But what about more contemporary times? Are there marriages that have lasted this long and survived the equally as traumatic events of war, social change and domestic strain in our own century? If so, how have they managed to live together for such a long period of time? In order to answer these questions, we decided to comb the major newspapers published in the United States over the past hundred years. We found, many wonderful and often amazing stories about very long-term relationships.

First, we kept bumping tip against the yearly stories in the New York Times of the 1960s regarding a celebration hosted each year by the Family Life Bureau of the New York Catholic Archdiocese. A dinner and dance was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for couples who had been married for fifty years. Each couple renewed their marriage vows at this long-standing ceremony. In 1964, Cardinal Spellman hosted 300 couples. The Rev. Hugh Curran noted on this occasion that: “. . . in a culture that is hostile to many of the values in marriage which we hold sacred, we must work even harder to achieve . . . the loyalty and mutual assistance which the partners of a marriage give to each other.”

By 1966, the number of fiftieth anniversary couples celebrating at St. Patrick’s Cathedral had grown by 350 and by 1970 to 400. At these ceremonies, the inevitable question was asked of the celebrating couples: “what kept your marriage together?” Mr. and Mrs. Frank Konieki noted, that a husband and wife should “just be kind and grateful to one another.” Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Baccaglini offered no advice at all: “not in this day and age!”

The Grand Street Boys Association also hosted an anniversary party for those couples in New York City who had been married for at least fifty years. Many of these couples lived on relief, others lived in homes for the aged. At the twenty-ninth annual festival in 1965, Harry Jacobs noted that he and his wife have “been married 50 years and we haven’t stopped fighting yet.” Mrs. Jacobs countered: “the secret of a happy marriage is to remember the good things and forget the. bad. Remember the ups and forget the downs . . . That’s the only way.” This may have been very sage advice, especially if Mr. Jacobs was correct in observing that they have been fighting for fifty years. At this time the longest lasting marriage was recorded by Mr. and Mrs. Julious Maier of the Bronx, who had been married 60 years.


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About the Author

William Bergquist

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant, professor in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 45 books, and president of a graduate school of psychology. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations. His graduate school (The Professional School of Psychology: offers Master and Doctoral degrees in both clinical and organizational psychology to mature, accomplished adults.

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