Lessons In Love From America's Longest-Married Couple

Feb 14, 2016

John and Ann Betar in the 1930s, shortly after celebrating their wedding. Because the two eloped, they didn't take wedding photos. They posed for this photo some time later.
Credit Courtesy of John and Ann Betar

If you need romantic advice on Valentine’s Day, you might want to ask the longest-married couple in the United States. John and Ann Betar have been married for 83 years. He’s 104, she’s 100. 

It started in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1932.

Ann Shawah was a popular high schooler who dreamed of going to college. John Betar was the “boy next door,” with a love of baseball and a brand-new Ford Roadster.

83 years later, they’re the longest-married couple in the United States — first earning that distinction in 2013 from Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

But it might not have been. Ann’s father wanted her to marry an older suitor. She was more interested in John.

“We were friends,” she said. “He’d drive me to school. The other guys went to the dance halls, or they played poker. He would get up on Sunday and get his baseball suit on and get in his little sports car.”

John felt the same way.

“She’s the girl I had loved,” he said. “Always. And I had wanted to marry her.”

“And he used his Roadster to do it!” added Ann.

John and Ann eloped to Harrison, New York and got married. In the 1960s, they moved to a little beach house in Fairfield, Connecticut. Today, they still share that same beach house.

Ann picked up a picture on a table in the living room that shows the whole family gathered for John’s 100th birthday: three children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

“Look at the grandchildren, the great grandchildren,” said Ann. “To have great-grandchildren coming up to you…feel their little arms around your neck, and you’ll get another 10 to 15 years of your life.”

Ann and John Betar at their waterfront home in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Credit Davis Dunavin / WSHU

This year, a few days before Valentine’s Day, they took part in an online Twitter Q&A. A lot of questions came from young couples looking for advice. Some wanted to know if there’s a secret to staying married for 83 years. The Betars say it’s simple.

“Be contented with what you have,” said John.

“Don’t count the differences that you have in life, and we all do,” said Ann. “Because we are two different people, no matter whether you’re married or not.”

And one more thing: remember all the value in little moments of affection.

“We touch each other,” said Ann. “We hang on to one another. Just a few little hugs and that’s it. We’re fine.”

“Amen,” adds John.