64 years of marriage, dancing, laughter for Pittsfield couple
In observance of cupid's holiday, we offer you a local love story that continues to withstand the test of time and memory. Happy Valentine's Day.
PITTSFIELD — If you ask John and Elizabeth Corbett if it was love at first sight when they met on a blind date almost 66 years ago, they'll both smile and shake their heads.
"I wouldn't say love at first sight," says John. "We were a little older, perhaps a little wiser, more educated for that kind of thing."
Elizabeth looks across the table in the EPOCH Assisted Living at Melbourne's Country Kitchen meeting space at her husband of 64 years and smiles in agreement.
Elizabeth, 90, is having a good day. She remembers their wedding day.
"It was a snowy wedding," she says, when John, who is soon to turn 90 himself, mentions their Dec. 29, 1951, nuptials in Schenectady, N.Y.
Since November of last year, the Corbetts have lived at EPOCH. John lives on the traditional side of the assisted living facility, where "the food is better," according to the retired General Electric worker. Elizabeth lives in the memory care unit. She has advanced dementia.
"She has good days, and bad days, but don't we all?" he asks. "Sometimes she isn't happy with me, but that's OK."
John visits his bride, and mother of his five children, every day, often bringing her over to the traditional side of the facility for programming.
It was during one of these programs — the holiday party last December — that Sherry Pease, life enrichment director at EPOCH, uncovered John and Elizabeth's favorite pastime, dancing.
"I grabbed John and asked him to dance at the holiday party — I'm learning ballroom dancing right now — and after we took a spin around the dance floor I realized I hadn't asked his wife if it was OK if I danced with her husband!" Pease said. "But she was just smiling watching us. She was so happy to see him dance."
When asked where they had their first date, John couldn't remember exactly. But he knew there had to be a dance floor. Ballroom dancing, square dancing and Irish step dancing — they loved to do it all. John fondly remembers dances held all over Pittsfield back when he and Elizabeth moved here in 1958.
Who is the better dancer?
"Oh, John by a long shot," Elizabeth immediately answers.
"Did you follow well, mom?" their daughter, Mary Corbett, who visits her parents daily, asks.
"No!" a spirited Elizabeth replies with a laugh.
The former second grade teacher may have trouble remembering things at times, but on this day, she doesn't let her husband get away with much.
"Oh, I would sometimes get her a card, or maybe one of those heart-shaped boxes of candies," John says, when asked if he and Elizabeth celebrated Valentine's Day.
"No, you did not!" Elizabeth interrupts. Mary laughs at her parents.
"My parents weren't the sentimental type," she says.
Who has time for sentiment over the course of six decades spent raising children, changing jobs, moving to Florida in retirement, playing with nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and returning to Pittsfield to be together through it all. The Corbetts lived, and are living, their vows.
But according to John, he just "kept his mouth shut." But he was quick to follow up with marriage advice.
"I always thought it helped that we were both of the same religion — we're Catholic," he said. "There are lot of difficult things in this world and it helps to be on the same page."
Mary credits her parents with teaching her siblings and her important values, like having a good work ethic, something they applied to their own marriage.
"My parents have the old-school mentality," she said. "Marriage can be tough, but they have the values to do it."
John suddenly looks up at the clock.
"We have to go, she eats at 4:30," he says protectively of his wife, who smiles and nods. They don't share meals often together because they live in separate wings, but John knows when she needs to eat.
"I think their story is beautiful," says Pease. "They have each other through their golden years, no matter what."
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