Couple met at St. Gabriel’s Mass 65 years ago in Milford’s Walnut Beach

They share their secret of a long, happy marriage

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Benefico of Naples, Fla., are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary. They met as teenagers in Milford.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Benefico of Naples, Fla., are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary. They met as teenagers in Milford.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Benefico of Naples, Fla., met years ago along Milford’s shoreline, and this week they are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary.

Jeanne and Lenny exchanged marriage vows on April 24, 1949, at St. Catharine’s Church in Pelham, N.Y.

It was the summer of 1946 when 16-year-old Jeanne Lopardi met Leonard Benefico, 20, at Sunday Mass at St. Gabriel’s Church on Walnut Beach in Milford. Lenny was a resident of Laurel Avenue and Jeanne’s family spent their summers at their waterfront cottage on Wildemere Beach.

Back then, the beach area where the couple met was a summer haven for residents and out-of-towners who came to enjoy Milford’s shoreline. There were amusement rides and roller-skating, hot dog stands and other eateries.

What they liked best about Milford was the amusement park and that they could walk along the sidewalk or along the beach to the park to go on a ride, or go to an auction, or stop at one of the restaurants.

It didn’t take long for the young couple to realize that this was much more than a summer romance.

Three years later, they were married and settled into a home in Chester Park, Pelham, N.Y.

Jeanne and Lenny lived in Pelham for 40 years and also spent every summer on the beach in Milford, before retiring to Naples in 1989.

They are the parents of three children: Anne, who is married to Michael Phillippo, of Pound Ridge, N.Y.; Joseph, who is married to Gail, of Pelham, N.Y.; and Vincent, who is married to Margie, of Stamford.

They have four grandchildren: Michelle, Katharine, James, and Julie.

Jeanne and Lenny believe strongly that retiring to Naples has kept them “forever young.”

Jeanne stays busy by cooking her favorite Italian meals for her friends, playing mah-jongg several days a week, and tempting her luck at the slot machines.

Lenny, at the age of 88, plays golf. He also looks forward to reading the New York Post sports section every morning and keeping up on his favorite teams, the New York Jets, the Boston Red Sox and the UConn Huskies.

Jeanne and Lenny still visit Pelham and Milford a few times a year.

Jeanne loves getting together with her Monday night ladies card group in Pelham, and Lenny enjoys seeing his lifelong friends from Milford High School, Class of 1944, who have an annual luncheon each summer in Milford.

Jeanne and Lenny on the day of their wedding 65 years ago.

Jeanne and Lenny on the day of their wedding 65 years ago.

Having their own interests is one secret to their long marriage, Jeanne said. “Doing things together — dancing, playing bridge, vacations with other couples” —  was great — but at the same time pursuing their own interests was essential. Lenny is an avid golfer and Jeanne has always enjoyed getting together with the girls for cards and mahjong.

Compromise is important too. Daughter Anne Benefico-Phillippo said with a laugh, “For example, my mom had to change allegiance from the Yankees to the Red Sox.”

Finally, trust is essential, Jeanne said.

Lenny added with a smile that there are two key words in a long and happy marriage: “Yes, dear.”

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