Staff and wire reports
FAIRFIELD -- John and Ann Betar weren't supposed to get married. Her father had arranged for her to wed another man, but she and John fled Bridgeport and eloped to New York.
That was more than 80 years ago.
The couple is still happily hitched, a fact that has led to their naming as the "longest married couple" in America for 2013 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Christian marriage group based in San Bernardino, Calif.
The Betars are scheduled to receive a plaque and other gifts from the group Saturday at their granddaughter's home in Fairfield.
But they know the real gift after 80 years of marriage is each other.
"He was the boy across the street, not next door," Ann Betar told the Connecticut Post in November. "He used to drive me (to school). He had a (fruit peddling) route going to Greenwich on his business and I was at Bassick High School."
But John Betar's fancy car wasn't nearly as pretty as his passenger.
"I had a Ford Roadster and she loved the Ford; $539 I paid for it. That was my first car," he said during the same interview.
John bought the car with money he earned delivering newspapers: "The Bridgeport Post, Post-Telegram, 2 cents."
After they were married, John Betar opened a grocery store in Bridgeport -- Betar's Market on Broad Street and South Avenue. He closed the market in 1963 and became a real estate agent.
Ann Betar said in November that she remembered one customer saying, "What a year. They shot (John) Kennedy and the store is closing."
John Betar came to America from Syria when he was 10, and found love in the eyes of Ann a few years later.
"We were from the same Arabic community," John said. "They all lived in the South End (of Bridgeport)."
John is now 101 years old and Ann is 97, and they are still living in their home along the Fairfield shore. They had five children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. Two of their children died in their 60s.
Ron and Judy Pekny, of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, say the title of "longest married couple" is based on nominations the group received, so there may be some couples who have been married longer.
Ann Betar said family has been a key to their longevity.
"That's what makes life what it is," she said in November. "We were fortunate enough to live long enough to see this ... and it's really one of the most gratifying things in the world to see your great-grandchildren, to see your grandchildren become adults."
John Betar added, "That's what keeps us alive. We live for them."