World Wide Marriage Encounter (WWME), a faith based marriage enrichment program, has named Ralph and Joan Keefe of Oceanside as the Longest Married Couple in New York State. They are married 72 years. WWME held a ceremony at the Keefe’s home Feb. 20 officiated by Kevin and Regina Hickson, local leaders of WWME on Long Island.
Asked the key to staying married so long Joan said they married young. “It was kind of romantic,” she said “You know they said ‘When the boys went off to war the girls went to the USO’, well we met at the USO in Long Beach. He is from New Hampshire, and was stationed at Mitchell Field during the war. He was in the Army Air Force, I lived in East Rockaway, we settled in Oceanside.”
Joan said they knew right away. Ralph proposed one week later, and they were married four months after that. He was 20 and she was 18, she said.
When asked what attracted her Joan said Ralph was very gentle and quiet right from the beginning.
After World War II Ralph reenlisted for the Korean War. Joan said he contracted tuberculosis, was sent home and hospitalized then finally discharged. Joan said when he was well Ralph signed up again after the Korean War for the reserves.
In civilian life Ralph worked as a commercial artist on East 55th Street in New York City when he left the service. He did piece work, Joan said, “Working on record album covers, not the whole cover but some outside, some inside, what ever the art director wanted.” Eventually he went on his own.
He still paints today, Joan said, not as many landscapes because it is difficult to get around, but he is part of a life-painting group that meets weekly. The house is full of his artwork according to Joan, “He does not sell paintings, and he gives them away.”
While Ralph worked Joan volunteered at South Nassau Communities Hospital, where she was assigned to the cardio-vascular unit, where eventually she was hired. There she learned how to give various tests including electrocardiogram (EKG) and electroencephalography (EEG). Joan spent 30 years working in the Cardio unit at the hospital, ending her career in 1995 as head of the unit. Now Joan helps at Saint Anthony’s Church, and brings communion to patients in South Nassau.
Based on the nominations submitted to WWME the longest married couple in the U.S. are Maury and Helen Goosenberg, of Carlsbad Ca. Joe and Sue Talarico and Father Tom Ogg, the United States Leadership Team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter, honored them for their 80 years of marriage at a ceremony Feb. 14.