Ronnie & Mary Cavalieri
After posting my first Valentine Couple, I got a phone call from someone (Barbara), asking if I would be interested in interviewing her parents as they’d been married for 65 years. Of course! I quickly packed up my notebook and camera and headed on over there.
I came in and we all introduced ourselves and I took a seat. I noticed the New York accent and asked where they were from. Mary explained they’re from New York, but moved here to be closer to their daughter. Ronnie is in a motorized wheelchair. I only mention this because his story is amazing on its own. He was a 19-year-old bricklayer when he was diagnosed with Polio.
“I spent almost a year in the hospital, you know, for treatments and that, and then when I came out, I walked out of the hospital. Then, I went back to work as a bricklayer.”
“You did?” I asked in surprise.
I expressed that as a retired nurse myself, Polio was not a big problem in the medical field when I was working. What I knew of it was limited knowledge.
“Well, you have a period of...something like a remission,” Ronnie explained. “After so many years, it really starts to affect the muscles, though.”
“So, you’ve been married 65 years.” I stated, remembering their daughter, Barbara’s, comment to me. “How old are you now?”
“Yes, we’ve been married 65 years; 66 years as of this April,” Mary answered. “Ronnie is 89 and I’m 86.”
Ronnie was full of stories, too, which he shared with me. In marriages, one is always the storyteller or comedian and in this one, it was Ronnie (I wonder who it is in my marriage?).
“How did you two meet?” I asked going back to my notebook.
Mary laughed a little before answering the question. “I was working in a bank at the time and his brother was my supervisor. One night, he asked me if I would like to go out on a date with his brother...he was talking about Ronnie...and I said that I would.”
“It was a blind date,” Ronnie added.
“Really? A blind date?” This was interesting.
Both nodded in agreement as Mary went on, “We double dated with his brother, my supervisor, and his wife.”
I had to ask and if you’ve been reading my columns, you knew it was coming. “Who knew first? Who knew you wanted to be together forever?”
Ronnie and Mary looked at each other and shrugged. Together, they answered at the same time, “It just kind of happened. We just knew.”
“It wasn’t long after we started dating that we got married,” Ronnie threw in. “Back in those days, people didn’t have long engagements.”
“No, no long engagements at all. Families just didn’t go for that back in those days,” Mary agreed. “We dated for about six months, and then we were engaged for six months, and that was that.”
Knowing this lovely couple is eloquently old fashioned, I asked, “Did you get down on one knee and ask her to marry you?”
With a laugh, Ronnie answered, “No, I didn’t do that.”
I asked about the families; if there were difficulties since these two were raised with different cultural upbringings. Historically speaking, from the early 1900s to around the late 1950s, upbringing had a lot to do with your family’s culture and it was very important. That being said, Ronnie is Italian and his grandparents hailed from Italy, while Mary’s family was Irish and German. Mary’s mother was an Irish immigrant and came through Ellis Island and her father is of German descent.
“Everyone got along well,” Mary said of the two different families.
Eventually, Ronnie quit bricklaying and Mary quit working at the bank. She stayed home to raise their four children while Ronnie opened up his own fast-food business, Chicken Delight.
“We had the four kids because we needed help with the business,” Ronnie said laughingly. “They’ve all four worked in the restaurant and you should see them all cut up a chicken, too.”
As we were bringing things to a close, I asked for their own recipe for a lasting marriage. If anyone guessed that God was the first thing on their list, they’d be right.
“Going to church is very important,” Mary said with conviction, “And taking care of one another.”
Ronnie nodded in agreement. “You need communication and also commitment. Someone once told me: Marriage is not 50/50 it’s is 100/100% all the time.”
I jotted some of my notes as I said, “Yes, someone else said that, too.”
“Trust,” Mary said adding to the list. “You have to be able to trust one another.”
As a last ingredient, Ronnie said, “And, don’t go to bed angry.”
I had heard that piece of advice years ago, so jokingly, I said, “Ha! I sure will tell my husband that he made me mad and now I’m going to bed mad at him.”
I finished up and closed my notebook. These two, like all of the others, has been an inspiration and truly, it was a pleasure to have met them. Thank you for this opportunity to write about you and I hope that you both have many more wonderful Valentine’s Day celebrations together.