Celebrating Valentine's Day

Compromise plus respect equals marital bliss

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On Feb. 14 another Valentine’s Day will be celebrated by lovers at every stage of life. Historians date the custom to both ancient Roman and early Christian tradition as February has long been marked the month of romance. In contemporary times, people have exchanged cards, candy, flowers and gifts to show their love for a special Valentine.

Through the Hewlett-based Center for Adult Life Enrichment, the Herald spoke to two longtime married couples on what makes their marriages special.

Noah and Freya Fisch

Meeting her future husband was not as intimidating as Freya Fisch’s née Fischer first encounter with her future mother-in-law. “I was teaching fifth grade in a public school in Far Rockaway and his mother was a dental hygienist for the New York City Department of Health,” Freya, 78, said. “She was an interesting lady and said to me ‘you’re adorable, are you married?’ and my class went crazy.” “That was the beginning of the end,” Noah, 80, chimed in. They have a son, Stephen.

The “before” connections do not end there. “I always like to say ours is a fishy story as I have always had ‘fisch’ in my name,” Freya said, adding that in school she sat in front of Noah’s brother as students were aligned alphabetically.

Married on June 30, 1963, remaining together is symbolized by their wedding song “Two Different Worlds,” Freya said. “Noah comes from a very Orthodox kosher home, a traditional,” she said. “My home it was all right if we had a Christmas tree and didn’t go to shul on a regular basis. “We are very different. Noah is a Pisces, the fish, a real water person. He snorkels and dives, I was afraid of the water.”

Some of that fear has ebbed away as Freya said she initially didn’t go on Noah’s first boat, a six-footer, but she boarded the 16-foot sailboat then the last boat, a 24-footer. (Noah gained notoriety for news stories highlighting him on his boat during a stretch of rain in 2005). “I did not know how to swim, but I got to know how to snorkel,” she said, noting that she loves to travel more, and Noah began traveling with her. “Life is a compromise,” Freya added.

The couple lives in a 19th century house, originally owned by the Hewlett family. Freya, who retired as an assistant principal at Jamaica High School, said she always wanted to have a white house with green shutters, which it does, while Noah wanted a house with a garage and a basement, neither amenity exists. He does have a shed in the backyard.

That is not an obstacle, she said. “He’s my best friend, it’s about compromising,” said Freya, who admits being an “A” personality. “I’m a minus ‘A’”, Noah said. “It’s very hard when you get older. I need help. He takes me and helps. He’ll take me anywhere I want to go and that makes me happy,” she said. “She has a good heart,” he said.

Both are active members of the Center for Adult Life Enrichment, since 2009. Freya, who hosted carnival-themed parties for years, delights in reading about the achievements of her neighbor’s children. Noah traded in his mortar and pestle for pencils and brushes as he sketches and paints.

In the early years, Freya said they didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day viewing it as a commercial holiday, now they celebrate. How did they make it all these years? “There are bumps every day, you never, ever let those bumps get to you,” Noah said. “You go with the flow and do the right things.”

Seymour and Irene Levy

Who knew that a blind date set up in 1949 would lead to a wedding five years later and a marriage that has lasted nearly 64 years?

Seymour Levy, 85, met Irene Rosen, 83, when both were teenagers. He was 18, she had yet turned 16.

In July of 1954, the war in Korea had just ended, and Seymour returned home after 14 months of active military duty. Two weeks after his discharge they were married.

“Our first date, (and almost last) was a subway ride to Times Square, to see a movie and stage show,” Seymour said. “I brought her home to a very, very anxious mother, as it was approaching three in the morning. Just imagine the impression I made on her parents. Well it was not the last date but only the first of many steady hundreds.”

The couple believes that the glue that binds them is a mutual respect for each other’s skills and achievements, and their love of family that includes two children, a daughter-in-law, four grandchildren, and in April a great-grandchild.

Valentine’s Day has established a special tradition in the Levy’s Woodmere home. Seymour, a graphic designer, has created a unique card for Irene every year. Both have been active with the Center for Adult Life Enrichment for more than 10 years, and Irene is on the boards of CALE and the Friends of the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library.

“As to bumps in the road, thankfully they have been few and far between,” Seymour said.