Young love may be full of passion, but who says romance needs to end after marriage? In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we explore how to sustain love with longevity and invite you to meet six Estero couples who have each maintained their bond for more than 25 years. We fittingly start with a man named Romeo — reminiscent of Shakespeare’s icon of idealistic love — and his bride, Veronica, who have been married 66 years. You may recognize this couple as the smiling greeters at many Estero Chamber of Commerce events over the years.

Romeo & Veronica Antoniazzi

Wedding: October 20, 1951, at St. John’s Church in Bergenfield, NJ
Children & Grandchildren: Three children (Wayne, Robert and Susan), four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren
Years in Estero: 25
Residence: Villages at Country Creek
Community involvement: Volunteers with the Estero Chamber of Commerce, Bonita Community Health Center and Estero Historical Society

How we met: Veronica was a new transplant from New York City to New Jersey and was shopping at an A&P Market in Bergenfield when Romeo, a part-time student and a butcher in the market, asked her out. “I said yes!”

Things we like to do together: We have volunteered for many years for many causes and local societies and associations who love Estero as much as we do.

Our most romantic date: The evening of our engagement, May 26, 1951, we went to see the new moon rise over the Hudson River from the New Jersey Palisades. It was breathtaking, and it was there he gave me my engagement ring that I still wear every day.

Keys to an enduring romance: First and foremost, Mutual Respect. And of course, the “good morning” and the “good night” kiss.

Bill Callahan & Marilyn Edwards

Wedding: September 1, 1979, in Medina, Ohio
“Children”: Two very sweet rescue cats
Years in Estero: 18
Residence: Spring Run at The Brooks
Community involvement: Bill – Spring Run Men’s Golf Association. Marilyn – Estero Council of Community Leaders volunteer prior to becoming Communications Specialist for the Village of Estero. Together – Interfaith Charities of South Lee.

How we met: We met at the swimming pool at our apartment complex in Cleveland, Ohio. “My roommate had a crush on him from afar,” explains Marilyn, “so I decided I would get to know him to introduce him to her…well, that didn’t happen!”

Things we like to do together: Just about everything.

Our most romantic date: THE most romantic moment was in Bermuda on our honeymoon when we walked down the side of the embracement along our cottage to the beach at night with a bottle of champagne and watched the water in the glow of moonlight.

Keys to an enduring romance: To us, the number one key is for both parties to have a good sense of humor. Laughing will get you through any hard times, as well as the many good times! It’s important to be each other’s best friends, which we are.

Mike & Jacqui Forker

Wedding: Oct. 12, 1991, on the island of Jamestown, R.I.
Children: Three daughters — Emma, Haylee & Sophie
Years in Estero: 13
Residences: Lakes of Estero & Coconut Cove
Community involvement: Summit Church, Lakes of Estero, Estero Council of Community Leaders

How we met: We met twice in life — once in New Jersey when Mike worked there, and then Jacqui visited Cape Cod and found him there again (four years later). We started dating long distance. After our engagement, we would meet halfway in Mystic, Conn.

Things we like to do together: Go to the beach, eat out, follow Sophie’s sports activities at Estero High School (she excels in Girls Lacrosse) and support Haylee and Emma in career endeavors. Our favorite local restaurants are Chops, South Fork Grille and Rusty’s Raw Bar & Grill.

Keys to an enduring romance: Keeping God at the center of our marriage and the commitment to our family.

Donald (Donnie) & Zelma (Sis) Newberry

Wedding: April 26, 1976, in Estero
Children & Grandchildren: Five children, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. God has blessed us richly!
Years in Estero: Donnie, 65 years, and Sis, 62 years!
Residence: Estero River Heights
Community involvement: Estero Historical Society and weekly meal delivery for Interfaith Charities of South Lee

How we met: We have known each other since Sis was 14 and Donnie was seven.

Things we like to do together: Everything!

Our most romantic date: Walking on Bonita Beach at night.

Keys to an enduring romance: Trust and open dialogue.

Mark & Ramona Novitski
Wedding: Sept. 1, 1988, at the Justice of the Peace in Montgomery County, Ohio
Children & Grandchildren: Two sons (Eric & Todd), and two grandchildren (Tyler & Mason)
Years in Estero: 7
Residence: Bella Terra
Community involvement: Mark – Boys Scouts, Estero Chamber of Commerce, Estero Council of Community Leaders, Bella Terra Master Board, Corkscrew Road Service Advisory Board, Estero Fire Rescue Pension Board, Habitat for Humanity. Ramona volunteers for Lee Health, the Red Cross and as a greeter at Southwest Florida International Airport.

How we met: Ramona was working on the budget staff, and I was a financial analyst in a program office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We had a rocky start with differences in our job responsibilities, and those discussions led to romance.

Things we like to do together: Travel the world. We’ve traveled to over 50 countries and 45 states. We collect foreign currency to show the grandkids. We’ll celebrate our 30th anniversary this year by cruising the British Islands and Iceland. We also enjoy the local area through Estero Historical Society tours, FGCU Men’s Basketball games, Edison Ford Winter Estates Directors tours, cooking classes, shelling and volunteering in the community.

Our most romantic moment: Our first kiss on the steps of Ramona’s front porch.

Keys to an enduring romance: Couple time (away from the kids), compromise, understanding what is important, listening, discussing and agreeing on financial issues.

Jim & Lanell Shields
Wedding: August 7, 1965, at First Methodist Church in Marian, Iowa
Children & Grandchildren: Two children (John & Sarah), three grandchildren and two grand-dogs
Years in Estero: 13
Residence: Grandezza
Community involvement: Jim – founder of “Breaking Par” golf fundraiser benefitting the CEO Academy at Florida Gulf Coast University; volunteer with Junior Achievement and Estero Council of Community Leaders; advisory board member for FGCU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship. Lanell – Grande Estates Homeowners Association, Grandezza Master Board and Landscape Committee. Together: Hope United Presbyterian Church (Lanell is an elder and Jim is treasurer).

How we met: At the University of Iowa — Lanell was a Tri-Delta sorority gal, and Jim was a “house boy” who served her dinner.

Things we like to do together: Live within or visit other cultures, countries and climates.

Our most romantic moment: Our 25th wedding anniversary on Southampton’s South Shore in Bermuda.

Keys to an enduring romance: Always think, act and do for spouse before self.

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