Bud and Ruth Lamendola have been married for 65 years, as of July 24th. More than half of their years together have been spent in the same condominium at Tarpon Village on Capri. What is their secret to a long, healthy and happy marriage? According to Bud, “everything has always been 50/50. Of course we knew we were compatible when we started, we dated for two years first.” Ruth knew Bud’s family. They were introduced when Bud returned home from serving in the Navy in the South Pacific. So what was Ruth’s response to the same question, the secret of a good marriage? Ruth’s response was in harmony with Bud’s, “Everything was 50/50. It wasn’t my job or his job, it was our job. And, we didn’t live together before marriage.”
The couple celebrated their 65th Anniversary milestone with a dinner party at Sunset Grille. They renewed their wedding vows and received a special blessing from Fr. Tim Navin at San Marco Catholic Church. Decades earlier, Bud helped paint the first building on the church grounds. “We told the Father, buy the paint and we will do the work.” Ruth converted to Catholicism before they married. The church brought them a sense of community. They both served as ushers at San Marco Church and Bud is a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus.
Ruth and Bud were born and raised in Illinois. Bud’s sister and brother had moved to Florida and after two heart attacks, Bud retired and he and Ruth followed. The Lamendola’s, including Bud’s 95 year old brother Vinnie, were instrumental in the building of Tarpon Village and the church. Vinnie still lives just across the way.
Most brides dream of a wedding that goes seamlessly. No suchluck for the Lamendola’s. Ruth’s wedding dress was $64.00 in 1948. “It hung from chandelier in the dining room while everyone came in to prepare the food. Have you ever heard of a bride that didn’t bathe before the wedding?” Ruth asks. “I couldn’t, our tub was full of vegetables that was where we had to store them! We did all the cooking and preparation for the wedding ourselves. Friends did the serving!” Bud received a $300 veterans bonus from the State of Illinois which paid for the wedding. “We prepared food for 150-175 guests with the help of cousins who had done some catering and were in the grocery business. We hired a band. The day before the wedding, the band leader broke his leg. We didn’t know what we were going to do without music but we couldn’t worry about it. The time came and there he was cast and all, he just propped his leg up. We left to take our wedding photos, the car broke down on the way there. We had to send someone back on the trolley to get another car.”
Although the wedding day didn’t go as ‘smoothly’ as the couple had hoped, it was a good indication they could make it through a few potholes along the road of marriage. These stories are told with laughter, the memories are deeply cherished. For their honeymoon, Bud and Ruth rode a greyhound bus to Petosky, Michigan. They rented a cabin and went fishing.
Advice for young people today? Bud answers, “we were never out to impress anyone. We are down to earth and didn’t feel we had to have a lot of things. Today childrenfeel they should get the latest gadgets just because their friends do. We were very poor growing up and that puts things in perspective. Advice? Be independent and take care of yourself.”
Things are brought into sharp perspective when you learn that at ten years of age, Bud’s mother died during childbirth. He and his sister, who was only thirteen at the time, had to care for the baby as their father worked. The hospital charged $1.00 per day for infant care. Their father had to take out a loan from a loan shark to bring the baby home. “The hospital wouldn’t release the baby to us until the bill was paid,” Bud explained, “It was hard because we were so young. There was no running and crying to mom and dad about things.”
“When we played football it was with an empty gallon sized tin can; that was our ball, it’s all we had. In baseball we had two teams, ten kids each. A baseball was $1.20. I remember that because each team had to come up with 60 cents to buy the ball and whoever won the game, got to keep it. Everyone would put in their pennies and many of us just didn’t have it. Everyone would pitch in an extra penny or two if they had it and sometimes we simply didn’t have it. Each day, I was given six cents to take the trolley to school and back. I would walk, run and do whatever I had to save that six cents. If I could save it, then I could get a hamburger for a nickel and a carton of milk for a penny!”
Bud entered the Navy at 17 with his father’s approval. “We didn’t wait tobe drafted. Young people had a sense of duty. It was a job. Of course, there is never a thought that you could die. Once while on the upper deck of a “Tin Can”, a piece of shrapnel came right through the wall next to where I was leaning. The fellow I was talking with said, “A guy could get killed around here, let’s go! So we went down below. It’s not that we thought we were invincible, we just didn’t think about it.” The “Tin Can,” as they were referred to then, was the Destroyer the U.S.S. Robinson. “It was a job. I started as a striker and ended up a sergeant. My job was to stand watch in the switch room. We were in several invasions and did everything. In the end I was an electrician. It was a 300’ ship with 300 men. You gain a sense of camaraderie. You steer for yourself. It was a very good experience.”
After a short stay with Ruth’s father and stepmother after they married, the couple rented in a rooming house. Bud said, “there were a bunch of people in and out including drunks, a prostitute and cockroaches. There was a shared kitchen, shared bathroom and no heat in the winter. The room was $55 per month and I made $50 a week. From there, we moved to a small apartment.”
Ruth continued, “I stayed home for eighteen years raising a family. When I went back to work, I was a Design Automation Transcriber. Bud, was a department manager of the Industrial Engineering Department at GT E (now Verizon.) Eventually we bought a home. We’ve travelled,” Bud showed Ruth many of the islands in the South Pacific he had seen during the war. “We’ve had a good life.”