Long-time couples celebrate marriage of up to 71 years

Fenwick Island, Delaware – Eight married couples celebrated decades of anniversaries this month at Brandywine Living at Fenwick Island. Collectively, they have been married 519 years.

“It falls into a tradition, and an honorable one … and I think we have a lot to learn from them,” said organizer Kathy Jacobs. “It was about their love for one another and their devotion for one another. I don’t discount the weddings today … all of that is great if you don’t lose sight with what it’s all about, which is the couple and the love.”

Among the couples celebrating anniversaries this year: Andy and Peggy McCartney (74 years), Chuck and Marjie Kriner (70), Reba and Robert “Bob” Finicle (68), Kathy and Kelly Main (68), Jeanne and Richard Sowieralski (61), Cynthia and Paul Wagner (61), R.J. and Betty White (60) and William “Bill” and Elisabeth “Betty Mae” Patterson (57).

Most of the anniversaries occurred in June, which is the traditional wedding month, said Jacobs, Brandywine’s director of community relations. When she realized the sheer length of those marriages, her plans to celebrate them just snowballed.

“I wanted to do this because they’re definitely milestones in their lives, and we share their milestones with them,” Jacobs said.

“When I look at my generation and other generations that are younger, the same values obviously aren’t applying, because marriages aren’t lasting as long — if they even get married.”

A month of fun events, including bachelorette parties and “The Newlywed Game,” led up to a wedding anniversaries party on June 13 at Brandywine.

Several long-timers discussed their marriages, which continue today in the halls of Brandywine.

“After all these years, we’re very much in love,” Reba Finicle said.

She and Robert “Bob” Finicle celebrated 68 years of marriage this June.

As a teenager in Pennsylvania, Reba went to work for an aunt who was having an operation. Bob was their neighbor.

“So she was the girl next door,” Bob Finicle said.

Although she didn’t know him well, she wished Bob luck when he entered World War II. He later told her family, “If farmer girls can write, tell Reba to write me letter.”

They wrote and eventually went to the movies together on his first leave.

“She was a good-mannered girl, nice-looking girl,” he said. “[Her family] seemed to be happy. She was not demanding, and she didn’t need much, so we got along very well.”

Reba found Bob to be nice and not pushy. Plus they had fun together, even when he had to drag his grandpa along. But grandpa had wisdom.

“One thing he said to us that helped us make it — he said, ‘Life is just what you make it,’” Reba Finicle recalled.

They were engaged after two years and were married in 1947. He had already socked away money from his summer job, buying them four acres of land for $75 each.

He worked reading meters, and she was a home keeper until a nearby bank asked her to apply for a teller position. She accepted their second offer, eventually becoming head bookkeeper.

“I encouraged her to do it. Not for the sake of money, but if anything happens to me, she’d have an income,” Bob Finicle said.

Their home was full, with three children, plus seven foster children.

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