Recently Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, sent a framed document to Ruth and James Aurigemma, “in honor of their 65 years of married love. As one of the longest married couples in the Archdiocese of New York you are a visible sign of God’s great love for us. We thank you for your beautiful witness of fidelity, sacrifice and authentic love.”
The couple met in 1954 but knew of each other socially because their families were parishioners of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marlboro.
“He went to school in Marlboro with my sister and he was good friends with my brother-in-law,” Ruth said. “Then he asked me out to the movies and we just stuck a chord; it was love at first sight.”
Ruth said they often went dancing.
“We loved to dance and we just enjoyed each other’s company,” she said.
The following year, on April 24, 1955, the couple married in their hometown church. They have been blessed with four children – two boys and two girls.
“The boys are the youngest and oldest; I call them my bookends,” Ruth laughs. “The two girls are in the middle and they are all professionals.” In addition, Ruth and James have 8 grandchildren, three boys and five girls.
Ruth (nee Barry), 84, is a native of Marlborough and James, now 88, moved to town from the Bronx when he was about 10 years old. James is the 10th and last living member of 11 siblings.
James worked as a heavy equipment operator for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825. Ruth said she was a stay at home mom until the 1970s when she went to work as an office manager for a general surgeon, a job that lasted 20 years.
Ruth said there were challenges when their children were young, “but we had good kids, we really did. We had no major problems with them because I think they had a good example of what was expected of them. I would yell and scream sometimes, but all my husband had to do was look at them and they knew.”
Ruth said more than 30 years ago James began experiencing pain in his right leg. For about 6 months the couple traveled to New York and Boston to confer with doctors and having multiple biopsies done before a diagnosis that James had a rare form of cancer in his right tibia, commonly known as the shinbone, and underwent medical procedures for it.
James medical issues kept him out of work for 6 years. Ruth said her husband came through the ordeal because of his perseverance and faith and a lot of help getting to and from the hospital from the community.
Nearly 9 years ago, however, crippling pain returned to his leg while on a job loading trucks up north in Delaware County. He and Ruth then made an appointment with Dr. John Healey, a surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. The three spoke about cancer in his leg and about several options, but James decided that he did not want to go through radiation, coupled with a prolonged period of convalescence. He ultimately chose to have his right leg amputated below the knee. Today a prosthesis enables him to walk.
James looked back over the years, recalling how he felt when he was with Ruth.
“All of a sudden it just came that we connected. We just came to be, that’s all. We were attracted to each other and we’ve been very faithful to each other and we love each other very much,” he said.
James said he does not understand why other couples are unable to work things out.
“We had our spats now and then but love overcomes any chance you have of being angry. You might be upset about something but you never go to bed angry. We give each other a kiss goodnight and we’ve been doing that for 65 years.”
The couple say the church has always been a centerpiece in their lives and in the last few years they attend Mass at St. Mary’s five days a week.
James said he has always had a strong faith in God.
“He watches over us. I try to follow the Golden Rule and no thievery, no anger, as much as I can and I just get by. The faith in me is the strongest that there is.”
In answering the proverbial question of what is the secret of a long marriage, Ruth summed it up in a few simple words.
“First you have to listen to each other and you have to love each other,” she said. “I believe that and I think that says it in a nutshell.”