Love is in the air this week with Valentine’s Day on Wednesday. Some relationships are just beginning while others celebrate their many years together. Meet six local couples whose love has endured for 50 or more years.
Jim and Marilyn Johnson
The retired journalists married May 26, 1967, in Lafayette, California. They have one son.
How they met: Jim was a reporter for the Oakland Tribune at the time when he went into the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department to get a report transcribed — Marilyn was the transcriber. After several encounters, Jim asked her on a date.
Most romantic moment: The first night of their honeymoon they stayed at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. Then they drove up the coast, staying at inns along the way. Jim cherishes the day they celebrated their 25th anniversary by renewing their marriage vows in Tucson.
How to keep love alive: Jim, whose latest book is “The Black Bruins” (University of Nebraska Press), says everyone changes with age, but persistence and understanding have kept them together throughout the years.
Frank and Carol Costa
Frank, a retired custodial supervisor and Carol, an author, married Sept. 25, 1965, in Chicago. They have four children and six grandchildren
How they met: Carol met Frank at a bar and introduced him to her co-worker. Eventually, her co-worker and Frank started dating, but it didn’t work out. Then, Carol ran into Frank again at the same bar, and they started seeing each other.
Most romantic moment: When Frank proposed they were dancing at a New Year’s Eve party, and there was a woman who was after him. “She kept saying to him, ‘You’re next,’ because she wanted to kiss him or something,” Carol laughs. “So then at midnight he turned to me and he said, ‘You’re next,’ and he showed me the ring.”
How to keep love alive: They like to go to dinner and the casino together. “Marry your best friend, because your best friend is somebody you can trust,” Carol says. “It is somebody you can confide in. It’s someone that you have a lot of common interest with.”
Joe and Jen Corona
Joe is a retired police officer and Jen is a real estate agent. The two married Jan. 6, 1968, in Tucson. They have three children.
How they met: Joe was a rookie cop with the Tucson Police Department, and Jen worked in the records office where she typed his reports. “She saw me; I didn’t see her,” Joe laughs. “I noticed the car before I noticed him,” Jen adds. It was a metallic blue ’67 Firebird. She says she was drawn to his accent. They went to a movie for their first date.
Most romantic moment: “We haven’t had it yet!” Jen jokes. They both erupt with laughter. Jen remembers when their family and friends threw them a surprise party for their 50th anniversary this January.
How to keep love alive: Jen says couples work together. If he worked on a car, she’d go with him on a test drive. Today, Jen works in real estate and Joe goes with her to visit clients.
Leo and Carole Carrillo
Both Carrillos have retired, Leo as owner of Carrillo Mortuary, Carole from teaching. They married Aug. 24, 1962, in Pasadena, California, and have three sons.
How they met: After serving in the Navy for three years, Leo attended the University of Arizona, where he met Carole at a friend’s party. “According to Carole’s best friend,” Leo chuckles, “it was love at first sight.”
Most romantic moment: They haven’t missed a UA game since college. When they were students, Leo had to work at the mortuary on the weekend, so Carole would join him and play board games. “That was a lot of our dating,” Carole says.
How to keep love alive: Carole says to communicate with your partner and to never go to bed mad. They both say spending time together is key.
William (Bill) and Martha T. Wills
Bill retired as Air Force master sergeant and assistant public health director, Martha is president and CEO of Sunshine Ministries Inc., which founded the Racial Reconciliation Community Outreach Network. The couple married April 4, 1953, on Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio. They have three children, one of whom is deceased.
How they met: The two were both in the military in San Antonio when they met. Martha was waiting for a bus. Bill saw her, and told his friend he wanted to meet her. “When we got close I made the decision I wasn’t going to say a thing to her, and he bumped me right into her,” Bill says. He asked her if she was from Virginia or Tennessee. “Why, is there something about girls from Virginia or Tennessee?” Martha asked. Martha says she wasn’t interested in finding someone at the time, but they became friends and spent time on the base together.
Most romantic moment: Bill and Martha had been on separate leaves and when they returned to the base in December, ’52, they realized how much they missed each other. “That’s when it all started blossoming,” Martha says. During their courtship, when Bill was in New York City visiting family and Martha was in Memphis, he even booked a train ticket that made a stop in Little Rock, so they could ride back to Texas together. The train was so full, Bill gave her his seat and stood from Little Rock to San Antonio.
How to keep love alive: Martha says couples shouldn’t let a disagreement blow up. People should take a step back for a moment then revisit the conversation later. “I know him better than anybody in my life except God,” she laughs.
Joseph Benanti and Randolph Weese
Both retired, Benanti was a maintenance supervisor and Weese owned a business. They have been together since Jan. 1, 1968.
How they met: Joseph worked with Randolph’s roommate, who introduced them. Randolph says he was impressed with Joseph’s personality and friendliness. “I thought he was very tall,” Joseph says. Randolph laughs heartily at the comment. They saw the movie “Camelot” on their first date. Randolph says they talked for a long time before deciding to get together.
Most romantic moment: “Oh I think when I went away by myself,” Randolph jokes. Joseph says their first cruise to the Caribbean, with a stop at Disney World on the way back, was special.
How to keep love alive: As a gay couple, they faced obstacles such as not being able to marry and being refused a condo, but this has not dampened their love for each other. Joseph says tolerance is important for a long-lasting relationship. Randolph says talking out problems is crucial because arguments will happen. They plan to marry sometime this year.
Maritza Cruz is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star.