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These Couples Tied the Knot Quite Tightly

August 10, 2005|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Marriage is too hard to be built on platitudes, Mimi Luft says. That's why she doesn't like the one about never going to bed angry.

"That's ridiculous," said the Ventura grandmother, 80. "That's not a true marriage. Things go wrong and you get mad. Then you get over it."

Luft knows a bit about the subject. She and her husband, Ted, 86, have been married 58 years -- long enough to place third in a spousal longevity derby held each year at the Ventura County Fair.

Known formally as the Blessings of Marriage, the event has become a friendly competition to see who has stuck it out the longest.

Nearly all of the 15 or so elderly couples who showed up to renew their vows Tuesday had already hit the 50-year mark.

Two couples had been married more than six decades. Ray and Virginia Moon of Ojai took top honors as the longest-married -- they exchanged I do's 65 years ago. They took home a mini-grill with charcoal and barbecue sauces.

"Love is a case of give and take," said Ray Moon, 87. "Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong."

The event has become an annual attraction at the Ventura County Fair, which ends its 10-day run Sunday. Couples from all over the county, and a few from even farther, converge to repeat vows in a nondenominational service.

For the last five years, Father George Sullivan of St. Anthony's Church in Oxnard has administered the exchange of vows. The Catholic priest said he initially volunteered because his own parents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

His parents attended each year after, until his mother died in December. His father carried on the tradition by showing up by himself Tuesday.

As his son led the crowd through the familiar pledge to love and honor, the elder Sullivan squeezed his eyes tight and silently mouthed the words.

Mimi Luft, sitting next to him, patted his arm before turning to her own husband.

The challenge of marriage emerged as a common theme as the couples took turns on stage introducing themselves and offering advice on what it takes to make it through good times and bad.

"Marriage takes two four-letter words to last," said one older bride, as about 100 fairgoers listened intently. "The first is 'love' and the other is 'work.' "

John Cimino, 83, married 63 years to Mary, 87, said that if you don't learn to compromise "you can forget about it."

"It's a lot of hard work, especially with children," said Cimino, a North Hills resident.

Mimi and Ted Luft met on a blind date in Brooklyn and were married within six weeks. After raising three children, they moved to California.

"We've been in Ventura 24 years," Ted Luft said.

"Twenty-five," his wife corrected.

She then turned to a visitor and grinned. "See, this is how a 58-year marriage works."

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