Sarah and Ed Fiscella’s marriage of 61 years started off as the puppy love of teenagers drawn by physical attraction.
She was 14 and he was 16 when the two of them first met in 1944, at a friend’s “Sweet 16” birthday party in West Philadelphia, where they both lived.
Soon after the party, they started “seeing each other” — they didn’t call it dating back in those days, Sarah explained.
He was drafted into the Army right after he graduated from high school in 1945, serving on the Pacific front in the closing months of World War II and for about another year or so after that in Japan.
During his deployment, he and Sarah stayed close by writing letters to each other on a regular basis.
She graduated high school in 1947 and the following year they got engaged — after he formally asked for and got her father’s blessing.
“Back in those days, getting married was just the normal thing to do,” she said. “That’s the way it was for everyone.”
They got married in a large ceremony at St. Donato Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia on May 29, 1949.
Way off the mark
Her father, however, wasn’t convinced that the marriage would last much more than a year and told Ed so.
Looking back on that wildly errant prediction now, they both laugh at just how wrong her father was and how right they were for one another.
And, while their love to each other has been strong throughout the years, Sarah Fiscella wonders if her father’s low confidence in the depth of their commitment made her just that much more determined to have the marriage last.
She credits the closeness with their children, love, trust and patience that they have for each other for making their marriage a success.
“We feel for each other, 61 years later, the way we did when we first met,” she said. “Right, hon?”
“I don’t know about that,” he replied impishly, making her chuckle.
Actually, he said, they are as happy together now as they’ve ever been, maybe even happier.
He said one reason, in addition to those Sarah listed, it has worked so well between them is that they both worked, with him especially putting in long hours, which gave them plenty of time apart over the years.
They lived in Philadelphia for several years before moving to Upper Darby, Pa., where they raised their two children — Ed Fiscella Jr. and Renee Marie — and lived for 48 years.
They moved to Sicklerville, N.J., four and a half years ago so they would be closer to their son, who lives 10 minutes away and can be over quickly in case his parents, who are now 83 and 80, need his help.
Their children have five children of their own now, and one of them is a new mom herself, giving Ed and Sarah Fiscella their first great-grandson and expanding the circle of love and pride they feel for their family.
Ed Fiscella worked in hotel management for most of his 35-year career, climbing his way up from trainee apprentice to food and beverage director for numerous Hilton hotels in the Philadelphia area.
Cooking up a storm
He developed a fine talent for cooking, something that his wife has savored over the years.
“He can whip up a meal and make it look good too,” she said. “Our favorites are pastas. And he makes great meatballs.”
He is a former president of the National Association of Catering Executives, which in 2003 inducted him into its hall of fame.
Sarah worked as a secretary for a doctor’s office and later as a transcriptionist in the radiology department at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where she worked for 20 years and ended up being supervisor of the hospital’s transcriptionists.
Even after retirement, she worked for another 10 years on a part-time basis doing medical transcription for Philadelphia-area hospitals.
Neither of them has a college degree — although Ed, the oldest of three brothers, took courses at the Cornell University’s Hotel School and the Denver School of Culinary Arts.
Sarah, the second-youngest of six siblings, said she would have loved to have gone to college, but her father, who was a shoemaker who immigrated from Italy, was a traditionalist who did not think women needed to go to college.
Back in those days, that mindset was common, so she didn’t make a big deal of it.
And in any case, she said she is quite content with the course of her life, in no small part due to her marriage.
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