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Devoted Pair an Inspiration to Co-Workers

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At dinner Friday, Valentine’s Day, Mike Schulman plans to give a present to Anita, his wife of nearly 40 years.

But he’s keeping it a secret.

“I have something in mind,” said Mike, a retired distributor who with his wife is a volunteer at Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

Surprise gifts have not been a big part of the couple’s relationship. “As long as I’m with her I tell her, ‘Go buy what you want,’ ” Mike said.

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But this year, Anita put her foot down.

“After 40 years, it’s time to do something on your own,” she said. After all, Valentine’s Day was the day they got engaged four decades ago, and it is time for him to show that he can get a gift on his own.

Not that Mike doesn’t do enough to show affection for his wife. Their 40th wedding anniversary is in April. The strength of the Schulman marriage is an inspiration to the staff at Valley Presbyterian, said Cindy Amspaugh, director of volunteer services.

Amspaugh said that often when Mike is on a break from the gift shop or while he’s running errands, he’ll say, “I’m going to tell the prettiest girl in the world how much I love her.”

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Then she’ll find Mike visiting Anita, who runs the information desk. “You’ve got to say, ‘Mike, get back to work.’ But it’s great to see,” Amspaugh said.

The Van Nuys couple, who have two children and two grandchildren, started volunteering in 1985. Even though Mike, 72, returned to work for a few years, he still has racked up 1,351 volunteer hours at the hospital. Anita has worked 2,335 hours, Amspaugh said. They also volunteer at the University of Judaism gift shop, and Anita volunteers at the Sherman Oaks Library.

“She has had quite an impact on the front desk,” Amspaugh said. “Her years of experience at the desk have given her a confidence that helps to reassure hospital visitors. She anticipates needs before a visitor even realizes it. They do calm down a little because of her; she listens to them.”

Anita gives directions to people who are lost. Or, if they are in the wrong hospital looking for a relative, she will pick up the phone and call around the Valley until she finds the right one.

Mike and Anita met about 41 years ago when he made a delivery for a dry cleaners company to her roommate in Hollywood. “That’s the girl I want to marry,” he declared to a friend the next day.

“He chased me for a year,” Anita said, adding that when he proposed marriage, “I just didn’t think that was what I wanted.”

But on a rainy Valentine’s Day, he called her at her job and offered to pick her up after work. At a dinner that followed, she weakened and accepted his marriage proposal. “She finally found out she loved me,” he said.

He is still persistent in letting her know how he feels about her. “He tells everyone else how much he loves her too,” Amspaugh said.

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“When I was young, I used to blush from head to toe,” Anita recalled.

According to Mike, the secret to staying together is simple.

“She’s the boss,” he said. “Whatever she says, goes. That’s the way you get along.”

Personal Best is a weekly profile of an ordinary person who does extraordinary things. Please send suggestions on prospective candidates to Personal Best, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, 91311. Or fax them to (818) 772-3338. Or e-mail them to valley@latimes.com.namelines


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