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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Couple celebrate 60 years of steadfast devotion

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Health Writer

At least three times a week, 99-year-old Benny Marquez takes the bus from his home in Liliha to Leahi Hospital on the slopes of Diamond Head to see his bride.

Benny Marquez, 99, and his 95-year-old wife, Florentina, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary yesterday with residents and staff of Leahi Hospital.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Yesterday, he and his wife, Florentina, 95, celebrated 60 years of marriage with a cake decorated with their 1943 wedding photo, sharing their day with a dozen hospital residents and staff members who feel like family themselves.

"We are very happy together," Benny Marquez said when asked about the secret of a long marriage.

Not arguing is key, he said. "I assure you people that we did not have any trouble. We no fight."

But granddaughter Evelyn Rimando said he underplays his contribution — an easy-going nature. "The reason they don't fight is he always gives in," she said with an indulgent smile.

Florentina has lived at Leahi, the state long-term-care facility, since April 2002 when her deteriorating health made it impossible for Benny to care for her at home. He had been her caregiver for five years and now lives with his son.

The couple, both originally from the Philippines, met during World War II when they were working at Hickam Field: He was driving a forklift in a warehouse and she was cleaning spark plugs, Rimando said.

The first spark was struck, and about two years later they got married. When the war ended, they found other jobs because the military laid off workers who were not U.S. citizens, she said. Later, both became citizens.

Benny and Florentina Marquez met at Hickam Field and married in 1943.

Marquez family photo

Their family grew: a son, six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Rimando said the two were inseparable for many years, working together at Kuakini Medical Center for a time and then spending many years of retirement together. She remembers her grandmother cleaning, gardening and cooking "the best cascaron (coconut dessert) I've ever tasted."

Her grandfather is still busy, spending time each day playing cards with friends along River Street. "I think it's their lifestyle that contributes to their longevity," Rimando said.

On his luckier days, Rimando said Marquez would use his winnings to buy his wife her favorite pastry — a twisted donut from Liliha Bakery.

When he turned 99 this year, Marquez's family took a cake to the downtown card-players only to find that many of his friends had brought their own cakes to honor him.

Leahi staff member Lana Ige, head nurse of Florentina's unit, said she and the other residents have become like part of the family for those who work there. "This is their home. They live with us."

Recently, Benny was ill and was hospitalized, keeping him away from Florentina for two weeks. Rimando said the staff buzzed after their reunion, saying "they couldn't keep their hands off each other."

Yesterday's celebration was in the day room of the fifth-floor unit where Florentina lives, with a panoramic view that wraps from Diamond Head to the steep slopes of Wilhelmina Rise.

But yesterday, the best view was of the Marquezes, still looking fondly at each other after six decades.

Correction: Benny and Florentina Marquez met during World War II when both were working at Hickam Field. They married two years after that first spark was struck. A previous version of this story gave a different time frame.