When Emanuel ‘Manny’ Levine was thrown out of a pool hall in Borough Park Brooklyn, then crashed a New Year’s party as 1939 became 1940, he didn’t know he would met his future wife, Mickey.
After a neighbor in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn introduced Martin Inwald to Helen, who knew that their common interests would produce a lasting relationship.
Valentine’s Day is Thursday and is a time when many couples will go out to dinner and give flowers, cards and other gifts to each other to acknowledge the love they have for one another.
However, the Inwalds and Levines understand more than most, that love goes beyond what you buy for another, it is made up of the time you spend together, and occasionally the time you spend apart.
“Naturally we had a lot in common, our parents got along well and we hit it off,” said Helen Inwald, 86, a Valley Stream resident, who along with Martin, 90, has been a member of the Center for Adult Life Enrichment in Hewlett for the past 12 years, where they have enjoyed the programs and made many great friends.
They have been married for 64 years as they met in December of 1947 and were married a year later. The timing they said was perfect as Martin had completed his military service and then finished college. Helen had returned from the University of Berkeley in California.
Their common interests include traveling, attending the theaters and visiting museums. They also learned to share each others favorite pastimes. “Flexibility,” Martin said, “I knew nothing about ballet, playing street football, that was alien entertainment, but I’ve become something of a ballet aficionado and the same thing with Helen. She had little interest in sports, but over time she has come to like them.”
After an introduction at that New Year’s party, Manny and Mickey became inseparable. “I never got rid of him,” Mickey said kiddingly. “We liked each other and had common interests we enjoyed together and our own interests.” For Mickey it is sculpture, which she has taught at the Five Towns Senior Center, now the Center for Adult Life Enrichment in Hewlett, for the past 30 years. Manny bird watches and they often travel together.
Married for 70 years, the Hempstead couple overcame Manny coming home from World War II a triple amputee, but easily understand it could have been worse. “He was wounded right after American troops went over into Germany and three days before the Battle of the Bulge,” Mickey said.
Both couples careers were as varied as their interests which gave them plenty to talk about. Martin was a civil engineer in New York City, then was a regional director for the federal Department of Energy. Helen was a social worker and taught in Valley Stream’s District, “for 18 wonderful years.”
Settling conflicts is a matter of understanding what is essential and what is not. “You come to the realization that isn’t that important and you have to give in, you can’t always have your way,” Helen said. “If one person thinks more strongly you have to recognize that and back off,” Martin said.
Mickey taught at the center and sculpted, and Manny worked as manufacturer’s representative of early American furniture for several companies. After he retired, Manny held a volunteer position in ornithology at the Museum of Natural History. They handle arguing different, but ultimately make up. “He forgets about it right away and yells, I sulk, get mad, but it eventually passes,” said Mickey, adding that she is suspicious of people who don’t disagree.
The couples were fortunate enough to have children in their lives. Martin and Helen have three sons, six grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. Manny and Mickey have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with one on the way.
With years of marital experience on their resumes, the couples do have advice for the younger generation. “Realize a hint,” said Helen, alluding to a story Martin told that though he likes coconut Mounds candy bars, but he doesn’t like coconut custard pie. Helen made one once. She never made one again. “Continue to be intimate,” Martin said, “and attentive to the needs of the other.”
Noting that today’s marriages don’t always have the longevity of previous generations Mickey said, “People didn’t get divorced so quickly then,” she said. “We stayed together because of the kids. It was just easier to stay together. It is very complicated to separate. We are thankful for what we have.”