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Longtime Clayton Couples Share Love Secrets

They're celebrating decades of cards, flowers, chocolates and love.

While today is the first Valentine's Day for some couples, for others it’s a celebration of decades of cards, flowers and a commitment to a lifetime of togetherness.

Meet Lil and Bernard Fichtenkort, Clayton residents since 1962 who have been married for 53 years. They met in the Chicago area through Lil’s roommate when she was 26 and he was 27. She said it was not love at first sight.

“It was interest at first sight,” according to Lil. “We both had so much in common. It was so easy, like I had known him for years.”

She said they both came from fairly small towns, her from Wisconsin and him from Iowa. They will celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary Sept. 7 and attribute their wedded bliss to choosing the right battles.

“It’s about mutual respect and not fighting the little battles,” said Lil, a retired R.N. “Sometimes it’s better to just drop it. The little things you give in to, but the big things you work out and don’t prolong the bitterness.”

Bernard, a retired mechanical engineer, said his secret to a long and happy marriage is all about “common sense.”

For Clayton couple Mahlon “Ming” and Lorene Hanson, who will celebrate 65 years of marriage in April, it’s about talking things out and trust.

“What’s important is love first, trust is second. It’s hard to explain,” said Ming, who has lived in Clayton with Lorene for 50 years.

Ming, who piloted a B-24 in the South Pacific while in the Air Force, said he gave Lorene a ring and asked her to marry him before he went into the service at age 19.

“She refused me and I gave her the ring anyway!” he said. “When I came home (five years later), I gave her another ring and she finally said 'yes' and we got married.”

Lorene retired from the after 25 years of service, and Ming worked for an industrial sheet metal company in Oakland. They have four children, lost two, and enjoy their six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Ming recalls only two major arguments during their close to 65 years together.

“The first fight, Lorene got mad and went to see my mother,” he said. “The next fight, I got mad and went to see my mother. She said, 'Don’t talk to me, I’m on Lorene’s side.' ”

Lil added one last thing about the secret to a lasting relationship.

“Always show each other love,” she said. “And make sure you say it (I love you) always.”

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