He will be ninety in April, and his “bride,” as he tenderly calls her, just celebrated her eighty-fifth Birthday. The sparkle of affection dance in their eyes as if they‘ve just returned from their honeymoon. If it were not for the large collection of family portraits and memorabilia decorating their modest home, you might mistake them for newlyweds.
Our dear neighbors, Lucille and Pat Rizzotto, exchanged wedding vows in 1939. Her thick grayed curls contrast his shinny receding hairline, but they both share the same joyful smile that seems to defy their age. Yesterday’s physical beauty may be fading, but today the beauty of their relationship ignites their passion. Evident after all these years, their commitment to love each other has remained constant and created a legacy. They stood before family and friends during a time when promises made at the altar were kept, sacrifice for the other was respected as a noble deed, and commitment to spouse and child superseded personal aspirations.
Their romance began in 1938 when Pat drove from Los Angeles to Detroit in order to save $200 in freight charges by picking up the sleek new Pontiac sedan he had ordered. Gasoline for his brand new $800 automobile cost about ten cents a gallon. The lovely Lucille, one of eleven siblings, lived in Detroit. In the 1930’s, long distance phone calls were a luxury few could afford, so Pat’s mother had asked him to pay respects to her childhood classmate from Sicily, now residing in Detroit. The school chum just happened to be Lucille’s mother. The couples’ fathers, also good friends, had served together in the Italian cavalry.
During his visit they met briefly. According to Pat “Lucille tickled every bone in my body when I set eyes upon her.” His stay there was short. Always under the watchful eye of chaperones, Pat kissed everyone in the family good-by, just so he could taste Lucille’s lips at the end of the long farewell line. He departed for a side trip to New Jersey, and fabricated an excuse to return to her home. He drove hundreds of miles out of his way to retrieve the “forgotten” item. He purposely had left his washcloth behind just so he could see her once again.
During the six day, 45 mile per hour drive back to the west coast, he dreamt of the beautiful Lucille. He surprised her with a hand delivered Western Union Telegram for her nineteenth Birthday. The cost of this extravagance was 25 cents. They exchanged love letters for a year, and the next time they were together, she wore pure white as she marched down the church aisle.
They never had a date. Their courtship was short and simple, yet their romance has flourished over six decades of wedlock. What is their secret for a happy marriage ?
Respect and honor reside in the home they constructed on Fernside Drive over 50 years ago. With plans to raise a family, they built a strong foundation of trust, a frame work of appreciation, and painted each room with good humor and small everyday considerations. Their tiny two bed dwelling is now a beautiful “mansion” rich with fond memories.
Their marriage is like the majestic tree growing in their front yard. A sapling twig when they took up residence in their honeymoon cottage, it has flourished over the years into a mighty oak with a giant canopy. It’s broad span of branches is a sign of a deep root system. Spanning more than a half a century, this marriage drew strength from deep roots of trust and faith in God when troubles blew their way. Despite the storms that life sent, their commitment to love has remained steadfast. Challenges that have uprooted other family trees, have instead grown their bonds even more solid and deep.
They didn’t counted the times they didn’t get their way, nor the sacrifices they made. They have simply counted their blessings. He still makes certain to give her several genuine compliments daily, and she still delights doing the little things to making him happy. Today they enjoy the blissful reward of a harmonious life…true peace and satisfaction.
A testimony to lifetime love, their wisdom of many years offer youngsters under eighty wise counsel:
- Real love is a choice, not just a warm fuzzy feeling you can “fall” in and out of.
- Turn problems into opportunities to grow, not reasons to split up.
- Build a deep spiritual foundation together. You’ll need it.
- Love grows deeper when you face hard times united together. Don’t blame.
- Be happy with what you have.
- Forgive…and don’t be too proud to say “I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”
- Say “Yes” to each other.
- Demonstrate appreciation, consideration and affection each day.
- Show respect and you will enjoy longevity in life and in marriage.
- Focus on positive qualities, the ones you fell in love with. Even the best mate has faults.
Lucille and Pat are of modest means, yet our generous neighbors have been busy distributing their legacy to heirs. According to this happy, fulfilled couple, “Some of the greatest joy in our later years has come from giving away as much love as we can to others.”
Written/Submitted by: Mary Donofrio
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