Diocesan News

Love, Hard Work, & Family Are Keys to Longest-Married Couples

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Not long into a conversation with Joseph and Sandra Valenza about their 65 years of marriage, it becomes clear that the deep appreciation they each have for one another’s sacrifices is a key to their success. 

Joseph credits his wife with always being home to take care of the kids when he would travel for work, which “took a lot of the pressure off.” Conversely, Sandra credits her husband with getting a second job as a collegiate baseball umpire to give the family more opportunities. 

“I must credit Joe because he got a second job. He did many years [umpiring], and that helped us with vacations,” Sandra said. “He worked pretty hard providing for all of us, so that’s a feather in his cap.” 

Added Joseph: “We leaned on each other more or less between raising the family and having to work.” 

The Tablet spoke with the Valenzas and the other longest-married couple in the Diocese of Brooklyn about the keys to their marriages and how they overcame obstacles over the years. A common thread in each conversation was the strength of their families. The couples also emphasized trust, faith, and love. 

For the Valenzas, their family has been the bedrock of their relationship from the very beginning. They remember the early days of their marriage when they put “every penny” they had into their first home, and a tight financial situation limited their family vacations to day trips to Jones Beach or Rockaway. 

Joseph said his wife did a “phenomenal job” making these excursions memorable for the entire family at a time when they couldn’t afford a vacation, calling the short trips “priceless.” 

The commitment to day trips and, eventually, yearly family vacations never wavered. Nor did the Valenzas commitment to celebrating together birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. 

“We’re pretty lucky. We have four children, and growing up, they didn’t really give us any trouble,” Joseph said. “We worked hard and pulled for each other, and family bonded us. There were little hiccups along the way, but it was bonding together for us.” 

The couple also noted the importance of weekly church attendance. 

Robert and Patricia Fallon, who have been married for 62 years, similarly highlighted the importance of family — they have six kids — in keeping their marriage happy and healthy. 

“The thing with our family is that we take care of each other,” Robert said. “That was the real strength and the cement that kept everything together. Plus, we loved each other.” 

Outside of family, the Fallons highlighted Robert’s work with the Knights of Columbus for allowing them to travel the world together to places that included Poland, the Philippines, and Mexico. Although, Patricia said their best memory was probably when their first child was born. 

And including this year’s 63rd, a key part of their marriage is celebrating each anniversary. 

“We do try to celebrate each one because each one is a blessing,” Patricia said. 

Outside of family, Joseph and Sandra both said love and hard work got them this far. Sandra noted that there was “love from the beginning.” Joseph highlighted that no matter how heated things got between them, their arguments always ended with an embrace and eventually a laugh, “becoming good times.” 

One thing the Valenzas will never agree on, however, is football. Joseph is a lifelong New York Giants fan. Sandra, a Philadelphia native, is a lifelong fan of the rival Philadelphia Eagles. 

The disdain between the two franchises and their respective fans runs deep. And when asked, Joseph made it clear that despite his wife’s fandom, he would not be rooting for the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12. The admission may have gotten him in some hot water. 

“There’ll be no hot wings and no dinner that night. How about that?” Sandra quipped in response.