Ann Betar, 97, was arranged to be married to another man 20 years her senior in 1932, but she eloped with her husband, John, now aged 101
The couple wed in the small town of Harrison, New York on November 15, 1932
They celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary in November, and now Ann and John Betar have been recognized as the longest married couple in the U.S.
The couple from Fairfield, Connecticut, aged 97 and 101 respectively, tied the knot on November 15, 1932, and has since welcomed five children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren into the world.
Revealing his secrets to a happy and long-lasting relationship, Mr Betar told ABC: ‘Get along. Compromise. Live within your means and be content,’ before adding, ‘and let your wife be the boss.’
Truly, madly, deeply: Ann and John Betar, from Fairfield, Connecticut, aged 97 and 101 respectively, will be recognized as the longest-married couple in the U.S. after they celebrated their 80th anniversary in November
The Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a faith-based marriage enrichment program, will recognize the Betar’s for the longest U.S. marriage on Saturday at their granddaughter’s house in Fairfield.
The couple are just six years shy of The Guinness World Record for the longest marriage, which belongs to Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher, of North Carolina, who have been married for 86 years.
Mrs Betar, who married her husband the year Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and the country’s unemployment rate was 24.1per cent, explained that for a relationship to survive, it is important to let go of anger and resentment.
‘You know what your commitments are and you try to live by them and understand one another,’ she said.
‘If you don’t hold a grudge, you can face anything.’
They said the hardest thing that they have faced over the years, was losing two of their children.
Mrs Betar explained: ‘There are so many things in a lifetime that can make you very, very happy and very, very sad, but if you can do it together then it’s happiness.’
‘Let your wife be the boss… If you don’t hold a grudge, you can face anything’
The couple met growing up in the same Syrian community in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Mr Betar immigrated to the U.S. as a young child in 1921, along with his brother and father.
After attending grammar school he began working as a fruit peddler and soon after he met Mrs Betar, then Miss Shawah, in the neighborhood. Recalling the sequence of events, he said: ‘I fell for her right away.
‘I used to have a Ford Roaster and I used to pick her and her friends and drive them to high school.’
Always and forever: Mrs Betar, then 17, eloped with the 20-year-old Mr Betar on November 15, 1932, marrying in the small town of Harrison in New York
Despite his attraction, Mrs Betar, then aged 17, was arranged to be married to another man, 20 years her senior, who her parents had selected.
However after getting to know Mr Betar, she decided to break with tradition and elope with him, marrying in the small town of Harrison in New York.
‘At 17, you wonder if you’re making the right choice,’ she said.
‘We had good times together and we knew each other very well. And it’s turned out to be 80 years… We’ve been very fortunate.’
‘It is just unconditional love and understanding’
After leaving their families they set up home together and Mr Betar continued selling fruit, until in 1938, he opened up his own grocery store, Betar’s Market, in the south end of Bridgeport.
Meanwhile Mrs Betar stayed at home and raised their family. Five children produced 14 grandchildren and 16 great children.
Her husband said: ‘She was a great mother. She raised five children and she was a wonderful caretaker.’
Today they still live independently on the beach in Fairfield.
Mrs Betar enjoys painting and both are keen chefs, cooking up dishes from scratch.
Their daughter Renee Betar said. ‘They have this wonderful ability to accept life as it comes.
Married bliss: To the later generations of children and grandchildren, the Betars serve as role models for how to live and love in life
Happy family: Mr and Mrs Betar with with daughter Judy Metro, (left), and granddaughter Heather Mitchell
‘They have a way of trying to look around at the things that they do have – the family and the blessings. They came from a generation where there is such respect for each other and caring.’
On Sunday, Ann and John Betar marked their oak wedding anniversary surrounded by family and friends at the St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bridgeport.
One of their daughters, who ordered a cake for the occasion, told how the baker called back, to confirm that it should read – ‘Happy 80th Anniversary’ instead of ‘Happy 80th Birthday’.
‘We are very fortunate. It can be repeated and repeated,’ Ann, 97, echoed. ‘It is unconditional love and understanding. We have had that. We consider it a blessing.’
To the later generations of children and grandchildren, the Betars serve as role models for how to live and love in life.
‘I’m always blown away by their incredible optimism, deep sense of compassion and modesty,’ said granddaughter Heather Mitchell.
‘They are true beacons — inspirational people who emit such joy without even knowing it.’