Today when marriages begin and end within a year, William and Stacy Thompson are a rarity. The Southern California husband and wife have been married for 85 years and hold the record of being one of the longest married couples in their state. They’ve captured the attention of newspapers, magazines and websites everywhere. And just recently, they received a signed commendation from President Obama with a promise of an official invitation to the White House to meet him. The hoopla over their accomplishment doesn’t faze them at all. Stacy, 101 years of age, laughs at the idea that there’s some secret to the longevity of their marriage. “There isn’t any secret.” She says. “It was only God that kept us together.” Assisted living homes are also noticing the significant change in aging. Seniors and baby boomers are living longer because of their healthy habits they choose to follow.
William, 104, is amazed at their longevity. “I didn’t know I would be married this long,” he says. The retired aircraft mechanic still has a sharp mind, though his hearing is not as good as it used to be. William has a reputation as a hard-working husband and father. He built their family home in 1939 and the couple still resides there to this day. His diligence and aggressive saving paid for the college educations of the couple’s 5 children. They also have 10 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Today’s statistics show that most seniors and baby boomers are looking forward to a relaxing retirement life at an assisted living home. Elderly citizens who live in colder areas of the nation usually migrate to warmer regions for retirement. Florida, Virginia, California and Arizona are hot spots for Assisted Living Communities.
Their granddaughter, Gertrude McCullough is responsible for arranging their news coverage. In 2005, after seeing a TV news report about a couple married for 75 years, she was motivated to research how long her grandparents had been hitched. After poring over records at the county Register of Deeds, she found that they had been married for 81 years. She submitted an application to Guinness, but found that another couple who had been married just a few months longer held the record. McCullough resubmitted the application in 2008, and is still waiting to hear if they’ll be named the longest couple living. Besides family, God and the church have been ever-present in the Thompson’s lives. They have maintained memberships at separate houses of worship during their marriage. She belongs to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and he’s a member of Shepherd of the Hills Christian Church. Both are in the suburbs of Los Angeles California. Many assisted living homes are aware of how important religion is to their seniors and make every effort to help them practice their faith.
“I think it is a blessing first that two people can ultimately love each other, respect each other and still want to be each other’s friend,” McCullough says. “These days, you just don’t hear of a couple that stays together so long. They took those vows, ’till death do us part,’ seriously. They have weathered the storms. There were good times and bad times, but they stuck it out.” Those bad times include the lean years of the Great Depression when William worked for as little as a nickel a day. They had to raise their own food and ration it for their young children. Perhaps those difficult years bonded and empowered them to remain married for so long. “They cherish each other,” McCullough continues. “If they had to be apart, their lives wouldn’t be as fruitful. . . . They are connected. They are soul mates.” Assisted Living Homes regularly organize events to allow their seniors to share stories of the past with younger generations. Family members, loved ones, and school children are invited to listen to their stories so they can understand what kind of life their seniors had.