As a teenager in the early 1940s, Stamford native William Symanko would visit the corner store owned by his future father-in-law, Anthony Cerulli, in the South End to see Barbara Cerulli. Anthony Cerulli would give him a broom to do some sweeping.
“They had the cleanest store in the South End,” said William Symank, who is now 87.
“That was when it was the dirty and glorious old South End,” Barbara Symanko said.
Later, during World War II, Barbara Cerulli would send William Symanko care packages with candy, socks, and other comforts in Europe, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
In 1948, the couple tied the knot at Holy Name Church in Stamford. They will celebrate their 65th anniversary Nov. 20.
“It’s been a very happy marriage and very blessed,” Barbara Symanko said.
The Symankos and 14 other married couples celebrated Mass and renewed their marriage vows during the 11:30 p.m. service Sunday at St. Leo Roman Catholic Church on Roxbury Road, an annual tradition at the parish.
The invited couples, all of whom have been married 25 years or longer, had “been witness of God’s love in the world” for a combined 600 years of matrimony, said the Rev. Leszek P. Szymaszek, who celebrating the Mass.
After the Mass, the invited couples were treated to a brunch in the parish hall and presented with a certificate recognizing the milestone of 25, 30, 35, 40 or more than 50 years of marriage.
In discussing the longevity of their unions, some expressed gratitude for help through trying times and finding the right person, as well as speaking of unexpected joys and challenges.
Paul and Ann Marie Fiscella, who were married in 1983, said they have shared highs and lows, and felt blessed by their sons, Andrew, 17, and Paul, 23.
“We understand each other,” Ann Marie Fiscella said. “We’re happy and we realize that happiness is not what you have in the bank but the love you share.”
Walter Cortese, 87, and Carole Cortese, 74, met in New York City, where he was an advertising executive and she his secretary.
Soon after marrying in 1958, the first of three children arrived as Walter Cortese was sidelined from traveling and work by aseptic necrosis, which hobbled him for nearly 2 ½ years, Walter Cortese recalled. Carol Cortese never wavered in her support, Cortese said.
“When I met her I realized she was mature beyond her years, and I’d never met the type of woman who I thought would be the type of mother I would want for my children,” Walter Cortese said. “I also hoped I would be the kind of husband and father she wanted.”
Walter Cortese said his ailment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” after he became an investment manager for Merrill Lynch, a good job that allowed him to spend more time with his family.
“Right away I loved his honesty and his vitality,” Carole Cortese recalled. “He was always very enthusiastic and positive.”
“I’ve always been enthusiastic,” Walter said, pointing to a glass of orange juice. “This glass is half full, not half empty.”
Munger recalled their first blind date when they went dancing and had a drink in Port Chester, N.Y.
“You’ve got to work together because there will be tough times for better and for worse,” he said.
Munger expressed gratitude for his wife’s work handling much of the child rearing during his 25-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“She did a lot of the work raising the kids and I married into a great family and have the most supportive sisters-in-law in the world,” he said.
For Alfred and Theresa McCoy, who will celebrate their 53rd anniversary Wednesday, a successful marriage was based on common values as well as complementary personalities.
“My mother is patient and sweet, while my father might be stronger-minded but together you could say opposites attracted,” said their daughter, Therese Papadopoulos.
Alfred McCoy, 79, first met Theresa as a young man when he was growing up in Mexico City, but the need to obtain a college degree and start his career drew him to the United States to attend Marquette University.
“We kept each other in mind over the years,” Theresa McCoy said.
When he returned to Mexico City in the late 1950s, Alfred McCoy rekindled his friendship with Theresa, three years his junior, and decided quickly he had met his match.
“I had been very busy getting my education and I wanted to be secure financially before I got married,” Alfred McCoy said. “We’ve had a beautiful life together.”