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'Couplehood': North Huntingdon couple celebrates 70 years of marriage

Tribune-Review - 2/14/2021

Feb. 14—Family had planned to gather in December to celebrate Henry and Patricia Heer, a North Huntingdon couple who have been married 70 years. The event never happened, another casualty of the covid-19 pandemic.

"Not being able to celebrate this memorable anniversary due to covid was not what they would have expected," said their daughter, Linda Nobles of Irwin.

The Heers — he'll be 93 on Feb. 19 and she is a spry 89 — could not join their daughter, son Kenneth of Brookville, eight grandchildren or seven great-grandchildren to mark the special anniversary. A son, Henry, died in 2019.

Had they gathered, there probably would have been stories of the day when Henry, a World War II Navy veteran from Forest Hills, wed Patricia Weber of East Pittsburgh on Dec. 15, 1950, at Christ Lutheran Church in Forest Hills.

The Heers had a lot in common with the 1.6 million Americans who were married that year, according to the 1950 Vital Statistics of the United States report. That was down from a high of 2.29 million in 1946, when servicemen came home from World War II and headed to the altar in droves. The marriage rate dropped after 1946 because there simply were fewer single people, the report theorizes.

Henry, who worked at Westinghouse Electric Corp.'sEast Pittsburgh plant, met Pat when she worked at Dennis Diner in Forest Hills, Nobles said.

He frequented the diner and the couple started dating. A year later, he popped the question, Nobles said. They planned a December wedding and, true to Western Pennsylvania, it snowed on their wedding day — about 15 inches, she said.

They headed east on Lincoln Highway, destined to spend their honeymoon not in the Poconos, but in the romantic setting of the Penn Albert hotel in downtown Greensburg. The 200-room "million-dollar hotel," as it was billed, gave those who spent a night the opportunity to hear the melodious sounds of the Pennsylvania Railroad's freight trains on the nearby mainline between Pittsburgh and Altoona.

Lasting commitment

So what is the couple's secret for remaining together for 70 years?

"Agree to disagree!" they say.

Professionals say couples who are married for decades do have a unique relationship.

Those who remain together for decades "think as a we" and enjoy their "couplehood," said Rita McGinley, a licensed psychologist and director of clinical training at Duquesne University, where she is an associate professor.

"It is part of their identities beyond themselves," said McGinley, a psychologist for about two decades with a private practice in Squirrel Hill. "They prize the couple that they are and the individuals that each are."

Long-term couples become best friends, according Courtney Seyler, a licensed family therapist and marriage counselor who co-owns Seyler & Berkebile Marriage & Family Therapy in Hempfield.

"They value the friendship more," Seyler said, adding that over decades, this can become more important than the passion in a relationship.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, or via Twitter .


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