Communication, commitment and humor are ingredients in the recipe of long-term marriages

Helene and Robert Lang and Bill and Nany Ross, two couples who live in Shelburne’s Wake Robin, forged strong, loving marriages that are still going strong well into their sixth decades. While the couples hail from different parts of the country and followed different life trajectories their unions share the common traits of good communication, devotion and self-sacrifice.

Wake Robin residents, Helene and Dick Lang have been married 60 years.
Wake Robin residents, Helene and Dick Lang have been married 60 years.

Helene and Robert Lang

The Langs moved to Wake Robin two years ago from Montpelier. They will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on April 14, are the parents of three sons and have five grandchildren.

Both are Massachusetts natives; Mrs. Lang is a retired professor from The University of Vermont’s College of Education, and Mr. Lang worked for the Vermont National Education Association. “That was our life, teaching and education,” said Mrs. Lang.

The two met at Worcester State University but didn’t date immediately. While serving with the military police in Munich during the Korean War, Mr. Lang spotted a young solider standing on the corner. After reminding the young GI to button up his uniform, Mr. Lang realized that the serviceman was actually Helene’s beau. He soon learned that Helene and the young solider were no longer dating and started writing to Helene. They married after he returned home from the war.

Mrs. Lang recalled that “having babies was terribly important” to her and that Mr. Lang embodied her idea of a “hands-on father.” He enjoyed spending time with his children, instilling in them a love for outdoor recreation. “I picked the right man,” she said. “All of our kids ski and swim well, thanks to Dad.”

Noting that “the little things in life” hold the most meaning, the Langs have a ritual that the first one to complete brushing teeth in the morning squeezes a dab of toothpaste on the brush of the other. “It’s what we can do for the other,” Mrs. Lang said.

“Divorce isn’t part of our vocabulary,” Mr. Lang said.

The couple will celebrate a three-day 60th anniversary party with their children and grandchildren at the end of June. For their 50th, the Langs travelled to the United Kingdom and South Africa. Taking tea at Claridge’s in London on their special day, Mrs. Lang arranged with the staff to sing “Happy Anniversary” to the couple at 4pm, the time the two exchanged vows 50 years earlier.

“I don’t think we had a fight that lasted more than one day,” the couple said. “Life is a series of adjustments; some are easy. It’s definitely a team effort.”

Wake Robin residents Bill and Nancy Ross will be married 66 years this year.
Wake Robin residents Bill and Nancy Ross will be married 66 years this year.

Nancy and Bill Ross

Nancy and Bill Ross, married for 66 years, said communication is key to their wedded bliss. “We both came from solid families who supported us,” recalled Mr. Ross, 92.

The couple said the Great Depression taught them self-reliance and sacrifice. “We were children of the Depression,” said Mrs. Ross, 88. “We were taught to save.”

Natives of Illinois, the couple had their first date in 1946, the second in 1947, got engaged in 1948 and married in 1949. “I spent a lot of time talking and courting,” recalled Mr. Ross. Mrs. Ross liked the pace of the courtship. “We gradually got to know one another.”

A good deal of the courtship fell against the backdrop of Mrs. Ross’s college days in Minnesota. “We went out and got a beer, and got to know each other’s good and bad points,” Mr. Ross said. He is quick to highlight his wife’s abilities. “Nancy is very beautiful and Nancy is a very bright person.”

The couple lived in a small apartment in the early days. “We didn’t have a lot saved up,” said Mrs. Ross. “I noticed that the Cubs were playing a double-header. We went to a Cubs baseball game and our first anniversary dinner was hot dogs.”

The couple moved here from Connecticut and have been at Wake Robin for a decade. Mr. Ross worked for IBM researching locations for Big Blue plants. “Nancy never complained about me being away 80 to 100 nights in a year,” Mr. Ross said.

After years as a stay-at-home mother for the couple’s three children, Mrs. Ross took a job with Merrill Lynch in Manhattan. Her return to the work force served as the catalyst for Mr. Ross learning how to cook. He still likes to work in the kitchen, and is also a beekeeper. Mrs. Ross enjoys walking and hiking along trails and has identified more than 70 species of flowers on the property.

Mr. Ross said the secret of their happy marriage is their mutual devotion and respect for their families. “Nancy’s parents and grandparents … were such wonderful people.”