Ernie Sposato remembers the first time he laid eyes on his future bride at a firemen’s ball more than 60 years ago.
|Ernie and Neva Sposato in the Wood County Senior Center in BG. The Sposatos have been married for 60 years. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
“It knocked me off my socks,” Sposato said, swearing that he heard bells and saw flashing lights. “She was ravishing. I said, that gal’s for me.”
The young college student was so inspired that he butted in for a dance with Neva, who was there with a date.
That first meeting made less of an impression on Neva. But the receptionist from Bay Village agreed to go on a date with the young man from Bowling Green.
“On the second date, he slept through the movie,” she said.
But Sposato was persistent, and it wasn’t long before he won over Neva with his love letters. “I poured my heart out,” he recalled.
The Bowling Green couple has been married now for 60 years.
On this Valentine’s Day, as so many young couples lavishly celebrate the holiday, some long-married couples are letting the day pass with little fanfare.
Local marriages that have stood the test of time seem to share some common ingredients — patience, respect, stubbornness, humor and of course, love. Recently some long-time spouses shared their thoughts on successful marriages.
While the love hasn’t faded for Herbert and Norma Hoover of Bowling Green, some of the memories are a little murky after 65 years of marriage. Norma recalled first meeting Herbert when a co-worker at a bank invited her to join them at poker. Herbert remembered it as a game of bridge. But both agree their friends had ulterior motives beside card playing.
“They wanted someone to straighten me out,” Herbert said, smiling.
Six months later they were married.
“She married me for my money,” Herbert joked, explaining he had $90 to his name and no automobile.
“My dad told me it was never going to last,” Norma recalled. That’s where the stubbornness comes in.
|Herbert and Norma Hoover in the Wood County Senior Center in BG. The Hoovers have been married for 65 years.
“We were determined,” Norma said. “I don’t think you ever give up and run back to mother when you have a fight.”
“My mother and dad were divorced,” Herbert said. “So I made up my mind I didn’t want to be divorced.”
It was also love at first sight for Leo Farabee, of Wayne. After getting out of the Army, he went to the Chatterbox soda fountain in Fostoria with a buddy.
“This girl came in, and I told my buddy, Buster, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’”
“She was bull-headed. It took six months, but I never gave up,” Leo said of Donna. That was 56 years ago, with the couple eloping and being married by a justice of peace in Indiana.
Like the other couples, the Farabees worry about younger generations giving up too easily.
“These kids are lucky if they make it a week,” Leo said. “Kids don’t give it a chance,” Donna added.
It’s not that these seasoned spouses had it easy.
“No one has smooth sailing. You’ve got waves,” Neva Sposato said.
Compromise is vital. “You have to talk things out,” Ernie said.
“We didn’t have marriage counseling like you do today,” Neva added.
All of the couples started their marriages with tight budgets. Herbert and Norma Hoover’s first mortgage was $38.79 a month — an amount they struggled to meet on Herbert’s salary at Tony’s Bakery. They also went through tough times after Herbert was struck with polio when their first child was 6 months old.
The Sposatos also started out pinching pennies.
“I married a farm girl and it paid off. She made every buck count,” Ernie said.
Having children also worked as an adhesive for the couples.
“I think that helps hold you together,” Herbert Hoover said.
The Hoovers, with Herbert working as a real estate banker, had four; the Sposatos, with Ernie as business officer for Bowling Green City Schools and Neva working in a BGSU office, had four; and the Farabees, with Leo working at Brush Wellman and Donna working part-time at a grocery, had two. So there were always ball games, school events and storytimes — that are now extended to the grandchildren.
|Pee Wee and Donna Farabee are seen in the living room of their house in Wayne. They have been happily married for 56 years.
The Farabees have a table set up for frequent card and board games with grandchildren.
“There’s no money involved, because I’m not too lucky,” Leo Farabee said.
That brings up another important ingredient for a successful marriage — humor. The couples all finish each other’s sentences, and bicker playfully.
When Donna Farabee suggested that her husband comb his hair for a photo, Leo licked his hand and slicked down his do.
“If I want him to listen, I call him Leo,” otherwise he goes by Pee Wee. “He’s a jokester.”
“I agitate everybody I know,” Leo said. Most of all his wife. “Sometimes she likes the cat more than me.”
And they all adhere to the old adage to not go to sleep mad at each other — even if it’s by accident.
“Heavens, we don’t have a chance,” Neva Sposato said, explaining that they usually fall asleep in their chairs watching TV.
Culinary skills in the marriage never hurt. Neva Sposato learned to make traditional Italian dishes.
“He hasn’t missed a meal yet,” she said.
And though none are planning a fancy Valentine’s Day, they show their love each day.
“She’s the best friend I have, this gal,” Ernie said, putting his hand on Neva’s shoulder.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Herbert said of Norma.
“We kiss in the hallway,” Leo said of Donna. “It was more true love, not puppy love.”
And they pamper each other. Neva Sposato explained that in the past 60 years she has never pumped her own gas. The “F” on her gas gauge stands for full. “You know what the ‘E’ stands for — Ernie,” she said, smiling at her spouse.
A second chance at young love
Young love doesn’t only come early in life.
|Doris Christensen smiles as her companion George Strausbaugh talks about dating for seniors
For George Strausbaugh, 80, and Doris Christensen, 77, a second chance came along last year.
After three years as a widower and six years as a widow, the children of both Bowling Green residents hooked up the two.
“It’s something we never ever thought could happen again,” Strausbaugh said. “Neither of us were looking for anyone.”
But their children realized the potential and introduced their respective parents.
The two immediately hit it off, finding similar interests and commonalities.
“We have the same eye doctor. We like the same salad dressing,” Strausbaugh said, listing off several similarities.
“It’s just comfortable,” Christensen said.
Though the couple isn’t considering marriage, they are enjoying each other’s company.
“He has an off sense of humor that I find extremely funny,” Christensen said. “It’s like I’ve known him forever.”