NEW HYDE PARK, NY -- While working with several patients who had been married for more than 50 years, Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center geriatrician Gisele Wolf-Klein, MD, began to wonder, “What do these people know? What is the secret that allowed them to weather life’s ups and downs and stay madly in love? So, she asked them. And the conversations grew into a writing project that is tentatively titled, “I Do,” which looks at the four Cs of an enduring marriage: chemistry, commitment, communication and compromise.
During a Valentine’s Day news conference, Dr. Wolf-Klein was joined by her associate, Barbara Vogel, LMSW, and six extraordinary people who shared their memories and advice about love and marriage.
Grace Louis, of Long Beach, was married to Lennie for 54 1/2 years. The couple met at a summer camp and saved every love letter they exchanged during Lennie’s military service. Marion Glasserow, of Manhasset, has been married to Norman for 63 years and now cares for him as he battles Alzheimers. Marion, who was introduced to Norman over the phone, told her audience that she fell in love with his beautiful voice. Robert Schreibman, of Forest Hills, is the elder statesman of the group at 91 years young. Robert met Marjorie (his wife of 66 years) when he was 17 and spoke movingly of how much it meant to him to hold her hand as she died. Gladys McConnell, of Manhasset, had been married to Morton for 62 years. She spoke of the pain of losing him and recalled how she first met her very handsome husband “in a London fog.” Robert Nissen, of Port Washington, had been married to Cinde (his nickname for his wife…short for Cinderella) for 51 years. After a wonderful life together, Robert spoke of holding Cinde in his arms as she passed away. Then, to his amazement, a short time after her passing, he literally bumped into an old friend of his wife’s, a woman named Lilliana whom he hadn’t seen in 25 years. The two old friends reconnected for a quick lunch that turned into, as Robert puts it, “the miracle of true love the second time around.” Robert’s life partner, Lilliana Dzierzawski, who had also lost her husband, spoke fondly of her friend and blessed her for bringing Robert into her life.
One highlight of the day was a surprise visit from Jamie Mazzei, co-owner of Nubest Salon in Manhasset. After presenting a gift bag to each member of the panel, Mr. Mazzei said, “It’s truly an honor to listen to all of these stories and to be in the presence of so much love. This is the type of news you never get a chance to hear.”
To illustrate their lengthy love stories, each member of the panel brought photos and letters that visually depicted their journey through life. At the conclusion of the program, Dr. Wolf-Klein noted that despite their personal differences and their opinions on roles within marriages, child-rearing or working outside the home, there was one huge phenomenon that united everyone on the panel: “Each of these people figured out how to stay madly in love with their partner for more than 50 years. We are so fortunate that they are willing to share their stories and let the rest of us learn from their wisdom,” she said.