Valentine’s Day: Love stories that have lasted the test of time

  • Polly and Jim Curran. Photo by Jean Kundert—

  • Glori B. and Tom Luebberman. Photo by Jean Kundert—

  • Bill and Helen Ellerkamp. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/10/2021 7:17:50 PM

Behind every marriage there’s a story. From how two people first met, when they fell in love and the road down which life took them.

Marriage is far from easy, filled with bliss and disagreements, caring and frustrations, tender moments and admitting when you’re wrong. There’s no one size fits all approach to turning young love into decades of togetherness, but after nearly 65 years of marriage and with Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Bill Ellerkamp has one bit of advice: “I have told my wife every night that I love her and I think that’s important,” he said. His wife of 64 years, Helen agrees.

“Always say I love you,” she said.

The Ellerkamps met in high school on Long Island, when they were 15 and 16 years old, Bill being one year ahead. She was good at geometry, while Bill will be the first to admit he was terrible at it.

“He’d call me at night and say I don’t understand this problem,” Helen said. But those phone calls also had something to do with Bill’s feeling toward his future wife.

All told, the Ellerkamps have been together for almost 70 years if you count the five years of dating and engagement. They spent one year apart when Helen went to college in Virginia, but besides that the two have been inseparable.

Bill popped the question on Jones Beach, about 45 minutes from where they grew up. He had it all planned out, until he dropped the ring in the sand.

“I panicked,” Bill said, adding he thought it was gone forever.

They moved from Long Island to Goshen, N.Y., and then to Peterborough in 1980. They had four sons, which led to 10 grandchildren, seven of which are boys.

“We’re going to keep the Ellerkamp name going for a few more years,” Bill said.

They’ve enjoyed traveling together, going to Ireland, Germany, Italy and Portugal, and celebrated 50 years by taking the whole family on a cruise to Bermuda.

“I must have saved up for that for 10 years,” Bill joked.

There will be arguments, the Ellerkamps said, but finding your way through them will go a long way to keeping the relationship on the right path forward.

“You’ve got to make sure you don’t win them all,” Bill said. “It has to be a two-way street.”

“You just have to get over the hurdles,” Helen added. “You win some and you lose some.”

They said having alone time and different interests is important. They both play bridge, while Helen likes to walk and Bill is a crossword enthusiast.

Four years ago, they moved into the independent living area of Scott-Farrar and have enjoyed every step of the way.

“We’ve had a good life,” Bill said.

Tom and Glori B. Luebberman met at the Red Coach Grill in Saugus, Mass., Glori B. was working her first night as the upscale establishment’s entertainment and Tom stopped in after a rough day.

“We hit it off,” he said. But Glori B. said she didn’t date customers. Tom kept going back in though and “we hit it off whenever I went in there,” he said.

Within a year they were dating and now Tom looks back and says “we both pretty much knew it was meant to be when we first met.”

They got engaged in Tom’s car outside of Glori B.’s apartment and have been in Peterborough for the last 43 years, married for a total of 49, and have two grown children.

“We just turned out to be very compatible with each other,” Tom said.

Tom said they never had a serious argument, before remembering one night in the family kitchen when Glori B. threw a frying pan at him.

“She was so mad,” he said. But the anger quickly subsided. “Three hours later we had our arms around each other.”

It wasn’t always easy and hasn’t been in recent years, as Glori B. developed advanced dementia and needed full-time care in Summerhill’s memory care unit. Prior to COVID-19, he visited her every day at Summerhill, but when restrictions were put into place and he wasn’t allowed to visit, Tom did what he needed to do to see his wife.

After three months of being unable to see his bride, Tom asked if he could rent a unit. He didn’t need to be at Summerhill, but the chance to see his wife every day was something he wasn’t about to pass up. So he now lives there and the two can visit twice a day and share meals together. He helps feed her and they just enjoy spending time together.

“The only thing I could come up with was to live here,” he said.

Despite the challenges that Glori B.’s diagnosis brings, the two remain as close as ever.

“We just love each other,” Tom said. “And we never fell out of love.”

Polly and Jim Curran will celebrate 70 years of marriage this October, but like the Luebbermans, there have been some recent challenges. Jim fell in their apartment at Summerhill in October and developed a serious infection, so he’s been away ever since, first at a hospital and now a rehab facility. And it’s very hard.

“We talk about four or five times a day on the phone,” Polly said. “Still a very close relationship.”

The hope is Jim will be back by the end of March, in time for his 92nd birthday in April.

The two met at a ballroom dance assembly in the Dome Room of the Lenox Hotel in Boston. She was 15 and he was 16 and both went with their siblings. The instructor paired them up and they danced the night away, even missing the cue to switch partners.

Polly said Jim was tall with blonde curly hair and green eyes, and was funny and witty.

“I thought this was the ideal kind of boy,” Polly said.

It started out as a friendship, but “we were very much taken up with each other,” she said.

Jim would ride street cars from Dorchester to West Roxbury just to take Polly for a walk.

“I saw him as a lifelong friend,” she said. “And I was totally in love with him.”

They were married in their early 20s – after Jim popped the question in a letter – and embarked on a life that brought them to Africa, Iran and Australia through Jim’s work in the foreign service. It was during their time in Africa that they were told about Hancock. They visited and stayed there on breaks from the service, eventually buying the house they originally stayed in.

They lived in that same house until four years ago when they moved to Summerhill.

And through it all, it has taken a tremendous amount of work.

“It’s like a job you love,” Polly said. “It takes an effort and you have to be ready for surprises – and hope they’re all pleasant surprises.”

For their 50th, they stopped at the Lenox Hotel after an anniversary dinner at Locke-Ober to see if they could visit the Dome Room, where their love first began. They didn’t dance, but just wanted to look it over.

While their marriage has been filled with so many joyous moments, Polly said you still have to be prepared for anything.

“You don’t know what’s going to come up the next day, so be ready,” she said.

But after more than seven decades together, Polly feels lucky and blessed.

“I wish everyone was this happy in their marriage,” Polly said.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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