Marriage is not child’s play. There are many ways to make a marriage work, and commitment is one of them. Oftentimes, young couples look up to their parents or older couples for relationship advice on lasting marriages, like John George Betar Sr. and Ann Shawah Betar from Fairfield, Connecticut, who were considered one of the “longest-married” couples in the United States—and possibly, the world.
Originally from Syria, John was a 21-year-old fruit peddler when he met 17-year-old high-schooler Ann in 1932. They were neighbors who lived across the street from each other in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s historic seaport city. Ann used to walk with her friends to Bassick High School in the morning at the time, and John would drive by in his Ford Roadster to give them a lift. And from then on, their love blossomed.
— Heather Mitchell (@heather92015) May 7, 2016
However, the course of true love never did run smooth. It was the Great Depression period, and Ann’s father had arranged for her to marry another man, who was 20 years older than her. But, John and Ann had fallen in love with each other. They eloped together on Nov. 25, 1932, and drove to Harrison, New York.
Thinking back on their bold decision, John couldn’t help but laugh. While Ann told Reuters back in 2013: “[We] had no choice but to elope because my father was set on me marrying a much older man, and I was 17. John was not the boy next door, but the boy across the street who I loved.”
This is what 81 Easters together looks like.
My grandfather was born 7.20.11.He just celebrated his 107th birthday w the love of his life by his side. Happy Birthday, Gido. You are both so good for our family and this world.@MichelleObama @benleemusic @DalaiLama #longestlove pic.twitter.com/m8Kazt4Apo
— Heather Mitchell (@heather92015) July 23, 2018
The family was furious over what they did, and Ann’s aunt consoled her father that the marriage wouldn’t last long. But they proved everyone wrong. Their marriage survived for more than eight decades.
Following their 80th wedding anniversary in 2012, John and Ann were recognized by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter—a Christian marriage group based in San Bernardino, California—as one of America’s longest-married couples in February 2013.
The couple’s secrets to a long marriage? John and Ann answered questions in Handy’s Twitter, an online marketplace for residential cleanings and home services, on Valentine’s Day in 2016. Some of the questions were about their recipes to their long-lasting marriage.
— Handy (@Handy) February 14, 2017
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) February 10, 2016
Speaking to NTD, John shared: “Just contentment; being contented with what you have, what you’re doing.” Ann chimed in: “If you think a little bit about what you’re doing and if it’s wrong and he tries to straighten it out, we straighten it out. And if not, you just try to go along with it.”
The couple had witnessed the passing of their daughter and only son to cancer, and they had watched how the world changed during the past eight decades. And of course, they had their fair share of ups and downs in their marriage, including disagreements.
“It’s only about cooking, that’s the only arguments we had,” John, who opened grocery store Betar’s Market at two different locations from the mid-1930s to 1967 before becoming a real estate agent, said. But Ann didn’t seem to agree with this statement.
— Heather Mitchell (@heather92015) November 25, 2016
Ann offered her advice to married couples who aspire to make marriage work: “They expect miracles of each other like ‘you have to agree with me, this is what I want to do,’ but it doesn’t work that way. I mean we’re all different… your children are all different. Find out what interests them the most and work on that.”
As for John, he said: “The key is to always agree with your wife.” Indeed. This is one of the things women love to hear from their husbands!
— Heather Mitchell (@heather92015) November 9, 2016
The couple had been together for nearly 86 years before John passed away at the ripe old age of 107 on Sept. 12, 2018. He was surrounded by his beloved wife, family, and caregivers when he died. Sadly, seven months after the passing of her loving husband, Ann died of old age on April 16, 2019. They are survived by 3 children, 12 of 14 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.
A toast to John and Ann’s eternal love for each other! May they rest in peace.
Wife of 84yrs toasts her love on his 106th birthday. The grandparents are sublime.
— Heather Mitchell (@heather92015) July 23, 2017
Ben Lee’s “Big Love” & music video tribute to my grandparents, John & Ann Betar.https://t.co/kYB1FJXXvC
— Heather Mitchell (@heather92015) July 7, 2015
Watch their secrets to a long-lasting marriage: