Several dozen Maple Pointe residents sat in the Rockville Centre assisted living center’s second-floor theater on Sept. 13, where posters adorning the room displayed movie icons like Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, even King Kong.
But the big screen at the front of the room featured a photo slideshow of local stars Arthur and Patricia Saftler and Joe and Florence Saitta as audience members waited in anticipation for the couples to recreate their weddings and renew their vows to each other. An instrumental of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” played beneath the buzzing conversations. Some cried as they viewed the photos, some of which were romantic snapshots of the couples’ younger years.
Arthur, 89, who stood in the back of the theater, waited for his bride. He looked at the crowd. “We’re packing the house,” he said smiling. He turned to Florence, 87, who stood behind her husband, Joe, 88. “As we say in French, Mazel Tov,” Arthur joked.” They broke up in laughter. A few minutes later, Patricia, 88, walked out of a back hallway dressed in white, greeting her husband before the ceremony commenced.
Last week marked National Assisted Living Week, and this year’s theme focused on encouraging seniors to look back at pivotal moments in their life. “What’s bigger than their wedding day?” said Tammy Marshall, executive director of Maple Pointe. “…We wanted to capture this for them and relive it for them.”
Arthur and Patricia, former residents of Long Beach and Merrick, have lived at Maple Pointe for about two years and got married on April 4, 1974, in Queens. Patricia’s cousin, who was a rabbi, had officiated the wedding. This time, Barbara Prins, a member of Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth, led the vow renewal.
“It was spectacular,” Arthur said, noting the number of people that attended. “We didn’t expect that.” He added the secret to a good marriage: “Liking each other,” he said, looking at Patricia. “You know, loving is one thing, but to like each other is so important.”
For Joe and Florence, Msgr. William Koenig, rector of St. Agnes Cathedral, officiated the ceremony. The couple, originally from Brooklyn, got married on July 1, 1950. They are former residents of Valley Stream and have lived at Maple Pointe for nearly three years.
“If you have a fight, never go to bed mad,” Florence said, giving her best advice for a healthy partnership. “The best part is making up,” she added, laughing.
Joe chimed in, “Just say ‘Yes, dear’ and you’ll stay out of a lot of trouble.” He added that he and Florence had renewed their vows on their 50th anniversary and said he hopes they can do it again for their 70th anniversary in two years.
“People don’t stay married this long anymore,” said their daughter Joyce Angelopoulos, noting that they’ve been through a lot but still love each other.
The celebration continued later that evening, as the couples and their Maple Pointe friends joined them for a dinner reception and cake.
“Sometimes you have these visions in your head and you’re not sure how they’re going to unravel,” said Maple Pointe Recreation Director Andrea Rivette, who helped organize the event, with a big smile on her face. “When you watch it unravel in front of you, it’s breathtaking.”