“That day I found her, that was it. I didn’t look anymore.” Morty and Alice Steinberg, married 72 years, renewed their vows this Valentine’s Day. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports.  Credit: Kendall Rodriguez; Debbbie Egan-Chin; Photo Credit: Steinberg family

This story was reported by Denise Bonilla, Cecilia DowdTimothy Hughes, Brianne Ledda and Darwin Yanes. It was written by Bonilla.

Raymond Smolenski didn't skip a beat Tuesday when asked how long he's been married to his wife Deborah, providing their union's precise length: 14,122 days.

“But who’s counting?” he said with a laugh.

“Oh my God, you calculated that? You are crazy!” Deborah told him.

The couple attribute their longevity — nearly 39 years for the mathematically challenged — to good communication. So when they heard about Babylon Town’s Valentine’s Day vow renewal ceremony, they jumped at the chance to renew their vows to one another.

The Dix Hills couple was one of nearly two dozen pairs who gathered in the Babylon Town board room to restate their commitments to one another.

Other similar ceremonies happened across Long Island, including in the Town of Hempstead and the Town of North Hempstead — where 24 couples recommitted to each other, including Westbury couple Edith and William Joseph, who married 60 years ago.

At a Jericho independent living facility, one couple reaffirmed a 72-year union that started after the first sparks flew between the two at a Valentine’s Day party decades ago.

“I thought he was very cute and I walked over and talked to him,” said Alice Steinberg, 91, of her husband Morty, 93. “I liked him very much and he walked me home … We kind of hit it off from then on.”

One son, two daughters, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren later, the couple said "I do" all over again.

In Babylon, the spouses renewing vows had marriages ranging from three to 51 years long, said Town Clerk Gerry Compitello. It was the town’s first mass vow renewal ceremony but it won’t be its last, she said.

“I think it’s really going to spark a new interest,” she said. “Being married for a long time is not all that easy and the ones that make it should remind each other why they did this.”

Compitello decided to do the Babylon ceremony after planning her own vow renewal for her and her husband’s 25th anniversary next year.

“It helps sometimes to just stop, look at your life partner and say 'I have loved you for this long and I will continue to love you,'” she said.

Unlike the wedding ceremonies she performs as part of her position, the vow renewal does not involve any legal documents, Compitello added.

“It’s truly just a romantic renewal, that they’re repledging their love,” the clerk said.

The Babylon ceremony opened with the sound of Louis Armstrong’s “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” and ended with “Still the One” by Orleans.

Deborah Smolenski, 62, who works in the town clerk’s office, said she and her husband Raymond, 64, an attorney, had planned to renew their vows for their 35th anniversary on a Hawaiian cruise but his cancer diagnosis delayed the event. They rescheduled it for 2020, but then the pandemic hit.

“So when this came up, we said, 'I think this is a sign,'” she said.

Her husband said they feel a vow renewal is important for a marriage.

“It reaffirms the commitment,” Raymond Smolenski said. “With marriage you have to work at it every day, every week, every year."

Vow renewals also send a message to the larger community, according to Compitello.

“It says, you can get through this, you can love each other through sickness and health, 'til death do us part,” she said. “We need to have a little more faith in the immediate family unit.”

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