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Senior couples renew wedding vows at Elmhurst retirement community

Jim and Carol Reasor met through church youth groups when they were just 16 and 14 years old. It was the beginning of a decades-long love story. They were married in the same Indianapolis church in 1956 after graduating from Purdue University together.

“I thought she was a beautiful and lively girl. “He was very popular with my brothers,” Jim Reasor, 89, said with a laugh.

They were one of a dozen couples who renewed their vows for Valentine’s Day at an Elmhurst senior living community on Wednesday. Their ages ranged from 80 to 90, and their marriage spanned a total of 731 years.

The Roosevelt retirement community in Salt Creek was decorated with string lights and red heart-shaped balloons. Two flower arrangements were placed next to a podium with an illuminated “love” sign.

“When you work with our residents and hear their stories, it’s heartening to see how close they are as a couple,” said Peter Crane, the community’s general manager.

The couples sat at the front of the room while Elmhurst Mayor Scott Levin presided over the ceremony. Each man had a rose pinned to his suit, while the women held pink bouquets. One of the seniors had a lace veil in her hair.

“When I look at the likes of the marriages we celebrate today, I see that they are truly remarkable by any standard, and so I congratulate all of you on that,” Levin said.

Couples at the Roosevelt at Salt Creek retirement community in Elmhurst attend a wedding vow renewal ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)

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“Yes dear, yes dear, yes dear,” said 84-year-old Larry Wing. His wife, 81-year-old Ellen Wing, also laughed next to him.

After leading the elders through a series of swearing-in ceremonies, Levin told each man to kiss his bride as the crowd applauded.

“You don’t have to stand, we’re not throwing rice,” Crane joked.

Other single senior citizens also attended the celebration. Many of the community’s residents are widows, Crane said. At the back of the room sat Rosemary Biagi, wiping tears from her eyes. Her husband of more than 50 years died in 2014.

“He would have loved it,” Biagi said. “We were inseparable. “My love for him would last forever.”

After the ceremony, 94-year-old Mary Jane and Adolph Olivi shook each other’s hands.

“We are best friends,” Mary Jane Olivi said.

The couple attended neighboring high schools on Chicago’s South Side. Adolph Olivi still remembers the first time he saw his wife on the shores of Lake Michigan.

“She was on the beach and I said, ‘I’d like to meet that girl, she’s so cute,'” Adolph Olivi said. “I’ve been calling her MJ since we met.”

They married in 1953. Adolph Olivi served in the Marine Corps for two years before starting a family together. The couple had three children and two grandchildren before moving to Roosevelt in Salt Creek eight years ago.

“This place is like our second family,” Mary Jane Olivi said.

Larry and Ellen Wing were sitting next to the Olivis, each drinking a glass of champagne.

“Our love continues 60 years later,” said Larry Wing. “I feel the same way I did when we got married.”

karmanini@chicagotribune.com

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