BP Adams fetes ‘Golden Couples’ for Valentine’s Day
Video by Dipti Kumar, Story by Mary Frost
More than 150 couples who have been together 50 years or more celebrated their combined 8,245 years of love at a Borough Hall Valentine’s Day party — complete with lunch, dancing and a photo booth — on Friday.
“Brooklyn is here for you, and Brooklyn loves you,” Borough President Eric Adams said as he led a toast.
Adams pointed out a retired police officer, a table of Holocaust survivors, and couple Sara Hill and William Douglas, who have stuck together for 67 years – the longest love affair in the room.
“Nowadays, it’s hard to find couples who stay together for 76 days!” Adams said.
He saluted the couples’ commitment and understanding. “When you said, ‘I do,’ you meant it – you meant it for 50 years.”
Rochelle and Jerry
Rochelle Cohen, from Canarsie, told the Brooklyn Eagle about her first date at age 19 with Jerry, her husband of 50 years. “We were babies,” she said. “We met on a blind date at Kings Theatre on March 21, 1964. Then we went to the Chinese restaurant across the street.”
Jerry even remembers the movie. “It was ‘The Robe,’” he said. Jerry says he took “Cue” magazine with him and let Rochelle pick the movie.
How did the couple, who have two children and four grandchildren – a “king and three princesses,” Rochelle says — manage to stick together for 50 years?
“We signed a legal and binding contract,” Rochelle asserted. “No one says it’s going to be easy – life isn’t easy. You support each other, you get through it. You start with two mind sets, and after 50 years, you finish each other’s sentences.
“And you have to have a sense of humor,” she added.
Jerry demonstrated the humor. “It’s a two-way street. You have to give, take and be medicated!”
But seriously, Jerry said, “It was the happiest 50 years of my life.”
Rena and Larry
Rena and Larry Esposito of Marine Park, married for 50 years, also met on a blind date.
“We went bowling, then to Jahn’s in Sheepshead Bay for ice cream,” Rena said.
She confessed that when her friend at work first showed her Larry’s photo, she wasn’t enthused. “I didn’t like him, but I said I’d go on one date.” That’s all it took.
“He was a gentleman; I was attracted to him right away.” She added, “He’s easy-going and kind. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”
Larry said that one thing that attracted him was that Rena “didn’t kiss me on the first date. So I wanted to see what would happen on the second date!”
Larry said it’s important for a couple to be friends. “Friendship. That’s one part. We don’t argue, we compromise, and we tell the truth.”
Rena advised young men to treat women with respect. “Treat her like a lady,” she said, adding, “I’m a traditionalist and a romantic.”
Sara and William
Sara Hill and William Douglas, together for 67 years, said they had a lot in common. “We like to do things together,” Sara said. “Today? Oh my God, just love each other. Lots of love and hugs. We never really get angry with other, we just laugh it off. We’ve renewed our vows nine times.”
She said the couple were childhood sweethearts. “He was 17, I was 14,” she confessed. “We didn’t go anywhere – we went to church. We had to be back before dark. We never saw a whole movie.” She said the couple goes to The Church of the Open Door together now. “I love Pastor Dr. Mark V.C. Taylor.”
What attracted William to Sara? “She had pretty legs,” he said. He says he also liked her family – “and they like me.”
The couple have two children, eight grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
A table of WWII veterans and survivors of the Holocaust from the former Soviet Union – The Gold Couples Association, Veterans and Children of World War II — gathered to celebrate their long, eventful lives together.
“They are all friends from childhood,” said Borough Hall adviser Rana Abbasova. The couples live in Brighton Beach.
They include: Organization President Zinoviy Ginsburg, married to his wife Nina for 60 years; Mark and Galina Gershteyn, married 53 years; Ganrietta and Valerian Rayev, 54 years; Arkadiy and Ninel Lanin, 63 years; Lyuba and Leonid Neymark, 64 years; Semen and Maria Vinetskiy, 63 years; Isaak Zilber and Anne Nonina; Valentina and Boris Rybkov; Pyotr and Bronya Vaynsteyn, 54 years; and Zoltan and Mera Matyash, married 60 years.
George Hulse, CEO of major sponsor Healthfirst, toasted the crowd, which he said was full of “heroes and sheroes.”
BP Adams also thanked student volunteers from I.S. 281, Blue Dish Cafe, Bon Soir Caterers, DJ Kevin Jones, FreshDirect, TapSnap Phototainment and Target.