By Zach Patberg
But in a time when divorce rates are on the rise, the real question for the Bailens and two dozen other senior couples who showed up at a Queens senior center last week to renew their vows was, how did you make it last?For Jack Brezil, of Bell Park- whose 66-year marriage to Helen proved to be the longest in a group of elderly romantics known to take “till death do you part” quite literally – the secret lay in the constant reminder.”You got to get up in the morning and say I love you,” he said. “And you got go to bed and say I love you.”That credo appears to have worked for the 24 couples standing Friday in a line in the hallway of the Queens Village's SNAP Senior Center, which has honored in the past five Valentine's Days their seniors who have stayed hitched for more than 50 years.They were waiting for their cue to pass through a chuppah into the center's dining hall where state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), accompanied by his brother, City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), were ready to hand them marriage citations and a sun catcher.”Walk in with the ladies on your right hand, opposite this leg,” the center's director, Elaine Fleischman, said, lifting her left knee.”Would you repeat part of that?” one wife asked.It had been a while.Once they were all in and applause from fellow seniors had died down, Assemblyman Weprin gave an improvised version of the vow recitation that ended with a chorused “I do.”The men kissed their brides.Of SNAP's 4,000 clients, at least 2,300 are over 80 and a minimum of 1,400 are over 85, Executive Director Linda Leest said. Nevertheless, only 46 couples had reached the pinnacle of a half-century marriage. About half of those were homebound and could not make the ceremony.Through it all, they say their bond is stronger than ever – albeit with a few bumps along the way.”She's the best nurse I ever had,” Jack Brezil said of his wife, who took a militant approach to caring for his diabetes and the aftermath of having four feet of intestines removed. “Her food was so-so.”Helen Brezil was quick to counter. “He's very bossy.”For John and Beruadette Mazzucco, December will mark a 60th wedding anniversary. John met his future bride, who is French, at an Army dance in Normandy where he was stationed briefly following the war.As to what ended up winning her over, Beruadette, recalling a small but brazen question often first tried out at a prom, shrugged and said:”He asked me to dance.”Reach reporter Zach Patberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.