John and Ann Betar
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John and Ann Betar were selected winners of the 2013 Longest Married Couples Project run by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a faith-based marriage enrichment organization. They are parishioners and founding members of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
John Betar and Ann Shawah were from the same Syrian community in Bridgeport, and neighbors. John Betar immigrated to America in 1921 with his brother and settled with their father in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After completing grammar school, he took a job peddling fruit in Greenwich and would drive Ann Shawah and her friends to school. Though Ann had been promised to a man twenty years her senior in an arranged marriage, she fell in love with John and after some days of dating, they eloped in Harrison, New York, on November 25, 1932 at the ages of 21 and 17. The act evoked anger from their families, with Ann's aunt telling her father that the marriage would never last.
In 1938, John Betar opened the grocery store Betar's Market in the south end of Bridgeport, with Ann as a housewife. They raised five children. In their later years, Ann discovered a talent for painting with oils and watercolor and their favorite passtime became cooking soup together. According to John, the only arguments they've ever had were over cooking; whereas Ann remains skeptical to this claim. Their family has grown to fifteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
On November 25, 2012, John and Ann Betar celebrated their eightieth wedding anniversary at St. Nicholas Antiochian Church in Bridgeport. They were 101 and 97, respectively. In 2017, they celebrated their 85th anniversary at the ages of 106 and 102, in Fairfield, Connecticut among family and friends. The celebration included the presentation a Ford Roadster, the model car in which John Betar took Ann Shawah on their first date. They are just short of the longest recorded marriage, which spanned 86 years, 9 months, and 16 days.
Longest Married Couple Project
In a press release dated January 29, 2013, faith-based marriage enrichment organization Worldwide Marriage Encounter selected John and Ann Betar as winning the third annual Longest Married Couple Project. The Betars were not the statistically longest married couple in America, but were rather hand selected from a group of nominees submitted to the organization. They were officially recognized on February 9 in a ceremony held by WWME coordinators Diane and Dick Baumbach at the home of Betar grandchild Heather Mitchell in Fairfield.
Proclamations were issued to the Betars by President Barack Obama, Connecticut Governer Dannel Malloy, the US House of Representatives, and WWME. Prizes included a personalized Bible, a lighthouse, and figurine entitled "Endless Love", which encompass the Christian tennats of Faith, Hope, and Love. Following this event, they were recognized nationally from TV hosts such as David Letterman to Kelly Ripa.
- 2013 Longest Married Couple Winners Announced! WWME Press Release. January 29, 2013.
- Couple Celebrates 80th Wedding Anniversary, Shares Secrets to Lasting Marriage Sher, Lauren. ABC News. November 20, 2012.
- 'Longest married couple' lives in Fairfield CT Post. February 7, 2013.
- Fairfielders' 80-year marriage a record, group proclaims CT Post. February 7, 2013.
- Best and the rest of the past week CT Post. February 7, 2013.
- Blizzard no barrier to honors for Fairfielders' 80-year marriage Barone, Meg. CT Post. February 13, 2013.
- Couple celebrates 80th anniversary CT Post. November 25, 2012.
- Couple celebrates 85 years of marriage KMOV. November 27, 2017.
- ‘Longest married’ couple in the U.S. started off without family recognition NTD Inspired. May 26, 2017.