John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, Conn., said “I do” on Nov. 25, 1932, and have been happily married for 81 years. With five children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great children, the Syrian couple consider themselves extremely “blessed.”
“We live one day at a time. The family keeps us alive,” John, 102, said, adding that he never expected to be recognized for the the longest-lasting marriage.
“We are very fortunate. It can be repeated and repeated,” Ann, 98, said before their 80th wedding anniversary last November. “It is unconditional love and understanding. We have had that. We consider it a blessing.”
In February, the Behars were named the longest married couple in the U.S. by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Christian marriage enrichment group promoting the virtues of lasting marriages. It was an honor the humble couple never dreamed of.
John Betar was 21 when he met Ann Shawah, the 17-year-old daughter of Syrian immigrants in Bridgeport, Conn.
“I fell for her right away,” he said last November. “I used to have a Ford Roaster and I used to pick her and her friends and drive them to high school. Gradually she liked me and we got together.”
Ann was arranged to be married to another man, 20 years her senior, but breaking with tradition, she ran off to Harrison, N.Y., to elope with John. Now, 81 years later, she knows she made the right choice.
Click here to read more about their love story.
So what’s their secret to a lasting and loving marriage? Being surrounded by family has kept their bond strong, John said, offering a simple mantra to live by: “Don’t hold a grudge. Forgive each other. Live accordingly.”
“They have this wonderful ability to accept life as it comes,” their daughter Renee Betar said in an interview before their 80th anniversary. “They have a way of trying to look around at the things that they do have — the family and the blessings. They came from a generation where there is such respect for each other and caring.”
The couple is marking the day at home, but plan to celebrate with family who will gather at their house in Fairfield for Thanksgiving.