Edgar and Betty Glick's 65-Year Marriage: Built on a Few Dates, a Few Rules

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 21, 2009

65 Years In

Sure, Betty Glick's been married, rather delightedly, to the same fellow for 6 1/2 decades. There's a strategy behind the longevity, and she's happy to share it: "Be nice."

You expected something more elaborate? Well, maybe that's the problem. It's a relationship, not advanced astrophysics, and you just stick with it, day after day after 23,876th day, trying, at least, to be nice to each other.

Because "if you're going to be cruel, unkind, say mean things," she explains, "it spoils it immediately."

Of course things haven't always been perfect in the lives of Edgar and Betty Glick. Really, it's amazing that things worked out as well as they have. They got married the fourth time they saw each other, in February 1944, and three weeks later Edgar shipped off to Italy.

"Here's two kids, 19 and 20. It's a war. They've seen each other three times over a year-and-a-half. They get married. And I wouldn't give you 20 cents for the chances of that marriage lasting," says Edgar, now 85, from an armchair in their Reston home.

The two met on a blind date in 1942. He was a Pittsburgh boy who drove up to Erie after a friend told him to "date Betty Shapiro -- she's fun!" They went out twice before he left for Army duty. And that was it, until a friend told Betty that Edgar was in Sioux Falls, S.D., sick with pneumonia doctors thought would kill him.

She wrote him a letter that said, "Carry on, kid." He did, and the letter writing began. She visited him once in Wisconsin and a second time in Florida, where he persuaded her to marry him. The two caught an afternoon movie, and after a small ceremony in a rabbi's office, they went to "a dinky restaurant," Betty recalls, with two of her cousins who happened to be in town, as well as "the bimbos" they'd brought along as dates.

"And that was the glorious wedding of the Glicks!" exclaims Betty, who, like her husband, is barely 5 feet tall and moves gingerly, but sits with perfect posture before a coffee table stacked with back issues of the New Yorker magazine.

Soon after the wedding, Edgar began a 1 1/2 -year deployment in Italy, and when he got back and stepped off the train they both had to ask, "Are you you?" Then began their real adventures in marriage. Edgar got a master's degree in library science, they had a son named Howard, and together moved from Wisconsin to Brooklyn to Iowa and back to New York before settling in Northern Virginia, where Edgar would eventually retire from the congressional research department at the Library of Congress.

And, of course, it was hard, as surely it always is when two people try to share one life. Betty is logical and political, a witty but serious woman who worked as a business manager and has, as her husband puts it, "the mind of a CEO and a CFO." He, on the other hand -- goateed and bespectacled -- is a poet. And an actor, an artist, a jokester, a woodworker, a pilot. A man with a new project every five minutes and all the gear to prove it.

Naturally, there were disagreements. But they never really argued. Edgar couldn't handle it -- "You see, I grew up in a very dysfunctional family in which my mother and father argued continually. I can't argue with Betty."

He would go into the garage and scream; she would go have a cigarette, she explains, pulling on the clear tube that's now her permanent necklace, pumping oxygen into her nose.

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