METHUEN — Sitting in their apartment Tufic “Teo” and Jennie Assad talk about memories they hold dear over nearly three-quarters of a century of marriage — raising two children, their faith, playing badminton, hosting barbecues in their backyard and traveling to Las Vegas, Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Acapulco.
The Assads have known each other since they were teenagers and celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary on June 24.
“We’ve had a lot of good years and I thank God for that,” Teo Assad said.
Few married couples make it to their 70th anniversary.
How rare is it?
According to some reports, of all the married couples in the nation in 2011, 39 percent had been married for 25 years.
Seven percent had made it to their 50th.
And 0.01 percent had been married for 70 years.
Americans believe that love is the main foundation of marriage. Most who never have been married say they would like to be at some point in their lives. However, statistics show Americans aren’t rushing to the altar, and the U.S. marriage rate is at an all-time low — only 51 percent of adults were married in 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
The romantic ideal of marriage plays out in survey data that show whether they are married or not, Americans are more inclined to choose “love” as a reason for marriage than any other factor. In a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, love wins out over “making a lifelong commitment,” as well as “companionship,” “having childen” and “financial stability” as important reasons for getting married.
Among married people, 93 percent say love is a very important reason to get married; 84 percent of unmarried people say so. Men and women are equally likely to say love is a very important reason to get married.
Teo Assad was born and raised in Lawrence, one of seven boys and one girl. Jennie was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and came to Lawrence as a little girl. His parents are from Lebanon and Jennie’s mother was from Aleppo and her father from Beirut.
He served in England, Ireland and the Philippines with the Navy during World War II, along with five of his brothers who were in the Army.
He had to quit high school to work and help raise his siblings after his father died at age 39. He baked Syrian bread for 24 years at a Lebanese bakery, then in 1960 was a quality control supervisor at Raytheon Corp. later at Honeywell, Avco Corp. from which he retired in 1980.
Jennie Assad was a saleswoman in local markets. During her spare time, she enjoyed making arts and crafts and is known among family and friends for her delicious Lebanese cuisine.
They were neighbors. She lived on Oak Street and he on Chestnut Street. Teo worked for Sunshine Oil and he delivered oil in the winter and ice in the summer to her family.
Her mother was not too keen about Teo or any other men wooing her daughter, but he was persistent. One time, Jennie and her mother were returning from Brooklyn so he borrowed a car and met them at the bus depot to take them home, and possibly win her mother over.
“She was good looking and a nice person,” Assad said as to what attracted him to her.
Once they started dating, they would watch a movie on Sundays, then go to Cedar Crest to eat; drive to Canobie Lake Park or spend the day at Salisbury Beach.
They were married by a justice of the peace in October 1939 and had their marriage blessed at St. Anthony Church on Jan. 24, 1940. They honeymooned in Pennsylvania and New York, where they attended the 1940 World’s Fair.
Teo Assad, 94, said being tolerant is one of the secrets to their successful marriage.
“I have many faults and she has a few, and we have to live with each other. Your husband and wife come first and nothing should come between the two of you,” he said.
Jennie Assad, 92, said communication is also important.
“Once you talk things over, it all seems minor when you think about it,” she said. “We also laugh a lot.”
The Assads have two children, Marsha Tartaglia and Gerald P. Assad; four grandchildren, Jennifer and Glen Tartaglia, Gerald Assad Jr. and Grace Kelley and two great-grandchildren, Brendan and Cameron Kelley.
When the children were growing up, the family would go to The Frolics at Salisbury Beach where they saw Paul Anka three years in a row. Another time, Tony Bennet shook Assad’s hand while at The Frolics.
Tartaglia said her parents also passed on their deep faith.
“We grew up in the church and God is very important in our lives,” said Tartaglia who has been married to her husband Robert for 35 years.
Their children and grandchildren celebrate each milestone with a special event. They hosted a garden party for the 25th wedding anniversary. For the 50th, they held a reception at Bishop’s Restaurant, followed by a trip to Bermuda. The 60th anniversary family members and friends feted them at a party in Plaistow.
“Knowing each other so long, I either finish her sentences or make corrections,” he said. “Or I remember things that she doesn’t.”
Jennie Assad was at Mary Immaculate Nursing and Restorative Center after falling. Teo was by her bedside feeding her, taking care of her until she was able to come home.
“We’ve had great years together. I wish we could start over again,” he said.
Their daughter Marsha, calls it “a true love story.”