Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

March 2, 2012

USA: Elderly Couple Breaks Wedding World Record

PALM SPRINGS, California / The Desert Sun / March 1, 2012

He's 98, She's 95. Credit: Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

He's 98, she's 95 -- and they set a world record for being the oldest newlyweds

Kate McGinty, The Desert Sun

This Leap Year, 95-year-old Lillian Hartley used the extra day in February to sneak in an extra shot at love: She got married.

The bride wed her longtime sweetheart, 98-year-old Allan Marks, in a brief civil ceremony Wednesday at the Riverside County clerk's office in Indio.

“I don't know what will happen. I want to be together for all eternity, and I'm not taking any chances,” the bride said.

“We're the Romeo and Juliet of senior citizens.”

Their reign as eldest romantics in California could be bigger than even they thought. Their marriage breaks the Guinness World Record for oldest combined age of a couple on their wedding day.

Guinness spokeswoman Jamie Panas, who spoke after a Desert Sun inquiry about the record, said the couple will officially take the new title once they provide verification of their ages.

“They would definitely beat the current record we have for aggregate age,” Panas said.

A French couple set the record for oldest combined age when they married in 2002. The 96-year-old groom and the 94-year-old bride had lived 191 years, 126 days between them.

The Markses have lived a combined 193 years, eight months and three days.

When told their marriage could set a record, Lillian was shocked.

“Honest to God? Oh, I can't believe it,” Lillian said. “Oh, I'm impressed with myself.”

The couple — a widow and widower who both grew up on the East Coast — first met at Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs. It was 18 years ago on Yom Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday.

Allan, a retired veterinarian from Brooklyn, complimented the then-78-year-old's dress. Lillian, a retired paralegal from Boston, told him it was “just an old rag” but liked the compliment.

“I'm not deeply religious, but I just think it was meant to be,” Lillian said. “I didn't want a relationship — I enjoyed my freedom — but he got me.”

The couple have been “living together in sin” ever since, Lillian joked, but never took the time out of their busy schedules to have a ceremony.

Instead, they travel — they've gone to Cancun, Mexico, six times in the last decade. They go to temple together. They stop everything to watch the Lakers play basketball.

“We're not what you would call couch potatoes,” Lillian said.

Combined, their blended family has seven adult children, 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, scattered across the nation.

Riverside County Deputy Commissioner Yvonne Cruz, who has presided over thousands of weddings in the last seven years, helped them fill out their marriage certificate Wednesday.

Cruz checked their birthdates on their driver's licenses because she couldn't believe how old they were.

It was simple and brief, but she counted it among the best weddings she's ever overseen.

“Very plainly, they both told me they wanted to be together forever,” Cruz said. “There was no question about that.”

After their two-minute ceremony in a small room in the county office, the couple ate lunch at a nearby International House of Pancakes and returned to their Palm Springs condominium.

There, Lillian helped Allan fix his hearing aid, and he affectionately called her “mama.”

Though they call themselves the most romantic couple they know, they are in no rush to honeymoon.

“We celebrate every day,” Lillian said. Then she paused and thought for a moment. “I might go to Swiss Donut and have one of the nice donuts.”

Kate McGinty is a reporter for The Desert Sun. 

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