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At every table, there's a love that lasts

About 70 years ago, when Lee James was in grade school in West Virginia, he wrote a note to his schoolmate, Alta Dawson, and asked her to be his girl.

She has been his girl ever since.

Lee, 80, and Alta, 82, were married in Bristol, W.

Va., July 7, 1929, after they drove to the parson's house in James' Model T Ford.

Mr. and Mrs. James were among 10 couples who celebrated more than 375 combined years of marriage during a Sweethearts Luncheon at Greenbrook Nursing Center on Wednesday afternoon.

A pink linen tablecloth with a silk rose centerpiece adorned each couple's table. Some couples had paintings and black-and-white photographs of their weddings at their tables. White and red helium balloons loomed above the tables while cardboard Cupids dangled from the ceiling. The sounds of I'm in the Mood for Love and other love songs filled the room as a violinist and pianist played.

"We really enjoy doing it," said Anne McMahon, assistant administrator at Greenbrook. "We really get a lot out of it just to see (the residents) so happy. It just really makes our whole day."

When Dan and Olympia Iuzzolino walked into the Greenbrook dining hall, they were serenaded by I Only Have Eyes for You, their special song, according to Iuzzolino. He said the two musicians remembered the couple's song from last year.

The Iuzzolinos met in Newark, N.J., in the 1930s when she worked in a shoe store and he worked in a nearby grocery store. Iuzzolino's friend bet him two packs of cigarettes that he couldn't get a date with Olympia, so he asked. "And she said yes," he said. "Needless to say, I won the bet." The couple were married Oct. 9, 1938, in Newark.

"We've had our ins and outs," said Iuzzolino, 78, but "it was a good life all and all."

Mrs. Iuzzolino, 77, has been in the nursing center for about six years, Iuzzolino said. "I wouldn't desert her for the world."

The Iuzzolinos agreed about the key to a successful marriage: Don't rush into it. Make sure. That's what the Iuzzolinos did, they said.

Other married couples at the luncheon were Morrell and Harriet Blesh, 63 years; Herbert and Alvera Volz, 60 years; Robert and Virginia Mollenhaur, 54 years; Harold and Opal Evans, 42 years; John and Doris Borgeson, 35 years; Charles and Gertrude Borquin, 11 years; Douglas and Vivian Agne, eight years; and Weldon and Bertha Andrews, six years.

Today the nursing center will have a Valentine's Day party for all residents.

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