Centreville's Anne and Phil Benedicto are proof that young love can last. They celebrated their 21st anniversary in December, but first met as high schoolers.
He was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Northern Virginia, and she was born in Alexandria and raised in Woodbridge. He went to an all-boys school, Bishop Ireton, and she attended an all-girls school, St. Mary's Academy, both in Alexandria.
When they met, he was a junior taking drama and she was a sophomore in the chorus. "My sister introduced us," said Anne. "He was in our mixed-chorus production at St. Mary's, and we were in Bishop Ireton's drama production."
"I asked her out, and that's all she wrote," said Phil, now 43 and in the information-technology field. "I thought she was cute, and I liked her energy and the fact that she had a strong, family background, like me. I always preferred dating girls with the same grounding in family values and religious beliefs as I had."
Anne, now 42 and a secretary at Centre Ridge Elementary, thought Phil was "funny, talented and just a great guy, all around. He was easy to talk to. I liked his honesty, and he had an excitement for life and an appreciation for everything."
She then attended a small college in Winchester, and he went to GMU and "spent lots of gas visiting her on weekends." Said Phil: "We first went out in 1978 and married on Dec. 30, 1982." They've lived in Centre Ridge, the past nine years, and are the parents of two boys, Anthony, 15, a sophomore at Bishop O'Connell, and Stephen, 13, a seventh-grader at St. Ann School.
Together, they enjoy shopping, going on vacations to Florida, seeing movies and visiting with friends and relatives. "A lot of our activities also center around our church, Holy Transfiguration in McLean," added Phil. "We're the directors of the youth group there."
On Valentine's Day, said Anne, her husband is the romantic. "In college, he sent me a box, and out came a big, heart-shaped balloon," she said. "One year, he gave me jewelry hanging off of a rose. And he's also given me cards and candy — he always remembers."
She believes the keys to a happy marriage are "to be kind, be loving and be giving — and have respect for one another." And Phil attributes their long, successful relationship to understanding what marriage is and isn't.
"A lot of people base it on [the notion of] 'What is this person going to do for me?'" he said. "But it's a commitment — it's a decision you make. Feelings move up and down, but commitment is a choice you make — and that's what makes it last."
Phil also believes in the words of a quote whose author he can't remember, but whose message he took to heart: "Marriage is not two people looking at each other, but two people looking in the same direction."