Respect, patience, humor
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
MILWAUKEE – While newlyweds may struggle to keep the flame alive six months after they marry, Lorraine (Framckowiak) and George Brzozowski are a tightly woven couple and blissfully in love with each other.
George, 82, is retired from the Milwaukee Park Commission where he worked as a welding supervisor. Lorraine, also 82, worked in food service with the Milwaukee Public School system, and later for the federal government as a clerical worker.
They have been married for nearly 63 years and celebrated their anniversary on Monday, May 11.
Not bad for a couple who were introduced to each other in the cradle! Their first date was a nap together with chubby toes touching when they were one and two months old respectively. George is exactly 28 days older than Lorraine.
“Back in 1927, near Pulaski, it was a common practice at the time for the farm wives to gather at each other’s homes for quilting, feather stripping, harvesting, canning or whatever job needed doing,” explained George. “When the two families got together on such occasions, the women would put both babies together in the same cradle.”
After a year of these little dates, George’s family moved to Milwaukee and the families lost touch. Sixteen years later, in 1943, they reunited at the wedding of Lorraine’s cousin. There was electricity between the two, but neither knew they had a history.
“We were attracted to each other right away,” Lorraine said. “And the people who brought George to the wedding assumed we were related somehow, but we really didn’t know each other until we figured out after we exchanged names, that we knew each other as babies.”
For George it was love at first sight as he considered Lorraine the prettiest girl in the world.
“I knew I loved her five minutes after I met her,” George recalled.
With phone calls being an expensive luxury in the 1940s, the two exchanged addresses and agreed to write letters. And since Lorraine wasn’t as smitten, George knew he had his work cut out for him.
“He thought I was impressed with him, but I wasn’t as swept off my feet as he was,” laughed Lorraine. “We kept mailing letters back and forth and then I fell in love with him.”
Nearing age 18, George knew his chances of being drafted into World War II were high, so he enlisted into the Seabees and continued to correspond with Lorraine. After obtaining written permission from his father, the two were married at St. Martin Catholic Church in Cecil, in the Green Bay Diocese, while George was home on leave.
“Our family accepted everything, although they thought we were young,” George said. “Because we were to be married when we were 19, I had to get a signature because I was under 21. A girl could get married without one, but not boys.”
The newlyweds lived on a California naval base until George was discharged from service. Afterward, they moved to Milwaukee where they raised three girls and one boy. While times were often tough, the couple admits that the key to their longevity is learning to overlook a lot.
“A lot of people think that when you marry, things are going to be hunky dory all the time,” Lorraine said. “There are many ups and downs in marriage and it is important to try to manage living through these times while still properly respecting each other highly.”
Of course, periodic disagreements occur in any marriage and George and Lorraine’s was no exception. Rather than let the problems consume their relationship, both let the situation ride itself out and most of the difficulties would go away by themselves.
“We never took any course in anything like that,” George said. “It is just respecting and riding out the storm. We hate divorce and that is one thing in our house that we never talked about and it was never brought up in conversations. I think that’s what made us last this long; arguing happens but you can’t have it take over. You have to be patient and patience is a virtue that has to be learned.”
Along with respect and patience, humor comprises a large portion of their relationship. The two learned to laugh at their mistakes, and often joked their way out of arguments.
“Our kids inherited our sense of humor, too,” Lorraine said. “We try to joke around with each other to get ourselves out of feeling upset and then we realized that things were really not that bad. We’ve always had good times – we danced, traveled and did whatever we could. We’ve traveled to Europe and gone out West a few times; we’ve had a lot of fun over the years.”
Lifelong Catholics, they said faith was integral in their relationship as a couple. For years, they belonged to St. Vincent de Paul Parish where George served as an usher and Lorraine in the altar society. They volunteered wherever they could. George often utilized his carpentry skills to help remodel the church and to do other assorted tasks.
“Later on it got to be too much for us, because we had to travel a lot, so we moved to St. Matthias, which is a lot closer for us,” George said. “We like it there, too, and are happy that we brought our kids up in Catholic schools, and all have stayed Catholic to this day.”
While both are saddened to see young couples divorce so soon after marriage, they urge husbands and wives to seek counsel from those whose marriages have withstood the test of time.
“Whenever our kids got married, we always hoped they would look to us, and if they had troubles, we would steer them in the right directions and hope that some of our years of marriage would rub off on them,” said George.
Lorraine agreed, and added that couples needed to remember, above all, to respect each other.
“Pray together, work together and at the end of the day, kneel down by the end of the bed and pray that the day will go by real nice and the next day will be better,” she said. “Our parents were hard working and took everything in stride and we learned from them. Times were hard when we were just married, but we didn’t think we were poor. We were happy to be together and took each day as it came. We never wanted too much from anything.”