A lot can happen in 70 years.
Seventy years ago, Israel declared independence, the World Health Organization was formed by the United Nations, Mahatma Gandhi was murdered and, closer to home, the Philadelphia Eagles won their first-ever NFL championship.
But also 70 years ago, some Philadelphia couples were beginning their lives together.
And now — all these years later — they reflect on the secrets to a long, healthy marriage and the lives they’ve built since then.
Mildred “Micky” and Marshall Kline celebrated their 70th anniversary in June.
They met when they were 19 and 25, respectively, on a double date — each paired with other people.
“One of my girlfriends made it a double date for me,” Micky Kline, 89, recalled. “She was with Marshall and I was with a friend of his, and that next Monday night after we went out that Sunday, he called me. That’s how we met.”
They started dating after that, and “that was it,” she laughed.
They married in 1948 and are now proud parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
After their kids were off to college, Micky Kline worked for Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel for 18 years as well as the Philadelphia office of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Marshall Kline, 95, who served as a technical sergeant in the Army attached to the Marines and earned three bronze stars, worked in business. He noted they’ve had their ups and downs as any married couple does, but they’ve come out smiling.
“We traveled to many parts of the U.S. and the world,” he wrote in a letter. “Our children are married over 40 years and we are blessed with four grandchildren, married and with six great-grandchildren. Intelligent and beautiful, all are intelligent and beautiful children. We are so lucky to have children we can praise.”
“You just have to give and take,” Micky Kline echoed. “We’re very proud of the way our children turned out and grandchildren, they’re just wonderful. We did something right.”
She offered some key advice to those who hope to reach their own 70 years of wedded bliss: Never go to sleep angry.
“You have to work at a marriage,” she added. “You have to keep being close with each other. That’s the story, honey.”
Nowadays, many couples meet via dating apps on their phones,
which allow the users to send messages to each other before they even meet.
But long before there were apps, Paul and Evelyn Becker struck up conversation the classic way: handwritten letters.
Evelyn’s brother was married to Paul’s sister, which was how the pair, who just celebrated their 72nd anniversary, first met.
It didn’t quite work out.
“We just went out a couple times, once or twice, and we didn’t hit it off,” Paul Becker, 97, recalled, noting they still saw each other at family events but “we stopped seeing each other as a couple.”
But then Paul Becker went to serve in the Army and wanted to receive mail while he was away. He began writing letters to those he knew and sent one addressed to his future wife’s family, as it was his family, too, via his sister.
Evelyn Becker, 94, answered the letter.
“And then I wrote another, and she answered that one,” he said, “so then I started writing Evelyn, and we wrote maybe for a year.”
He’d gotten a furlough from the Army and returned home and they gave it another shot and began dating again.
After he was discharged in 1945, they continued seeing each other. They married in 1946 and raised three daughters.
“We’re just compatible,” he said. “We help each other. We respect each other’s space.”
They weren’t “mushy letters” he was writing, he noted. But they were enough that they created a relationship and led her to accept his offer of marriage.
They married at Beth Am when it was at 58th and Warrington — it later moved to to its current suburban location — and the reception was held at Paul Becker’s parents’ house. He remembered cooking turkey and briskets with his mother.
When they were younger, they liked to travel together. They spent two months across Asia, in countries such as Japan, China and what is now Thailand. They spent a month in France where they just rented a car and traveled around.
Enjoying time together is not just what Paul said is the “secret” to their marriage, but should be a tenet in any marriage or relationship.
“Do things together,” he advised. “We never felt the need for a separate vacation.”
Bernard and Ruth Spekter had a meet-cute that sounds like it came right out of a romantic comedy.
Bernard Spekter, a World War II veteran who served in the Air Force and earned a Bronze Star, started a commercial office supply company in Philadelphia, of which he served as president and owner for many years. Ruth Spekter worked as a secretary at the time for a company he visited to solicit business.
“I just saw Ruth casually and then I met her again in Atlantic City,” Bernard Spekter, soon turning 99, recalled, “and we struck up an acquaintance.”
From there, their relationship progressed. They got engaged and were married in a rabbi’s study in 1947. They recently celebrated their 71st anniversary.
In that time, he said — as the other couples mentioned — it was hard to find an apartment. So when one became available in West Philadelphia, they seized the opportunity.
“We were supposed to be married in June, but because this apartment became available, we took it and her mother thought that because we got this apartment and married so soon that perhaps Ruth was pregnant, which was not the case,” Spekter laughed.
They lived in the one-bedroom, Murphy bed apartment for many years before moving to a larger space.
The two, who’ve belonged to Main Line Reform Temple for more than 65 years, are proud parents of two children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
In their lives together, they’ve traveled all over, met popes and fostered an appreciation for art — especially Ruth Spekter, who has long been active with the Barnes Foundation, as they lived in Lower Merion; conducted art tours throughout the U.S., Europe and Canada; and carried a suitcase of books about Albert Barnes with her when they traveled.
“I’ve been dragged through more museums that I can count, but that was my wife,” he said with an affectionate laugh.
To him, there are many pillars of a strong, lasting relationship — even in the midst of hard times.
“First of all,” he said, “the woman I married is one of the most loving caring [people]. I could never have gotten where I am without her understanding, and bringing up children that I’m proud of today. Just love each other and respect each other and try to help each other.
“You have to be able to say you’re sorry when you do something wrong,” he continued, adding, “and fortunately, my wife is so forgiving.” ❤