Nothing mattered; they were in love, an endless love that they cherish up to this day.
Maddalena was 16, Fortunato, a year older. It was February 8, 1941 when they vowed in Calabria, Italy, to be each other’s one and only. The Corsos, now 88 and 89 years-old, wedded as teenagers, and 72 years later, their eyes shine brighter as they are still together, their love stronger than ever.
“We went to church. We got married. There was no cake, no gifts, no guests,” said Maddalena in a Calabrian dialect which her daughter, Madeline, translated for her.
In their Bensonhurst home and surrounded by their daughter, their son Tony and daughter-in-law Estefana, they sat at a dining table–full of Baci chocolate, Ferrero Rocher, strawberries and espresso–speaking of the memories that remain of their big day.
“Quale festa?” meaning “What party?” Maddalena asked.
“In those days they had nothing,” Madeline explained of what she knows of her parents’ story, “and they had nothing, literally.” Regardless of material wealth, Fortunato looked ahead and exclaimed, “We are not rich with money, but rich with family and friends.”
The Corsos had seven children, now scattered all over the world. Their children gave them 15 grandchildren, and their grandchildren, an additional 10 great-grandchildren. “We were 56 [people] in total at the 70th wedding anniversary celebration,” laughed Madeline.
They came to the United States separately, in search of the American dream, during the 1950s. Fortunato made the trip first, bringing Tony along, and two-and-a-half years later, Maddalena joined them with the rest of the children. “He was always working, no matter if he was sick,” Tony said of her father, who worked in construction his entire life.
“Working night, day,” added Fortunato, in his broken English.
The lovers raised a family. He worked outside the home, and she worked inside. “She was there for the children,” her husband said.
“She even washed her husband’s shoulders,” when he came home from work, added Madeline. “Do you do that?” she teased her sister-in-law Estefana, about doing the same for her husband of 14 years. “You just don’t see that anymore [in young couples].”
The lovebirds are inseparable. Eight years ago, when Maddalena needed a knee replacement and none of the kids could take Fortunato to the hospital to see her, he hopped on the train to be with her. “She doesn’t eat if he isn’t hungry—it’s that kind of love,” Madeline remarked.
“You hear on the news a couple breaks up after 72 hours of marriage, a couple breaks up after only 72 days of marriage, well here is a couple married for 72 years today. They are amazing,” is how she described them.
When asked about the secret for the everlasting marriage, he responded,
“Work at it. Never go to sleep angry,” a theory that has come in handy many, many times.
“They fight like cats and dogs,” noted Tony, adding “If there is no fighting, there is no marriage.”
“They have a heart of gold; whoever knows them is blessed,” concluded their children of their parents.
Every year, the Corsos join other long-married sweethearts on Valentine’s Day, February 14, for “A Brooklyn Valentine,” hosted by Borough President Marty Markowitz and his wife, Jamie. All of these couples have been married for over 50 years, and they gladly gather together to share the love. They party and can even renew their wedding vows
The newlyweds can also enjoy a champagne toast, dance to the songs of their youth and “cap off the festivities with wedding cake and sugar free treats!”
Happy Valentine’s Day!