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East Hampton Couple Celebrates 80 Years of Marriage

Thu, 01/04/2024 - 10:14

Leroy and Julia Kayser say staying active is the key to longevity

ulia and Leroy Kayser, at left in a fresh-faced photograph taken in 1945, a year after they were married, are still together today and will celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on Monday.
Kayser Family Photos

In January of 1944, the Allies had not yet landed on the beaches of Normandy. “It Had to Be You” by Helen Forrest and Dick Haymes was a radio hit, and the movie “Casablanca” was about to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was Time magazine’s Person of the Year. And Leroy and Julia Kayser were married.

The East Hampton couple, who are 98 and 96 years old, respectively, and who have lived here full time since 1985, will celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on Monday.

In those 80 years, the Kaysers raised two children (who now have children who have children). They traveled up and down the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. They endured the ups and downs of life, including the loss of Mr. Kayser’s eyesight.

What might be the secret to such longevity, both in life and in love?

“Neither one of us is a couch potato. We both get out and get our old bones moving,” Mr. Kayser said this week.

“You have to learn how to help each other and work together,” Mrs. Kayser added. “That’s the only way this thing could ever work.”

The Kaysers frequently walk their property on Bucks Path in Northwest Woods, raking leaves and picking up acorns, and Mrs. Kayser attends lunches and takes exercise classes twice a week at the East Hampton Town Senior Citizens Center.

They met as teenagers who lived a few houses apart in Coney Island, where they enjoyed riding their bicycles on the boardwalk. Three years later, on Jan. 8, 1944, they boarded a bus to Maryland and eloped.

“We never really had dates. We just got together. Nobody had money in those days,” Mrs. Kayser recalled.

“A date was a five-cent soda,” Mr. Kayser added.

“We seemed to be suited to one another,” Mrs. Kayser said.

“She was very jovial, funny, clever,” Mr. Kayser said.

Mrs. Kayser pulled their original marriage certificate out of an envelope to show a visitor. The fragile document, worn with creases and a lifetime of history, features an illustration of yellow roses.

They did spend considerable time apart. Mr. Kayser served in the Merchant Marine, working in the engine rooms of ships that ferried troops to and from the Mediterranean Theater of World War II. Mrs. Kayser dropped out of school to take a job soldering telephone wires that Navy vessels would be equipped with.

“It was wartime, and everything was different,” Mr. Kayser recalled. “Everything was geared toward the war in that everybody did something, even if it was just ordinary people collecting junk and bottles and metal and old tin cans to contribute to the war effort. Everything had a value toward winning the war.”

In “1980-something,” Mrs. Kayser said, they took a trip to Salem, Mass., and stopped in East Hampton to visit a cousin before returning to Brooklyn. “We ended up buying a house, not knowing that we would be here [full time] in a few years,” she said.

They both retired in 1985 after Mr. Kayser lost his management job with Federated Department Stores, the parent company of Abraham and Straus. Mrs. Kayser had been managing the grand jury clerk’s office for the New York City District Attorney.

These days, they have each other for company and often listen to audio books and the television news. They also have a cat, Jude, named for the Beatles song, to which they have been partial ever since they met Paul McCartney on a beach here. Mrs. Kayser cooks nearly every meal, though she orders groceries online because she no longer drives a car.

“One of the negative factors of growing as old as we are is that you’ve lost your siblings and your companions,” Mr. Kayser said. “We’re quite a few years past our biblical assignment. . . . It’s just by chance that we both have the longevity gene within.”

“We gave up cigarettes in 1969,” Mrs. Kayser added. “Maybe that’s why we’ve been together and here so long.”

 

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