To commemorate Valentine’s Day, we traveled the Key in search of residents’ stories of love and luck.
Bill and Lois Cohodas
Wedding: Dec. 25, 1939, in Chicago
How they met: Through Bill Cohodas’ sister
Love Lesson: Embrace your in-laws.
Lois Cohodas owes the last 73 years of happiness to initially choosing the wrong school.
In fall 1937, at the University of Chicago, she attended a mixer for transfer students, where she met Heather Cohodas, who would become her best friend — and sister-in-law. Heather introduced Lois to her older brother, Bill, the following semester, in March 1938, when he visited from Michigan.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but the two grew more fond of each other each time he visited Chicago; his visits eventually became every two weeks. A trip to Michigan for Thanksgiving 1938 convinced Lois Cohodas she had found Mr. Right.
“I felt at home with his wonderful family,” she says.
Bill Cohodas’ feelings were escalating, too. When he dropped his sister and Lois Cohodas off at the train station to go back to school, he signaled Lois to drop back for a second, so he could ask an important question: “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”
The couple rang in 1939 at The Drake, a swanky Chicago hotel. Three-hundred-fifty-nine days later, they returned to The Drake as husband and wife, following a bedside ceremony in Lois Cohodas’ mother’s hospital room.
The Cohodases dispute who actually popped the question but agree they felt inspired to take the plunge knowing they had a strong support system on either side of their families. Seven decades later, they indeed have countless anecdotes of family helping them through tough times.
“Aside from good health, that’s the biggest secret to our longevity,” Lois Cohodas says.
Neil and Bonnie Marcuson
Wedding: April 30, 1966, in Bethel Park, Pa.
How they met: Latin class at Mount Lebanon High School, in Pittsburgh
Love lesson: Show your spouse appreciation daily.
There were definitely fireworks on Neil and Bonnie Marcuson’s first date: July 4, 1958.
Classmates who bonded over high school Latin — “She was good at it; I needed help,” Neil Marcuson says — the Marcusons quickly became much closer after Neil Marcuson asked her out that summer. Although the soulmates were lucky to meet in adolescence, their relationship started with a little adversity.
“My mother kept making me break up with Neil,” says Bonnie Marcuson, explaining that they came from different religious upbringings. She’s Catholic; he’s Jewish. Her parents sent her to Dunbarton College of Holy Cross, in Washington, D.C., “in hopes, I think, that I’d meet a wealthy Catholic boy and be done with Neil,” she says.
No chance. Throughout college, Bonnie and Neil Marcuson dated secretly. She wrote him bi-weekly letters; he called a few times a month. Then, in January 1965, she told her family she had to be at school a few days early. When her parents dropped her off at the Pittsburgh Greyhound station, she actually boarded a train to Syracuse, N.Y., where she met Neil Marcuson, a senior at Hobart College, who proposed on that surreptitious visit.
Twenty years after the Marcusons wed, Bonnie’s mother admitted that her daughter picked the right spouse. That is something neither Neil nor Bonnie Marcuson has ever second-guessed. Both show their affection regularly. She cooks him chicken, his favorite meal, Monday through Friday, and he tells her, “You’re beautiful and I love you,” at least once a day.
Bill and Cathy Bishop
Wedding: Dec. 29, 1971, in South Bend, Ind.
How they met: At a swimming pool for special-needs kids’ lessons
Love lesson: Don’t think 50/50 when you compromise. Give 60%; expect 40%.
Cute children served as little Cupids for Bill and Cathy Bishop.
A counselor for special-needs boys, Bill Bishop met his future wife, a swim instructor, at a pool in South Bend, Ind., where she gave lessons. Smitten with the girl “with the long brown hair,” Bishop put the boys on a Michael Phelps-esque regimen so he could see more of Cathy.
It worked. The Bishops were soon inseparable. They spent the rest of the summer horseback riding on his family farm and waterskiing at her family lake house.
“We had the most fun dating,” Cathy Bishop recalls.
“Until fall came,” says Bill Bishop.
Then, she left for the University of South Florida, he for Indiana University. But, they survived the test of a 1,009-mile-distance courtship and, two years later, married.
The marriage started with a test of Bill Bishop’s devotion when their honeymoon suite in the Poconos lacked a functional TV.
“It was New Year’s Day and she told me she’d never missed a Rose Parade,” Bill Bishop says, laughing at the memory of lugging an 80-pound replacement TV through the snow.
But, every struggle they faced as a married couple felt less challenging than their long-distance courtship, they say, because they had each other.
And, 40 years after watching their first Rose Parade as husband and wife, he surprised her with fifth-row bleacher tickets at the real thing, which she watched with the same enraptured attention as when she was a 21-year-old newlywed.
“I literally took 1,000 photos,” she says.
Larry and Gennifer Ford
Wedding: June 20, 1961, in Las Vegas
How they met: On a double date
Love lesson: Find mutual interests, but maintain a little individuality.
Larry and Gennifer Ford’s romance started in a rearview mirror. It was 1959, in San Bernandino, Calif., and the couple was on a double date. But they weren’t paired with each other.
“She was in the backseat with my friend,” says Larry Ford, who admitted to stealing glances in the rearview mirror. “But her eyes were flirting with me.”
“I gave him a few winks,” Gennifer Ford says.
A few weeks later, Larry Ford, a freshman at Claremont Men’s College, asked his buddy if he could ask Gennifer out on a date. She was a senior at Pacific High School. His answer: “Sure, but she’ll shoot you down.” She didn’t.
They saw a drive-in movie for their first date. Later they went to her prom. Two years later, they eloped to Las Vegas and got married in a Methodist church.
“I was ready to move out of my parents’ home and into his,” Gennifer Ford says, though she never imagined just how many homes the two would acquire.
Upon graduation, Larry Ford started a job with IBM, which became a 28-year career that moved the couple to Washington, D.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; New Orleans; Boston; Philadelphia; Tokyo; Greenwich, Conn.; and much of South America. Subsequent positions with Systems Software Associates and ADC Telecommunications took them to Chicago and Minneapolis, respectively, before they built their Bay Isles home in 2000.
Frequent moves may tire some couples, but the Fords credit the change of scenery and lifestyle with keeping the flame alive.
“We’ve never been bored,” Gennifer Ford says.
And at each new home, they’ve picked up more hobbies. Some include activities they do together, such as Cajun- and Japanese-style cooking, riding ATVs and visiting farmers markets, whereas others they enjoy individually. Gennifer Ford paints; Larry Ford plays tennis.
“Mutual interests have helped us enjoy each other’s company more and more each decade,” Larry says. “At the same time, we’ve never lost our individuality.”
They agree that Larry Ford’s analytical background complements Gennifer Ford’s artistic side.
Two summers ago, the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary by renewing their vows at the High Lonesome Ranch, in De Beque, Colo. No family members or friends joined them as they “tightened” the knot. It felt fitting to keep the ceremony private because “that’s exactly how we started our marriage — just the two of us,” says Gennifer Ford.
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Hat's off to Dee Pelton, volunteers
Dee Pelton held a luncheon that will be tough to top.
Youth sailors descend on City Island
Approximately 250 people hit the water Saturday, April 20 through Sunday, April 21, for Sailfest. The regatta, Sarasota Youth Sailing's biggest fundraiser of the year, included four classes of competition — Optimus, 420, Laser and Multi-hull — and a barbecue feast.
Book club sunsets for the season
The Sunset Beach Book Club, in its 10th year, ended this season with a luncheon and discussion of the book “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn, April 18, at Lazy Lobster. Discussion moderator was Ricki Carroll. Together, the group read five books this season.