FAIRFIELD, Conn. — John and Ann Betar weren’t supposed to get married. Her father had arranged for her to wed another man, but she and John fled Bridgeport, Conn., and eloped in New York.
That was more than 80 years ago. The couple is still happily hitched, a fact that has led to their naming as the “longest married couple" in the U.S. for 2013 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Christian marriage group based in San Bernardino, Calif.
The Betars are scheduled to receive a plaque and other gifts from the group at their granddaughter’s home in Fairfield on Saturday.
They told the New York Daily News that there are no secrets to a long marriage, only a few simple rules.
“We just live with contentment and we don’t live beyond our means," John Betar said. “Just go with the flow."
John’s now 101 years old and Ann is 97, and they’re still living in their home along the Fairfield shore. They had five children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Two of their children died in their 60s.
Ron and Judy Pekny of Worldwide Marriage Encounter say the title of “longest married couple" is based on nominations the group received, so there may be some couples who have been married longer.
John and Ann grew up across the street from each other in Bridgeport, and John used to drive Ann to high school in his Ford Roadster. They fell in love. When her father arranged for her to marry someone else, they eloped in Harrison, N.Y., about 25 miles north of New York City.
John went on to open a grocery store in Bridgeport.
Ann Betar told the Hearst Connecticut Media Group around their 80th anniversary in November that family has been a key to their longevity.
“That’s what makes life what it is," she said. “We were fortunate enough to live long enough to see this ... and it’s really one of the most gratifying things in the world to see your great-grandchildren, to see your grandchildren become adults."
John Betar added, “That’s what keeps us alive. We live for them."