go to bed without sitting down and talking about it. There was never any cursing or anything, even when we got angry. I believe in communication.”

Another striking aspect of their relationship is their unwavering support of one another.

When Richard underwent a double knee replacement, Esther never left his side. And when Esther suffered four strokes in one year, Richard didn’t blink when he realized he would have to step in as her caretaker. After she recovered, Richard was adamant she be sent home to him – the rest of her life would not be spent in a hospital or nursing home, he says.

“They said she wouldn’t be able to do stairs, she won’t be able to do this or that, and I said, ‘You send her home to me,’” Richard says. “And she’s doing good. Real good. I can help her up the stairs, and we exercise and do her therapy together. I just love her. That’s my life.”

“Our vows said in sickness, in health, in all of that, we would be together and take care of each other,” says Richard. “Those were the vows I took. That’s it.”

 

 

Louis and Carol Smith

Louis and Carol Smith, MoorestownMarried 53 years
After 53 years and three children together, Louis and Carol Smith think there’s one important thing that keeps a marriage together: compromise.

For instance, when a young Louis Smith imagined what his one-day wife would be like, he envisioned someone who would stay at home.

“But I told him I was never going to want to just stay at home,” says his wife Carol, 76. “How would he like to just stay at home and cut the grass?”

With a master’s degree in social work and a successful career as a social worker, Carol wasn’t exactly the wife Louis envisioned all those years ago – but they’ve made their marriage work.

“We compromise a lot, we negotiate a lot,” says Louis, who, at age 75, is still a practicing attorney. “In the beginning, we liked different things. Carol wanted to go to the orchestra. I wanted to go to Eagles games.”

For years now, the couple has had tickets to both the Eagles and the orchestra – and Carol even insists the orchestra is growing on Louis.

Louis and Carol Smith

Despite having such diverse interests, the couple has known each other since they were kids. And thanks to their high school English teacher, the pair started a romantic relationship. “She decided we would make a good couple,” Louis says. “So she sat us next to each other in our sophomore year.”

Louis proposed when they were 22, although neither can pinpoint the exact moment when they “knew” it was love. “There was no bolt of lightning,” says Louis.

Instead, a common background and shared foundation of compromise brought the couple together – and has kept them together ever since. And a similar sense of humor hasn’t hurt, either.

“Fortunately,” Louis says, “she married a very funny person.”

 

 

Morris and Alice Smith

Morris and Alice Smith, LawnsideMarried 58 years
For Morris and Alice Smith, there’s one thing that fosters a close marriage: space. Though that may seem counterintuitive, they say it’s exactly what’s made the last 58 years fly by.

“We’ve always listened while the other was talking and talked when it was our turn to do so,” says Morris, 83. “And you each have to recognize that there’s times when you need your own space. We do that very well.”

Early in their marriage, the couple became accustomed to being apart for most of the day as Alice tended to their children and Lawnside home, and Morris worked as a chemist.

“For me, that provided space,” says Alice, 82. “We were always eager to come together when it mattered – like raising our sons and making family a priority.”

But after Morris retired and their children moved away from home, they suddenly found themselves together more than ever before, and Alice says they had to reevaluate how to maintain the space they so value in their marriage.

Morris and Alice Smith

For Morris, that means spending time in what he calls his “computer room,” where he spends time working on special projects and contributes to a number of community organizations.

Alice prefers to busy herself with things like crocheting, reading and decorating their home. “I need my own space, particularly at this point in my life,” she says. “I’m happy to pick and choose what I need to do and who I spend my time with.”

 

 

 

Hugh and Mary VanSciver

Hugh and Mary VanSciver, VoorheesMarried 68 years
Hugh and Mary Vansciver don’t just love each other – they genuinely like spending time together.

“I have always enjoyed my wife’s company more than anybody else’s,” says Hugh. “When she’s around, I feel warm and fuzzy.”

The couple, who live together at Brandywine Senior Living in Voorhees, say 68 years have practically flown by. Things are different, they say, when your favorite person is the one you’re married to, and that’s precisely what makes their union work.

Mary, however, likes to point out that she wasn’t always so fond of Hugh.

“We met in high school after being introduced by a mutual friend when I was a junior and Hugh was a senior,” she says.

“My first impression was that he was a show-off. He would do handstands on the front of our school. But I did think he was handsome.”

But for Hugh, 90, it was love at first sight. “I fell in love immediately. She was very beautiful, charming and so pleasant to be around.”

Hugh and Mary VanSciver

After a three-year tour with the U.S. Merchant Marines, traveling to places across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Hugh returned eager to propose to Mary. The two were married in Merchantville and soon purchased a home in Pennsauken.

Hugh and Mary, now 89, went on to have five children – four girls and one boy. Mary became a stay-at-home mom, and Hugh worked at Holman Auto for most of his career. And though life was busy, the couple has always maintained many interests – which they say is another key to their long life together.

“We ran the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia together twice,” says Mary. “Well, he ran. I kind of ran and walked.”

February 2017
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