Celebrating 70

KIHEI Married for 70 years, Pat and Ruby Lea De Blasio still hold hands – even while sitting in separate recliners in their Kihei living room.

And though in their 90s, recollections of their initial meeting remain vivid.

It was during World War II. Pascal “Pat” De Blasio was stationed in Boise, Idaho, as a bombardier. The then-black-haired Ruby Lea Taylor lived in Boise.

She was cruising around town with friends.

“I tell everyone (that) it’s his uniform that got me,” the now silver-haired 90-year-old Mrs. De Blasio said smiling, as she recalled catching sight of the man with a full head of black hair.

A whirlwind romance and courtship were followed by a wedding on Dec. 10, 1943, in Mountain Home, Idaho.

Seventy years later, the couple can’t believe they’ve reached such a milestone.

“I never thought I’d live that long, much less be married that long,” said Mrs. De Blasio, the more vocal of the two, Wednesday.

Mr. De Blasio, 91, light-heartedly added that if The Maui News wanted the real story, his daughter, Sandy Weisenstein, would have to leave the room.

“Sandy, you go home so we can talk,” he joked.

On Saturday, the De Blasios, along with family and friends, will laugh and celebrate their 70th anniversary at the Maui Sunset condominium where the couple has lived for 23 years. They usually hold a Christmas party around their anniversary every year, but this year will be different, though the gathering still will be about family and friends and not about them, they said.

Weisenstein of West Chester, Pa., is on Maui to help out because her mom hurt her hip recently. She thinks humor and fun have made her parents’ marriage last.

“They always laughed a lot and kidded around a lot, and that had a lot to do with it,” she said.

Mrs. De Blasio joked that, in the early years, she couldn’t run away from the marriage even if there were problems.

“If we had an argument, he hid the car keys and the checkbook, and I couldn’t go home,” she said laughing.

But all in all, she said, they worked out problems together, whether they involved financial issues or living apart when Mr. De Blasio worked in another state.

“I think young people today marry until something goes wrong. We married and worked through what went wrong,” Mrs. De Blasio said.

“And that was a lot,” Mr. De Blasio chimed in.

“We had our ups and downs,” Mrs. De Blasio said.

“It’s been a very good life,” she said later. “There have been times we didn’t have much money; we had our struggles. But he has given me a wonderful life.”

She explained that as a young couple with two young sons, they drove across the country from their Idaho home in their new convertible to visit family and friends.

They were young and had no worries, acknowledged Mrs. De Blasio.

That was until they returned home. Then the couple realized that they didn’t have any money.

Mr. De Blasio worked assorted jobs and obtained more education. Mrs. De Blasio was a stay-at-home mother for the two boys and Sandy, so she wasn’t able to contribute financially.

Mr. De Blasio eventually found a job in Washington state. He worked for Boeing for 30 years doing various jobs, including overseeing facility construction.

It was during those early months with Boeing that the couple was physically separated. Mrs. De Blasio remained in Idaho for nine months taking care of the children and trying to sell the family’s assets.

After settling in Washington, they became active members in their community of Des Moines. Mr. De Blasio said he felt he should give back to the community and served as a council member from 1973 to 1989 and mayor from 1984 to 1989.

Mrs. De Blasio was the owner/operator of Circuit Rider Christian Bookstore in town.

As members of the United Methodist Church, they hosted many youngsters in their home, they said.

After visiting Maui regularly for at least eight years, the couple settled on the Valley Isle in 1990.

Mrs. De Blasio still keeps busy with painting local landscapes and flowers and even special Christmas bottles.

Mr. De Blasio spent a lot of his time in his early years on Maui as a volunteer with Mediation Services, AARP and South Maui Citizens Patrol and serving on the boards of the Kihei Community Association and the Maui Condo Association. He is now officially retired from work and community service, he said.

In 1998, Mr. De Blasio was nominated Outstanding Older American of Maui County by then-Mayor Linda Lingle, the family said.

The couple also belongs to Ala Lani Methodist Church in Kahului.

Sandy lives in Pennsylvania; son Jim in Olympia, Wash.; and son John on Maui.

The De Blasios have five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

They have made longtime friends with other residents of the Maui Sunset during their two decades on Maui.

“They are my hanai parents,” said fellow resident Patricia Brown, who also helps the couple when family cannot.

Brown said that being married for 70 years is “a goal we should all strive to reach.”

Mrs. De Blasio was asked what she loves about her husband.

“I think he is very kind. He’s always been really loving,” she said. “He has always surprised me. . . . I always know I am loved.”

Some of the surprises included a trip to Jerusalem and, early on in their marriage, the purchasing of her “dream house” in Idaho.

Asked what he loves about his wife, Mr. De Blasio said, “I just appreciate her manners and her love that I have.”

Mrs. De Blasio offered advice to couples looking to get married today.

“I do tell them to make sure you are not just marrying because they think they are in love,” she said. “Make sure you are going to stick together. Remember, it’s not all going to be fun. There are struggles.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.