Two local couples have found their true loves and offer insight about what it takes to maintain healthy romantic relationships.
The couples – one married for more than six decades and the other newlyweds – live at Moldaw Residences, the senior living community in Palo Alto that is home to a number of former Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View residents.
Originally from Brooklyn, Herm and Dorothy (Dot) Shapiro lived all over California and, at 90 years old, have many adventures to reminisce about. They recently celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary.
Henry Sterngold, 90, and his wife Anita, 76, were friends for many years before they lost their spouses and decided to date each other. They married in 2012.
The couples recently shared their love stories, offering their hope that everyone can experience the kind of happy marriages they have treasured.
Quality and quantity
“We were 23 when we met on Memorial Day weekend 1946,” Herm recalled. “I had recently returned home to Brooklyn from World War II service and went up to a resort in the mountains with some friends for the weekend. I was playing basketball when this red-haired girl playing on the volleyball court just across the way caught my eye. I threw the basketball at her to get her attention, and so began our 67 years of marriage.”
Herm was pleased to discover that Dot was also from Brooklyn, so after that weekend, they kept in touch and dated. In September, Herm proposed. They caught a Broadway show, and as Herm walked Dot home, he lowered to one knee and asked her to marry him. They married that January.
“We had been dating continually after we met that weekend, and I had hoped he would ask, but at that moment, that night – it was a pleasant surprise,” Dot said.
Herm said he always thought that marriage was a 50/50 deal, but looking back, he feels that Dot always gave him a larger percentage and took less herself. They raised two sons and a daughter and now have six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two more on the way.
“My wife is truly a wonderful person and the best thing in my life,” Herm said. “She’s brought up three kids, never complained and always worked hard and helped me through things along the way. I don’t know where I’d be without her.”
Herm offered his advice for a long-lasting union: Everyone has his or her own personality and develops different ones to an extent after marriage. There always will be ups and downs in any family, but he and Dot both learned the most by listening rather than talking. Herm praised Dot for her patience and ability to keep calm, claiming that she helps him not rush into things or get too excited too quickly about various situations.
“My husband can have quite a temper, but he is a very considerate and giving person,” Dot said. “Over the years, he’s never forgotten a birthday or an anniversary; he’s always been a loving man, and usually when he calms down from whatever has gotten him upset, he realizes that it was never important. Now, we’re just enjoying our golden years together – life is good. And whatever time we have left, we just want to spend it together.”
Herm recalled returning home at the end of World War II and declaring to himself that he was going to find the love of his life, and he was fortunate to do so with Dot. He said anyone who has a marriage like theirs will have a wonderful life.
Although they both worked hard in their various ventures, they said they always managed to spend quality time together traveling the world. The couple often reminisce about their trips together, from a safari in Africa to the jungles of Costa Rica and a 1,000-mile trip down the Amazon in Brazil.
A second chapter
The Sterngolds’ relationship is one of fate and opportunity, according to Henry. He met Anita years ago when he was married to someone else, and they double-dated with her spouse at the time and developed a strong friendship.
“I remember meeting her in 1986,” Henry said. “But who knew we would end up getting married in 2012?”
Anita grew up in South America and moved to the U.S. in 1977 with her family. They lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., during the same time period Henry lived there. However, Henry and Anita did not meet until both ended up living in California married to different people. Henry cherished his 52 years of marriage – he lost his wife in 2000. Anita was happily married for 48 years until her husband passed away in 2006. A year or so after, Henry and Anita began dating each other and realized how much they had in common and how much they enjoyed each other’s company.
“As time passed and we kept spending time together, we really felt that we were falling in love,” Henry said. “We have similar interests, like our love for travel and attending symphonies.”
They both moved into Moldaw in October 2012, and the next month, they decided to marry.
“We’d had a strong friendship established, and things seemed to fall into place, so taking the next step for marriage just felt natural,” Anita said. “Henry’s such a caring and understanding man, and being married and having that life partner makes life worth living. We still love traveling together and visiting each other’s families – including our children and grandchildren – who are spread out across the States.”
Henry believes that it’s important to have a deep understanding for each other in a marriage. Being willing to compromise and find that middle ground is crucial as well, he added.
“We just wanted a small wedding ceremony,” said Henry with a chuckle. “But bringing our two families together with all of our kids and grandkids – it ended up being quite large. Our kids love us being together, and it’s truly been just a wonderful experience overall.”
Moldaw Residences is located at 899 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto. For more information , call (800) 873-9614 or visit moldaw.org.