Couples share secrets of married bliss

Editor’s note: As we approach Valentine’s Day this weekend, this is the first of a two-part series that celebrates love among several married couples in our area.

WESTFIELD-Eight local couples at Armbrook Village – with a combined 451 years of marriage to celebrate – have some simple secrets they wish to share with couples of all ages. 

Armbrook’s Enriched Life Director Rebecca Fondakowski recently interviewed the couples to gain some insight into what it takes to make a marriage flourish.

“The lessons I have learned from interviewing these couples was that any relationship, intimate or not, it takes work,” said Fondakowski. “If you are in a partnership with someone it takes more work, but what I have learned is that it is always worth it no matter how much work it is.”

The couples she interviewed included Jim and Dorothy Lobik, Jim and Peg Hart, Walter and Rita Tassinari, Susan and Bill McCabe, Jim and Judy Harrington, Charlotte and Jerry Pauze, Richard and Edie Sullivan, and Dale and Bonnie Jones.

The following excerpts are highlights from Fondakowski’s interviews:

“Jim and Dorothy met on Dorothy’s birthday,” said Fondakowski, adding “her sister took her out to Green Gables in Agawam for a drink and Jim asked Dorothy if they were the ‘Bobbsey Twins’ and the rest was history.”

The couple dated for almost two years and married on Feb. 14, 1975 by a justice of the peace in Springfield.

“Jim worked as an engineer and patented several furnaces for different companies in the United States and overseas,” said Fondakowski. “Dorothy worked as a telephone operator at AT&T for over 30 years.”

Jim and Dorothy have one daughter, Lauren, and Jim has two sons from a previous marriage, Marty and Wayne. They also have five grandchildren.

Over the years Dorothy took care of her mother and always “loved” going to the dances at Mountain Park. For hobbies, Dorothy enjoys reading mysteries and Jim restored a 1957 Thunderbird.

Before moving to Armbrook Village, the couple lived in Springfield, Granby, Conn. and Amherst.

“Their secrets to marriage are never go to bed angry and make sure you have similar interests,” said Fondakowski.

In 1981, Jim and Peg met in a golf league at the Whippernon in Russell.

“They dated for a year before they were married on April 17, 1982 by a justice of the peace at Points East,” said Fondakowski.

During their careers, Peg decorated metal products and worked as an estimator at Westfield Whip Manufacturing, as well as offered babysitting services, and Jim was a tractor trailer driver for the Mobile Oil Corp.

Peg and Jim Hart. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

“Peg had two children from a previous marriage, Cynthia (deceased) and Phil, and they do not have any grandchildren,” said Fondakowski. 

Peg and Jim have always enjoyed outdoor sports, including golfing and snowmobiling. 

The couple lived in Westfield and Florida, and then they moved back to Westfield to live at Armbrook Village.

“Their secret to a long successful marriage is never go to bed mad at each other and always tell the truth,” said Fondakowski.

Fondakowski said Walter and Rita met at a friend’s wedding, double dated, but not with each other.

“Then Walter asked Rita to dance then asked to take her home,” said Fondakowski, adding the couple dated for two years before they were married on May 16, 1953. Their wedding reception was conducted at the Dante Club in West Springfield.

Rita and Walter Tassinari married on May 16, 1953. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Walter worked for the United States Postal Service and Rita was a secretary in the guidance department at Cathedral High School for 13 years, and also worked at N.E. Blueprint as the assistant office manager.

Walter and Rita have two boys and three grandchildren.

“Rita collects strawberry cups or anything about strawberries and also volunteered as a library helper,” said Fondakowski, adding, “Walter likes archery and was in competitions.”

The couple lived in Springfield before moving to Armbrook Village.

“The secret to a long marriage for Walter is be truthful and Rita’s secret is have stamina, commitment and take your vows seriously,” said Fondakowski.

In 1973, Susan and Bill met while working at the welfare department.

“They married on April 29, 1983 at the South Church in Springfield, and their reception was at Storrowton Tavern in West Springfield,” said Fondakowski.

Susan worked as a social worker in 1981 and retired as a social worker supervisor in 2003.

Susan and Bill McCabe married April 29, 1983. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The couple lived in Feeding Hills for 31 years and Westfield for five years. They raised two girls and have three grandchildren.

Susan’s hobbies include watching horse races and visiting the Saratoga Racetrack, and Bill likes to watch hockey – a sport he used to play.

“Their secret to a long marriage was willingness to accept eccentricities and be able to laugh at each other,” said Fondakowski.

Jim and Judy met in 1957 – Jim was Judy’s uncle’s best friend.

The couple married on Feb. 28, 1959 at Our Lady of Sacred Heart in Springfield and had the reception at the American Legion.

Jim and Judy Harrington married Feb. 28, 1959. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Judy worked as a nurse in a detox department for 20 years and Jim was a postal worker for 32 years.

The couple raised four girls and have six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

“Judy loves quilting and was a Girl Scout leader,” said Fondakowski, adding, “she also has her Master’s in Public Administration.”

Jim enjoys hunting and fishing and also volunteered over the years for Toys for Tots.

Jim and Judy lived in Westfield from 1963 to 2001, then moved to North Carolina for 20 years before moving to Armbrook Village.

Judy and Jim Harrington. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

“The secret to a long marriage from Judy is work through your disagreements and set a good example for your kids,” said Fondakowski. “Jim’s secret is communication.”

Charlotte and Jerry met while working at Sears, Roebuck and Co. They were introduced in an elevator by one of Charlotte’s friends.

“Jerry tells everyone he got his wife from Sears,” said Fondakowski.

The couple married on Sept. 16, 1950 and lived in many places throughout their married life, including West Springfield.

Charlotte and Jerry Pauze married Sept. 16, 1950. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

“Jerry went into the Army and was stationed at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey while Charlotte stayed in a hotel close to the base,” said Fondakowski. “The couple moved to Augusta, Ga., while Jerry was still in the military.”

Once Jerry left the military the couple moved to Ludlow and lived there for 23 years, then bought a cottage at Norwich Lake for summer getaways. Charlotte and Jerry also lived in Chelmsford, Westfield, Ocala, Fla., and then Armbrook Village.

“The reason why they lived in so many places is because in those years Jerry was looking for a job and they would move to wherever Jerry got a job,” said Fondakowski. 

Jerry enjoys woodworking and making stained glass windows, and Charlotte likes knitting, crafting, and baking for church bazaars.

“Jerry’s secret to a long-lasting marriage is ‘listen to your wife, and love through thick and thin,’ and Charlotte said, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff, pick your battles,’” said Fondakowski.

Charlotte and Jerry have three children, David, Kenneth, and Michelle Costa, and six grandchildren. 

“They have seven great-grandchildren with two more on the way,” said Fondakowski.

Charlotte and Jerry Pauze. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Jerry worked as a manufacturing manager at Uniroyal for 20 years and American Bosch for 10 years and retired from United Technologies. Charlotte worked for Weight Watchers and Bay Bank for 12 years in between raising three children.

Bates College was the setting for Richard and Edie’s first meeting – Edie was a senior in her fifth year of a nursing program and Richard was a junior.

“The women that Richard was dating introduced him to Edie,” said Fondakowski.

The couple dated for two years and married on Aug. 24, 1957.

Edie was a nurse for five years and then took care of her children, while Richard started out as a teacher at Mount Everett in the Southern Berkshire Regional School District. Richard also served as an assistant principal in Greenfield, then principal and assistant superintendent at Gateway Regional High School, and then superintendent in Hadley. After he retired he worked at Smith College in the Secondary Education Department.

Richard and Edie Sullivan married Aug. 24, 1957. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Richard and Edie have five children, Richard Jr., Janet, Brian, Kevin and Bo, as well as 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“The couple spent their time at the community theatre in Westfield at the Westfield Woman’s Club,” said Fondakowski, adding, “Edie taught CCD and volunteered at the Open Door Nursery.”

Fondakowski said the couple also attended their children’s sports games and Richard coached a few.

Richard and Edie Sullivan are pictured with their children. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Richard and Edie first lived in Sheffield, then Greenfield, before moving to Westfield in 1964.

Dale and Bonnie first met at the Niagara Swimming Pool in Kansas City, Mo.

“Dale and his best friend Bob went for a swim at the pool and they saw two pretty girls at the pool, those two pretty girls were Bonnie and her sister,” said Fondakowski. “Dale and Bob went over to the girls at the pool and asked them if they would like to get a soda. They hopped into Dale’s convertible and got sodas.”

At the end of the day, Dale brought the girls home and they both exchanged phone numbers.

“A few days later Dale called Bonnie and asked if they could go on another date,” said Fondakowski. “Bonnie already had another date planned with someone else but cancelled and went out with Dale instead.”

The couple dated “on and off” for almost a year before getting married on July 7, 1958.

Bonnie and Dale Jones. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

They first lived in Kansas City, then lived in several states including New Hampshire, Arizona, and Massachusetts, before moving to Armbrook Village.

They have two boys, Doug and Burt, and two grandchildren.

Dale’s hobbies include pistol shooting and photography, and he also enjoyed having his own dark room in years past. As a family, they enjoyed bicycling, tennis and swimming.

Bonnie worked as a Bell telephone operator and then went to nursing school at Western Nebraska for three years in 1954. She also worked for three months as a salad girl in the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore. Bonnie also worked at the VA Hospital in Kansas City, worked at a psychiatric hospital in Boston, and then retired from the Bedford VA Hospital in 1992.

Dale was a fireman in Kansas City when he met Bonnie. He attended Oklahoma State University and took a fire protection course for two years, transferring to Missouri University where he majored in History and English. After graduating from college, Dale taught Current Affairs and English to high school seniors in Kansas City. He also had a job in 1969 at the Office of Economic Opportunity during the summer that they moved to Boston.

“Dale says the secret to a long-lasting marriage is learning to say, ‘Yes dear,’ and Bonnie says it is ‘learning to acknowledge when Dale was right which was most of the time.’”

For Fondakowski, the interviews were a true labor of love for her in her role as enriched life director. One of her takeaways from all of the conversations was the importance of “truly loving the person you are with.”

“Also, I say partnership because all the residents said through conversations with them, is that your relationship has to be about teamwork and working together through good times and bad times and always expressing love throughout the way,” she said.

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