The couple on the left is John Betar and Ann Shawah on their wedding day in 1932. The couple on the right is John Betar and Ann Shawah Betar eighty years later. On sunday, November 25, 2012, they will celebrate their eightieth anniversary. In fact, it’s such an unusual milestone that the baker called to double check that it was an anniversary cake and not, say, a birthday cake.
John immigrated to America from Syria with his family in 1921. Ann was the daughter of Syrian immigrants. They grew up together in a Syrian community in Bridgeport, Conn. Ann’s parents had arranged for her to marry a much older man who they felt could support her well when, at the age of seventeen, she eloped with twenty-one year old John.
Of course she was nervous. Getting married is not a light step at any age. Eloping at seventeen with a neighborhood boy rather than the man she was technically engaged to… well, that’s got to be pretty momentous.
Still, it’s worked out pretty well, I’d say. John worked himself up from peddling fruit in the streets to owning his own grocery store. They had five children, who gave them fourteen grandchildren, who have given them sixteen great-grandchildren.
Now that John is one hundred and one years old and Ann is ninety-seven, they still live independently. John still goes to the store to buy fresh produce for the soups they make from scratch. He still advises other customers on their fruit and vegetable choices. Ann has taken up painting. They are interested in current events.
Most of all, they are still delighted with one another.
So what advice do they have for us about marriage, as opposed to fruit?
Well, John advises to get along, compromise, live within your means, and ‘let your wife be the boss.’
Ann dismisses the idea of having a boss at all. Her advice is not to hold grudges.
Their granddaughter Heather Mitchell has yet another take on their success:
“I’m always blown away by their incredible optimism, deep sense of compassion and modesty. They are true beacons — inspirational people who emit such joy without even knowing it.”
Optimism, compassion, and modesty strike me as a very good recipe for married happiness.
Then again, so do compromise and lack of grudge holding.
Happy anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Betar! Even though it seems a bit superfluous, I wish you every joy.
After all, this is true love. The best thing about it is that it actually does happen every day.