When Jim Sheehan looks back on 50 years of marriage to his wife, Patricia Sheehan, he marvels. They recently celebrated their anniversary at Fenway Park.
“How did we do it?” the 82-year-old asked his wife with a sheepish grin. She smiled back and shrugged.
When they met, he was a redhead, which was the first thing Patricia noticed about him. He was also cool and hip, she said.
He still is. Funny, too.
“I noticed that she was very beautiful and anxious to date me,” Jim said. His wife gave him a look.
“Well, I was beautiful,” she said. The rest she couldn’t vouch for. He brought four kids into their marriage, and she brought three. They both brought baggage, she admitted. They survived tragedy, including the loss of their youngest, but have supported each other through it all.
On Tuesday, the Sheehans celebrated their journey with 74 other couples who’d been together for at least 50 years at the Boston Commission on Affairs of the Elderly’s annual Golden Anniversary Celebration. All couples received certificates signed by the mayor, champagne flutes, and ate lunch and dessert at the Four Seasons, while enjoying music and dancing.
It was the event’s 40th anniversary and the commission’s 50th anniversary this year, which meant there was even more to celebrate, said Emily Shea, commissioner on affairs of the elderly.
“Be proud of your lives together,” Shea said. “We’re celebrating all of you and your lasting relationships.”
Since the event’s inception in 1979, close to 2,000 couples from all over Boston have been honored. The couples at the event Tuesday had tallied more than 3,992 years of marriage.
“I want all the guys in the room to look at your dates,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “Just realize, if you want to last for the next 50 years, you better listen to that woman. No matter what she says, you just listen to her.”
Rich and Jane Appleman cut the cake together — not because they’d been married the longest, but because their anniversary date was the closest. In a few weeks, they plan to be on a ship cruising through the Panama Canal.
They met on a blind date in April 1968. He was a musician in the Navy stationed in South Boston. She was a brilliant cook and a student at Simmons College.
“I was thinking of going back to Pennsylvania after I got out of the Navy, but after we met we got married in December,” Rich said. “It was amazing. Everything just fell in place.”
When it comes to marriage, many couples agreed with James Raynor, 73. There is no secret.
“It’s the ability to change through time,” he said. “To adjust to current and past situations that reoccur.”
He met his wife at Northeastern University. He was an upperclassman studying biology coming to have lunch at the school. She was a freshman studying sociology.
“I basically saw two women and I decided to try my luck,” Raynor said. “I tried to hit on both of them, make an impression on both of them.”
He fell in love with a woman he called “diligent and at times charming.” His wife, Marchelle, 72, called him “dogged, I would say consistent, I would say reliable, and concerned.”
They danced together at the Four Seasons event, him singing along with the band, her laughing at his antics.
Peter Eng, 77, met his wife in Hong Kong before they moved to the United States.
“We cared about each other,” said Andree Eng, 72.
That’s no secret. Fifteen years ago, Peter had open heart surgery, prostate cancer, and a hernia all in one year. She stayed by his side, helped nurse him back to health. He said in Chinese that if it weren’t for his wife, he wouldn’t be here. In English, he summarized his feelings for Andree in three sentences.
“I want her. I need her. I love her,” he said in English.Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.