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Contest Honors 'Longest' Marriages

With nearly 180 years of experience, three couples share their secrets and collect a dozen roses.

Two blind dates and one chance encounter at a water fountain led to 180 years of wedded bliss for three area couples. With Valentine’s Day approaching, Gail Dobberfuhl, owner of Bloom’s, a Reston-based florist, wanted to take time out to salute 10 of the area’s longest married couples. She had no trouble finding local marital success stories. Though open to couples in Herndon and Reston, the 10 winners all hailed from Reston, Dobberfuhl said. "We were delighted with the response to our contest,” the florist said. “The heart-warming stories offered by people who submitted nominations prove that romance is still alive."

To kick-off her company’s 10th year in Reston, Dobberfuhl decided to honor the 10 longest married couples with 10 dozen roses on the 10th day of February, just four days shy of Valentine’s Day. After personally delivering a dozen red roses to each of the top three couples, Dobberfuhl, who has been married for more than a quarter century, learned a few valuable lessons from the trio of married couples. “It’s all about a good sense of humor,” she said, laughing. “I’m too serious, I definitely need to lighten up.”

Here are the stories and secrets of three of the longest married couples in the Reston area:

<b>HERMAN AND FLORENCE LAZERSON, 62 YEARS</b>

It was the October 1939 when Herman Lazerson met his future wife Florence for the first time at the office water fountain at the Department of Welfare in Manhattan. “He saw me first,” she said. “I played hard to get.”

Not too hard apparently, because less than one year later, on July 20, 1940, the two native New Yorkers were married in the Bronx. “It was nothing fancy. Those were different times,” Florence Lazerson said. “You have to understand that the depth of the depression. Our ceremony was very plain and very quiet, just our close relatives and the rabbi.”

With more than six decades of marriage behind them, the Lazerson’s won the contest. Their friend and neighbor, Walter Conrad, entered the unsuspecting couple into the “Longest Lovers” contest.

Unable to explain the recipe for a “successful marriage,” Florence Lazerson still marvels at her own long-lasting nuptials. “Sometimes I wonder how we made it this far,” she said. “It’s love. It is nothing fancy. There are no secrets, just learn to compromise.”

Though, these days, her husband is confined to a bed and cannot speak more than a few words, the love is clearly still there. Florence Lazerson said ever since she got the news about the contest, her husband has been noticeably happy. “It’s wonderful,” she said, “He hasn’t smiled so much in a long time.”

Though they have marked 63 years together, neither Florence nor Herman, a former principal of P.S. 224 in New York, ever really celebrated Valentine’s Day or put much stock in anniversaries. Florence Lazerson said she is terrible about remembering important date. She said that sometimes her children had to remind her when their birthdays were or when her own anniversary date was.

“The best part of being married is being able to share one’s pleasures, one’s things and one’s children,” she said, eyeing the dozen red roses. “The first gift Herman ever gave me was a great big book on politics,” she said, smiling broadly. “How’s that for romance?”

<b>KARL AND JEANNE KAFFENBERGER, 59 YEARS</b>

Who says blind dates don’t work? Not Karl and Jeanne Kaffenberger. It was New Year’s Eve 1942 and a young pilot, on leave from the Army Air Corps, was coming home to Rockville Center, N.Y. Karl Kaffenberger’s sister was a good friend of Jeanne and managed to set up a New Year’s date for her brother and her friend, seven years his senior. “We traveled all around the town that night,” Jeanne Kaffenberger said. “That’s what you did there at that time.” Apparently, it worked because 10 months later, the two were married in Detroit, Mich. Now, four children, three grandchildren and nearly 60 years later, the couple calls Reston home. Laughter is a tonic for nearly all that can ail a marriage, the Kaffenberger’s said. “If you can’t laugh,” Karl Kaffenberger said. “You can’t make it.”

A real estate appraiser, Karl Kaffenberger, a South Carolina native, retired in 1997. “I worked in Karl’s office, kept an eye on the secretary,” she said, smiling. “It keeps the blood off the carpet, you know.”

In 1993, Kaffenberger and his wife moved to Northern Virginia from Granby, Conn, after a particularly brutal winter in 1995. While their daughter lives in Washington, D.C., their three sons still live in New England, so Reston’s close proximity to the airport proved important. “The winters up there used to be bearable, but the cold gets stale after awhile.” Jeanne Kaffenberger, who drives for FISH, said. “Once it turns green down here in the spring, the house fills up really quickly.”

<b>EDGAR AND BETTY GLICK, 59 YEARS</b>

Just minutes after being honored for her 59 years of marriage, Betty Glick rummaged through her newly delivered mail. Amidst the usual bills and anniversary cards, Glick pulled out an envelope promising love and happiness to single people in Northern Virginia. “I think I should keep this,” she deadpanned. “After 59 years, we do a lot of laughing — that is very important.”

She will not be filing Monday’s letter for safekeeping. Though she is just now getting comfortable with the Internet, Betty Glick won’t be logging on to Match.com, a popular matchmaking Web site, anytime soon, either. She has her man, thank you very much. Do not let the fact that she kids him like an annoying brother. Don’t be fooled because they hold each other’s hands like a couple of newlyweds. Betty and Edgar Glick, of Reston, celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary last week.

And like the Kaffenberger’s, the Glick’s have a very successful matchmaker to thank for their nearly 60 years together.

Two Pennsylvania natives, Betty Glick hails from Erie while her husband calls Pittsburgh home. It was in the Steel City that Betty and Edgar, who was in the Army at the time, first met on a blind date. The sparks were nearly instantaneous. They only saw each three more times before Edgar Glick proposed. Betty Glick was only 19 years old when the two got married in West Palm Beach, Fla. Edgar Glick wasn’t much older; he was only 20, though he managed to convince the authorities that he was a legal 21 years old. Edgar Glick also had to fool his future wife. Before their blind date, Edgar Glick learned that Betty Glick was a political junkie. When they were introduced, Edgar Glick arrived with a copy of the New Republic rolled under his arm. “I didn’t find out until years later that he never actually read the magazine, she said

“A great relationship is built on lies,” he said, laughing.

Shortly after the wedding, Edgar Glick was shipped off to Italy. It was a good thing he could write good letters, Betty Glick said, because it was a year-and-a-half before the newlyweds were reunited. “Wars, depressions, we lived it all together,” Betty Glick said. “I read that Post column that offers advice to the under 30-set, and I just have to laugh. They don’t know what trouble is.”

Like the Lazerson’s, the Glicks never spent too much time worrying about Valentine’s Day or on their anniversaries. Luckily for Edgar Glick, his Feb. 7 anniversary comes one week before Valentine’s Day. “So if he forgets, then he has one week to think it over,” Betty Glick said. This year, to celebrate the couple’s 60th anniversary, Edgar Glick said he will consider taking a big trip. “I am going to dope her and take her far away,” he joked.

“He may be going with someone else,” said Betty Glick, who doesn’t like to fly.

For a marriage to work, Betty Glick said that it is important to be nice to your partner. Edgar agreed, before adding that it is important to “always put the needs of others — especially your spouse — ahead of your own. Always. Just remember, ‘you come second.’”

One more ingredient goes into making a long, happy marriage, the couple agreed. Dancing. “He was the world’s greatest Jitterbug,” she said. “After his heart surgery in 1983, Ed took tap dancing classes with me. He was the only man in the class and he loved it.”