Couple married 75 years remember the beginning of life together

The key to a long marriage? The couple said it's all about working together. 

Posted on April 19, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

Jim Strati doesn't work in the yard as much as he used to.

His wife, Joan Strati, shakes her head and laughs when Jim says so.

“And you wonder why he doesn't?” she said, pointing at her husband across their dining room table. Jim just smiled.

How to have a long marriage:

Jim and Joan Strati, of Elkhart, have been married for  75 years. They offered these marriage tips recently: 

  • Always do things together.
  • Think of the other person before yourself.
  • Work together on things that affect both people, like managing the family income.

Jim is 100 years old, and Joan is 96. They’ve been married 75 years.

They live in a quiet Elkhart community, with neighbors who “are just tops,” according to Joan.

Jim and Joan met in 1936 through friends. They never really dated, Joan said; instead, they wrote letters back and forth for three years.

Jim lived in Toledo, Ohio, and he sometimes answered Joan’s letters the same day they arrived from Elkhart.

The two young people had a lot in common: They were both Italian, and both believed in the importance of family.

“She was my first friend,” Jim said. “I did not have a lot of girlfriends. Maybe, me being an Italian boy, maybe that had something to do with it.”

After a few years of letter writing, the couple’s families got together to discuss the situation.

“You've got to realize, our families were old-fashioned Italian,” Jim said. “They believed the families should be the first to know about our feelings.”

Shortly afterward Jim and Joan were married at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Elkhart.

Initially the Stratis moved to Jim’s hometown in Toledo. But it wasn't long before Joan’s homesickness sent the couple back to Elkhart.

They spend a lot of time traveling. In fact, one of their favorite things to do together was just get into a car and start driving.

“We would drive north,” Jim said, pointing his thumb up, then turning it down. “And then we would drive south.”

“That was our entertainment, believe it or not,” Joan said. “We just tried to discover some little places in the area, although we didn't go too far.”

The couple have three children, 11 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.

“We've been fortunate to live this long, I guess, though some days I think it’s unfortunate,” Joan said, laughing a little and leaning her head into her hands.

Marriage, she said, “is hard sometimes, but you have to make a go of it.”

When asked what couples should do to have a long marriage, Joan said, “Always try to do things together.”

“Together, that’s right,” Jim said, watching his wife intently. “And think of the other.”

“You have to work together, I think – it’s not just one,” Joan concluded.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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