Sage advice | February 8, 2006 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- February 8, 2006

Sage advice

Couples' half-century marriages bring wisdom

by Nick Burr

The elixir for a long and successful marriage isn't found in a bottle. Just ask Jack and Beverly Hollen, a Mountain View couple celebrating 55 years of marriage this year. Marriage is full of surprises, some good, some bad. But through all of life's trials, two things remain constant for the Hollens: "Say 'I love you' every day. And laugh a lot," Beverly Hollen said.

The Hollens are among a rarified group of local couples who have celebrated more than a half-century of marriage and are still going strong. Lasting love takes commitment; an ability and willingness to adapt and good humor, they say.

The luck of the draw brought the Hollens together in the late 1940s, when they met at a college mixer. "We were both at Oregon State University and both living in the dorms and they had an exchange dance," Beverly Hollen said. "We went to dinner first and in order to pair couples off, the chairman cut a deck of cards in half at an angle and my card matched Jack's card.

"We went to dinner at the men's dorm, and we had a date together and then came to our (the women's) dorm to dance." After that, "it got better and better," she said. They tied the knot in 1951.

Their first trial happened on their wedding day. The wedding almost didn't happen.

Their officiant, an Episcopal bishop, was almost a no-show. "The wedding was at two and he wasn't there yet; and my brother-in-law, who was best man, was very upset that we should get a new bishop up right away. He got really nervous because he felt responsible," Hollen recalled.

The family made frantic plans for another clergyman to officiate, but luckily, their original bishop walked in just after Hollen's father had announced a replacement was coming, she said.

The Hollens moved to the Bay Area shortly thereafter to follow job opportunities. They lived briefly in San Carlos and other spots before settling in Mountain View in 1957.

They've had their share of challenges throughout the years, Hollen said. "We were confronted with several surgeries 19 years ago. We were confronted with the words 'You have cancer.'... I got through it with the family and with the help of my husband," she said.

But their marriage has also brought fine memories. "We had a boy and a girl --- that would be our greatest joy," she added.

The Hollens try to stay actively involved in the lives of their children, who now live in Utah with families of their own. Companionship --- not only each others' --- but from friends, family and even pets --- is an important aspect of their lives, they said. "We recommend that every retired couple has a dog, or two dogs. They get you out to walk and exercise --- they just give you love," Hollen said.

What's most important after 55 years of marriage? "Keep your health, I think that's the best part. Those are the three things --- say 'I love you' every day, laugh a lot, and keep your health," she said.

Henry and Veronica Fagundes of Mountain View have been married for almost 70 years. "If you really like a person you will know what love is," Henry Fagundes said.

A successful marriage requires the ability to adapt. "Common sense tells you that marriage is not a 50-50 deal. Sometimes it's 75-25. You must be able to deal with that," he added.

The couple met in 1936 in a dance hall in San Diego, where Henry was a U.S. Navy sailor. Veronica was a student at San Diego High School. A year later, they married. World War II took him away from Veronica when he was drafted into the Navy 1945, but he returned to San Diego after the war. He and Veronica first moved to Palo Alto in 1950, then left for Pacific Grove, returning to Palo Alto in 1989. The Fagundeses have shared their long marriage with a large family: three children, seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Their son Henry, Jr., and two daughters, Kathy and Patricia live in California.

Fagundes puts fidelity at the top of his list for successful marriage. "Honor your marriage vows or the union will fall apart," he said.

In 1993, Veronica was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and now lives with Henry and a caretaker. The couple emphasizes the role they each play in learning to survive and face challenges. "Over the years you learn how to handle all problems together. Love is the cement," Henry added.

Hannah and Meyer Scher, 57-year residents of Palo Alto, were also high school sweethearts. They celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in December. Natives of Manhattan's Lower East Side, they both attended school dances, where they kept bumping into each other. "Every time at a dance we'd meet again, and one thing led to another," Hannah Scher said. She and Meyer met at one such dance in 1941. Courtship came at an awkward time in history. During the Schers' courtship, Pearl Harbor was attacked, but three years later, they were married on East Broadway in New York City.

Even the celebration of marriage was characterized by the events of the time. "It was in-between the war, so you didn't make much of it," she said.

Hannah faced her first trial as a wife when, shortly after their marriage, Meyer went to Oahu to work at the naval shipyards. She followed him shortly thereafter, but leaving her city and her family behind for a life in Hawaii was a challenge. "I remember my sister saying I could still change my mind," she said.

Life with Meyer in California has been "very good to us, what it's offered us," she added. After nearly six decades in Palo Alto, having friends and family nearby has become a part of the happiness that she and Meyer find here. The Schers' six sons all live in California and the entire family gathers together each year for holidays. They have also taken cruises together in Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean.

In 2004, to celebrate their 60th anniversary, the Shers went on a cruise in the Caribbean with their six sons and 13 of their 15 grandchildren. Their accomplishments have become all the more valuable to their children, who are now raising kids of their own. "I don't know how you did it with six," a daughter-in-law who called her in frustration once said.

Raising six boys was indeed a challenge, but perhaps they gave her a philosophy with which to confront any challenge they might face in their marriage: "I look back, I don't know how I did it. You managed, you overcame --- and I overcame," she said.


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