Married for More Than Two Centuries: Four Couples Celebrate December Anniversaries

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It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy seeks approval from girl’s Jewish parents.

Four couples at Brandywine Living at Dresher Estates each have their own version of that classic story. All four celebrate wedding anniversaries this month, totaling more than 253 years of marriage.

They graciously offered to tell us their stories. One couple preferred we not use their last name.

Bernie and Suzi Kaufman
Bernie and Suzi Kaufman

Bernie and Suzi Kaufman

Bernie, 83, and Suzi, 79, met at what was then the Philadelphia Museum School of Art during Suzi’s sophomore year.

She was waiting in a classroom for the instructor, “and in walked this brand new guy. I took one look at him and told my friends, ‘That one’s mine. Don’t bother him,’” Suzi recalled. (Bernie didn’t remember that moment.)

Coincidentally, they had a mutual friend who set them up, and they’ve been married 59 years as of Dec. 22. It snowed on their wedding day.

“My mother and her friends prepared most of the food — it was one of those old-fashioned kinds,” said Suzi, who fled Germany with her mother and older sister and went to England, then came to America, during World War II.

Suzi remembered a lot of her friends were divorced by their 10th year because they didn’t have much in common with their spouses — unlike her and Bernie.

They both became art teachers, but they never felt competitive toward one another.

“We weren’t competing, even when we were basically doing the same thing. He could draw; I couldn’t draw. He couldn’t paint; I could paint. So he would draw something and I would paint it,” she laughed.

“I always say, ‘Fight nice,’” Suzi continued. “We fought nice. We would have discussions that got a little loud. But basically that’s how we dealt with things. And we kind of stuck together for most things.”

“Nothing is worth fighting over,” Bernie said.

Pauline and Harry Gerstman
Pauline and Harry Gerstman

Pauline and Harry Gerstman

Pauline and Harry may be in their 90s, but they seem decades younger, inside and out.

“And I’m so happy to tell that I’m 92!” Pauline shouted.

Their marriage of 71 years is all based around family; they have two children and two grandchildren.

“They’re very devoted to us and proud of us. I couldn’t ask for more,” Pauline said.

They were extremely close with each other’s families, too. Harry came as a surprise to his parents — he was the ninth child born two days before his older brother was married in the backyard.

People at that wedding used to say, “We want to see the bride with her mother-in-law’s baby,” Pauline said.

Later, when he was out of diapers, the two met at a party Pauline’s uncle was throwing. He was a waiter in the Catskills and hired Harry to help at the party.

They got married in Brooklyn on Dec. 23, one of the first weddings of their families since the war.

“[Harry] just came home from the war in November, and we got married December,” she said. “My wedding day was the happiest wedding you ever wanted to see.”

The Gerstmans’ children came to Brandywine to celebrate their anniversary, and Pauline recalled older family memories.

“My parents loved him and his parents were crazy about me,” she said. “[My father-in-law’s] eyes used to light up like two electric bulbs and he used to hold me, and [my mother-in-law] used to say, ‘Don’t do it in front of the other daughters-in-law.’”

Adele and Dick
Adele and Dick

Adele and Dick

Before the immediacy of dating apps, there were blind dates.

Adele, 80, graduated from Penn and began student-teaching.

“One of the younger student-teachers said, ‘I really have a cute guy I’d like you to meet,’” Adele said.

That girlfriend asked Adele if she could give Dick, who’s now 88, her phone number. Adele was seeing a few people at the time and didn’t love the idea of a blind date, but she said yes.

After no buzz for a few weeks, her friend ran into Dick.

“It was just a coincidence that she was driving down Broad Street going into town and Dick was coming home from Center City in a convertible with the top down,” Adele remembered. “And they were driving side by side, and she called over to him, ‘Did you call that girl yet?’ He said, ‘No, but I will.’ And he did. And to be perfectly honest, it was love at first sight.”

They went out every single night that summer, got engaged in August, then married on Dec. 20, making this year their 57th.

“I guess it worked,” she laughed.

Jacqueline and Erwin “Buddy” Raphael
Jacqueline and Erwin “Buddy” Raphael

Jacqueline and Erwin “Buddy” Raphael

Jacqueline took a ride with a girlfriend one day in her convertible, and her friend offered to set her up on a double date.

They got to the guy’s house, went in and met Buddy’s brother (don’t worry, he was married).

After seeing Jacqueline, his brother ran to get Buddy.

“And that brother was very tall and handsome,” she said of Buddy.

She bit her nails at the time — and still does — so Buddy said to her that day, “You bite your nails!”

“I was ready to kill him,” Jacqueline, now 88, laughed. “Anyhow, he made a date for that night and we went out to dinner.”

Her mother answered the door that evening, wondering who this man was. “Some jerk,” Jacqueline laughed. “I said, ‘He’s a nice guy but I don’t care for him.’”

“They had a two-story home and on the second story was made into a sewing room,” Buddy, 97, recalled. In that room he came across a photo of Jacqueline’s mother.

“When I saw what she looked like I said, ‘This woman’s for me,’” he joked.

They got engaged in December — and married on Dec. 11.

Now after 66 years, Jacqueline said she still loves everything about Buddy — and the feeling is mutual.

“She’s warm. She’s considerate. She loves people,” he said. “She’s just the world.”

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