By Tammy Scileppi
Their story began in New York City during World War II.
Ronnie and Hank Arond, now 91 and 92, found love on March 4, 1943.
It was their first date. The lovebirds tied the knot exactly one year later.
The still-happy couple has been married 71 years and counting.
In a phone interview from their Bellerose home — they saw it being built and moved in 66 years ago — the young-sounding marrieds seemed eager to talk about a romance that has lasted a lifetime.
Unlike so many modern-day relationships that are headed for a break-up or divorce court, it is apparent that theirs has never turned stale and is still going strong. In fact, the term “dynamic duo” best describes their vitality and outgoing personalities.
And, it seems quite clear that maintaining a sense of humor has been a top priority in the Aronds’ marriage.
Perhaps, it is the glue that has kept them in sync for so long.
Hank Arond recounted how he first met his future wife. While his family was vacationing in Upstate New York, he came up to visit and met a girl. The two double-dated with a fetching young woman in his girlfriend’s class, who really caught his eye. In a bold move, he mustered up the courage to ask his girlfriend for her friend Ronnie’s phone number.
That fateful moment took place in Grand Central Station before she boarded her train back home. He and his new girl made a date for March 4. She was 18, he was 19.
The WW II veterans met two weeks before Hank went into the army. Ronnie, a registered nurse, had become an Army nurse and an officer after graduating from nursing school. Her husband quipped, “I still have to salute her.”
He was an enlisted man, stationed at New York University at a special program, doing communications.
Later, he became an electrical engineer but also pursued his passion: playing the violin and performing with the Great Neck Symphony Orchestra.
When Ronnie worked in a hospital caring for wounded soldiers, she remembered that the nurses would jokingly say they were stationed “overseas” because they had to cross the Verrazano Bridge to get to Staten Island.
“On our first date, the first thing we did was go shopping for Ronnie’s mother,” Hank said. “I was a very fancy guy and we saw a Broadway show; we think it was ‘Shadow of a Doubt.’”
The following day, the two had a second date, where Ronnie introduced her new beau to her best friend.
Ronnie called Hank the next day and asked if he would be her escort to her sister’s wedding the following afternoon, because her boyfriend, who was in the Navy, was stuck in Washington, D.C.
“By Sunday afternoon, I met her whole family, both sides,” Hank said. “That afternoon I took her to meet my family in The Bronx.”
These days, being married 71 years is truly a remarkable achievement.
“It’s really 35 1/2 because half the time I don’t listen to him and half the time he doesn’t listen to me,” Ronnie said.
So how do they keep the spark alive after seven decades?
Hank said they do a lot together. They both love socializing and believe in staying active.
“I owned a sail boat and we went sailing for about 30 years to places like Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island,” he said.
Blessed with good health, boundless energy and unhampered by medical issues that often affect older folks’ quality of life, they seem to be living it up and are truly enjoying their golden years together.
“We feel good,” Hank, who boasts that they still go swimming seven days a week, said.
Having been members since 1952 they are very involved with the Cross Island YMCA on Hillside Avenue. Ronnie has been teaching yoga for over 20 years, along with synchronized swimming. In her spare time, she performs scenes from plays with a drama club for seniors called STAR.
You can say that giving back seems to be in the couples’ DNA.
They received a Queens Impact Award in 2014 for their ongoing volunteer work in the community.
But no matter how busy they’ve been, the Aronds have always cherished family time.
Their son, 68, is a pediatrician; their daughter, 65, a nurse. They have two grandchildren, aged 35 and 31, and a great-granddaughter, who is 12.
Another key element that has helped keep their marriage intact is the couples’ deep spirituality.
With about half of all marriages ending in divorce, how did the Aronds beat the odds as they journeyed side by side along the highway of life? The couple shared some secrets.
“Every time I make a mistake, he has to apologize,” Ronnie said.
“We go out once every two or three weeks to a nice French restaurant, “ Hank said. “She goes on Tuesday and I go on Thursday.”
Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Florida as they have for years, the soulmates are now enjoying two months of relaxation and downtime at a Pompano Beach resort, while visiting their daughter.
“They have a big party for us. I play the violin there. We have a lot of fun,” Hank said.