Frank and Nora Bertini, of Rockville Centre, had a sweet beginning. The couple met at a candy store as teenagers and soon started dating. This week, they will celebrate their 64th Valentine’s Day together as a married couple.
Dating was different in the 1950s. Growing up in Rockaway Beach, the Bertinis recall doing things together with a large group of friends. The candy store was a popular hangout, as were dance halls and ice skating rinks.
“I think we had more fun than the young kids do today,” Frank said. “Today, all they do is have their fingers on their smartphones. Years ago, we spent more time going out.”
“We did a lot of dancing,” Nora added. “I see young couples out to dinner, on their phones, not talking. What happened to romance?”
Frank and Nora relished their early years of dating, and have continued to enjoy each other throughout their six-plus decades of marriage. After meeting at age 17 and dating for several years, they married on Oct. 6, 1956. From there, life came fast: The first of their five daughters was born a year and a day later, “and one every year after that,” Nora recounted. They raised their children in Oceanside, where Frank started a successful landscaping business. Five years ago, they sold their home of 51 years and moved to Rockville Centre, where one daughter lives. Last year, one of their grandsons got married and bought a house in the village.
After relocating, they joined the Sandel Senior Center, where Nora, 84, takes exercise classes and Frank, 83, plays cards a few times a week. They also go to parties and special events there, sing in the chorus, and have made a number of friends. They are one of the longest-married couples at the center.
Staying active together and having the support of a large family — they have nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren — have helped their marriage thrive over the years, they said. But through the years they have also made a point of making time for each other. Even when their daughters were young, they had date nights to stay connected.
“We had a rule,” Nora said. “We didn’t talk about the children.”
And their bond strengthened as they aged.
“I would say, from our 40s and onward were some of the best years of our marriage,” Frank said. “It was a lot of work, with kids and two jobs. When the kids were out of the house, I could spend a little more money and our vacations became really exciting.”
They visited Nora’s extended family in Ireland and Frank’s relatives in Italy. The Bertinis are glad they took time to explore the world — especially because Frank was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 55. Though it was not malignant, the surgery to remove it left him partially disabled and dependent on a cane to walk. About nine months ago, he started using a walker.
Still, the Bertinis continued to travel, taking their most recent trip to Italy with three of their daughters about three years ago. “Things happen in life you have no control over,” Nora said, “and you just have to keep going.”
The Bertinis acknowledge how fortunate they have been to have such a long-lasting marriage. Not one for grand romantic gestures — neither of them recalls an official marriage proposal, but both remember marriage as being “assumed” — Frank is consistent. He said he has never forgotten a Valentine’s Day, birthday or anniversary; he buys his wife a card and a gift, though they prefer to have a nice meal at home rather than eating at a crowded restaurant on Valentine’s Day.
He shared some advice he recently gave his grandson on making a marriage work. “I do have one secret,” Frank divulged. “Whenever your wife says something, just say, ‘Yes, dear.’”