Helen Dietz’s friend, a co-worker at Bell Telephone, was seeing several GIs and one night she asked Helen to become acquainted with one of her beaux by chatting on the phone. Helen pretended to be the man’s sister.
Before the call ended, Harry Dietz managed to get Helen’s number. He called her that night, saying, “I still don’t know you, you are not my sister.”
Helen finally admitted the truth. “I don’t know you, either,” she said.
“But, we could get to know each other,” he suggested. They agreed to go to a movie in Harrisburg the next night. Helen stepped off the bus, and Harry knew his persistence paid off. On Valentine’s Day in Homeland Center’s 1950s-style diner, he looked at his bride of 71 years – 72 in June – and said, “Isn’t she gorgeous?”
The annual Homeland Center King and Queen Valentine’s lunch treated residents and their spouses to a special date. Over a meal of beef tenderloin, crab cakes, cake, and ice cream – both of the Dietzes chose coffee ice cream – couples reminisced about the secret to sustaining decades of marriage.
“Work together,” said Helen Dietz. “Fifty-fifty.”
Anne met Tom Boyle when she worked at a hospital in Pottsville, and he was a bus driver. They’ve been together for 67 years.
“She was the answer to my dreams,” says Tom, who was a general manager for the U.S. Postal Service, overseeing 821 post offices.
Mike and Marian Keane, married 63 years, were high school sweethearts who “would go to dances and movies and the things you did back in those days,” says Mike. “Our most enjoyable time used to be going to the ballroom in Hershey on Saturday nights.”
And what Saturday nights they were! The Hershey Park Ballroom attracted renowned acts, and Mike and Marian saw “all the big names,” says Mike – Louis Prima, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman.
Sitting at a table decorated in checkered tablecloth, rose petals, and heart-adorned centerpiece, Alyce Spector was visiting her husband, Morton Spector. He is immediate past chair of the Homeland Board of Trustees. Both are longtime leaders in Harrisburg area civic causes, but that’s not the secret to 65 years of marriage, she says.
“Love. Companionship. Respect. Commitment,” she says, reflecting on their time together since they met at a wedding where she was a bridesmaid and he was an usher. “And a sense of humor. My mother told me not to get married unless I had a good sense of humor. She was right.”
Residents and guests for the special luncheon sang “Happy Birthday” for a resident celebrating her Valentine’s Day birthday. One resident, Don Englander, is an accomplished musician who treated diners to an a cappella rendition of “My Funny Valentine.” He and his wife Lorraine, also a Homeland resident, were married in 1979 in Las Vegas, officiated by a female minister wearing a beehive hairdo.
While some of the couples had special Valentine’s Day traditions – the Keanes enjoyed dinner at Allenberry Resort, where they got married – the Valentine’s Day roots of Bob and Shirley Fultz go extra deep. They met when she worked at a restaurant called Valentine’s, and he kept coming back for meals. He proposed to her at the restaurant on Valentine’s Day, and got their engagement ring from a jeweler named Valentine’s.
“She appealed to me,” Bob said. “I started going with her. I met her grandmother and grandfather, and they liked me.”
They had eight children, including daughter Kathy Yiengst and son Tim Fultz, who joined them for this Valentine’s Day treat. Bob and Shirley ran Shirley-Bob Restaurant in Middletown and taught their kids to cook, grow a garden, and do canning, said Tim. They also taught their kids about the value of service and hard work, added Kathy.
Today, the Fultzes have 30 grandchildren and 47 great-grandchildren. Many joined Bob and Shirley for milestone celebrations – Bob’s birthday, the 65th anniversary – at the Homeland Diner. Asked the secret to a long marriage, Bob had an immediate answer.
“To be honest with each other,” he said. “And not only being honest but doing things together. Being together keeps you together.”