When Penny Sverdlik and Norman Schuster met at a wedding in 1983, it seems that everyone was trying to marry her off.
In their Love Story printed in Newsday on July 20, 2008, Penny recalled laughing after the bride's grandmother made a toast thanking the Lord that she had lived to witness the nuptials. Penny explained to the other guests that her own grandmother, then 90, told her she was living for the day 30-year-old Penny got married.
Another woman at the table actually tracked down a single man and, as Penny recalled, "schlepped the guy over" to talk to her. After he left, Norman, who was seated at the same table, turned to Penny and said, "For a minute there, I thought I lost you." Her sister Nancy, sitting next to him, chimed in and immediately gave her future brother-in-law Penny's home and work numbers.
Penny in his thoughts
On their first date, Norman met Penny in Manhattan after work. She told him they had to cut the date short because her friend was picking her up to take the ferry to Fire Island for the weekend. Penny's friend insisted on driving Norman home to Forest Hills, Queens, and according to Norman, "begged me" to take Penny out again. He did, and they married on Sept. 8, 1985.
The couple lives in Lawrence and has two children, James, 18, a college freshman, and Caryn, 24, a recent college grad. Penny, 58, is assistant director of early childhood programs at the Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside. Norman, also 58, is a computer specialist with the New York City comptroller's office.
In 2010 they celebrated their 25th anniversary in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, with friends.
Penny remembers years ago her son saying to them, "So, you two love each other?" Laughing at the memory, she said it was like he had this epiphany, realizing "we didn't just wander into the same house one night."
Keeping the faith, values
As far as keeping their marriage intact for more than a quarter century, Norman says, "We don't have to work at it. Like everyone else, we have ups and downs. We take care of it together. She knows I'm there for her, and [I know] she's there for me."
His wife concurs.
"Honestly, you do what you have to," she said. "When you care about somebody, you put your partner's needs as a priority when you're going through a rough patch."
She added that having the same values and morals is important. You have to "communicate and respect each other."
They also agree that a sense of humor, which they both have in abundance, helps. Like when Norman, nine days younger than Penny, couldn't resist teasing her about turning 50 those few days before his own milestone birthday.
As for retirement, that's a dream that Penny says "will not be any time soon." With the prospect of paying down two college tuitions, Norman agrees.
"We can retire three years after we die," he said.