They joke that they agree on nothing, though they have mostly shared everything — for 68 years.
“Even though he’s crabby with his spinal stenosis, of course it’s wonderful,” said Fanny Leto, 90, of her marriage’s length.
Valentine’s Day will mark Anthony and Fanny Leto’s 68th anniversary. The West Hempstead couple exchanged a bouquet of red and pink roses and a box of chocolates Tuesday at the Heart Valve Center at St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill.
Another reason to celebrate Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the lifesaving heart procedure Anthony Leto underwent at St. Francis.
At 92, Anthony Leto was the first patient on Long Island to receive a pig valve to replace a damaged heart valve without surgical cuts or stitches as part of a federal clinical trial.
“Typically someone who had to have an aortic valve replaced had to have open heart surgery,” said Paul Barry, hospital spokesman. “That kind of surgery at 92 can be very risky.”
The replacement, in which the pig valve was guided from the femoral artery in the thigh to the heart, was a success and Anthony Leto returns to the hospital for regular check ups of his heart. On Tuesday, Dr. Newell Robinson, chairman of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at St. Francis, held a stethoscope to Anthony Leto’s chest for a few seconds before remarking, “Sounds as good as the day we put it in.”
“Both he and Mrs. Leto have done extremely well,” said Robinson, who oversaw the replacement with Dr. George Petrossian, heart valve center co-director. “This therapy came along at a great time.”
Anthony Leto was relaxed and sprightly, his only complaint being his occasional back pain. Fanny Leto sat calmly next to him.
Even after all their years together, they maintain a lively banter. He still addresses her “Eh, baby?” and she rolls her eyes at his forwardness. They live in the same West Hempstead house they’ve always lived in, where he grows fig trees in the backyard.
Anthony Leto’s passion for his fig trees is second only to his love for his wife. He used to have four or five, he said, but the past few winters have been tough on the trees. A small one remains and when it bears fruit, he picks the plump bulbs and brings them inside for the couple to eat.
“He has a green thumb for everything,” Fanny Leto said.
“Everyone’s jealous that he does all the cooking and cleaning,” she added.
The couple first met in Manhattan in the mid-40s at a reunion for her family. They had distant relatives in common and he worked in her uncle’s butcher shop in Astoria, Queens.
Anthony Leto was born in southern Italy and grew up in a poor family. He left Italy for New York in 1938, amid the early rumblings of war in Europe.
Fanny Leto was born and raised in Astoria by strict Italian parents. When she began to date her future husband, she didn’t know how to order at restaurants because her parents had never taken her out to eat.
But they found a connection with one another and their romance blossomed.
“After the war, we got serious and that was it,” Anthony Leto said.
They never had children and they loved to travel, only giving up their timeshare in Aruba last year.
They had lavish meals when Anthony Leto would bring home crown pork roasts during his 50 years as a butcher. And they still occasionally go out to dinner together, including last Monday, when Anthony Leto drove his wife to her special birthday meal in his Cadillac.
“We have each other and that’s enough,” he said.