Secret to long marriage: Just say 'yes'

NEWPORT BEACH — She often points out that they weren't high school sweethearts, per se.

They were just friends — until they got married. Now, they're inseparable.

He says the secret to their 69 years of marriage is simple: Just listen and obey.

"Just say 'Yes,'" said Richard Ungerland, 94, who's been married to Jeanne for nearly seven decades.

"It takes a lot of patience," said Jeanne, 93, offering up her own advice to making something last.

She's known Richard since their days together at Audubon Junior High School in Los Angeles during the early 1930s.

The couple, of Newport Beach, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Aug. 8 at the Balboa Yacht Club. So far, they've sent out 35 invitations.

They were married on Aug. 10, 1940, inside the Chapman Park Pueblo Oratorio on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Richard proposed to Jeanne in the front seat of his car while he was dropping her off at her house on Sixth Avenue in Los Angeles after a date.

The rest is history — 70 years of it. That's 25,550 days, give or take a few due to leap years.

When asked if she ever thought the marriage would last this long, Jeanne said, "I never gave it a thought."

Asked whether they ever thought they'd both ever live this long, they said the key is to keep busy and to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein.

Asked if it ever got to the point where they were both thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time, they said 'Yes,' but that there were certainly times where they disagreed.

"We don't think alike politically," she said. "He thinks like a Republican. I think like a Democrat. He thinks about cars and golf. I think about … volunteering."

These days, the biggest decision they've had to make is whether to sell off one of their cars and drive each other around.

They voted against it.

"Why do something you don't really need to do?" said Richard.

Just the other day, Jeanne mentioned to a friend over the telephone in the Royal Oaks Manor assisted living center in Arcadia that she and Richard were still cooking their own meals.

"Gosh," Jeanne's friend told her. "You're still cooking at your age?"

Not only are they cooking, but Richard is golfing. And it just so happens he shoots "under" his age.

And when he's not golfing, he's managing a house with a backyard apartment on Balboa Island, an investment the couple made in the late 1950s when they purchased it for $24,000.

When Jeanne's not volunteering for the Newport-Mesa Assistance League, she's reading.

They both take turns walking their 9-year-old English cocker spaniel, Mitzsy.

But life wasn't as easy back in the day, when they were in their mid to late 20s and living in Arcadia.

During World War II, Richard specialized in polishing optic lenses for torpedoes, making sure the lens focus was just right so the projectiles would hit their targets. Later he worked long hours as a salesman for a St. Helens, Ore.-based paper mill, selling all sorts of paper to different companies.

Jeanne, a graduate of USC, taught elementary school for 35 years.

But it was their junior high school and high school days that they most fondly remember. That's when Richard ran with "some fellas" in a special club at Manual Art High School and Jeanne tagged along, occasionally bringing her girlfriends along.

Big band music — with names like Glenn Miller and Ray Noble — was big back then. That was long before the bobby sock days. For fun, they'd go cherry picking near Hemet or take a drive out to Palm Springs with the "group of eight," the rest of whom are now gone.

And a couple they will remain, they say, until the day they die.

They have a son, Bruce, 66, of Irvine; a granddaughter, Kori Kelso, 41; and three great-grandchildren: 8-year-old twins Lily and Charlie, and Peter, 7.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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  • Richard Ungerland, 94, and his wife Jeanne, 93, were married on Aug. 10, 1940, and are celebrating their 70th anniversary this summer.

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