Till death do us part: couples share secrets to lasting relationships


Jamie Lloyd, News Editor

Today, chocolate-covered candy and plastic hearts all over the world are half the price they were yesterday, the most romantic Tuesday of the year.

Yet beyond all of the flowers and cheesy love letters couples share on Valentine’s Day, ever wonder what it takes to make a relationship last—well—decades?

The residents at Sunrise of Metairie, a senior living community not too far away from the University of New Orleans, know a thing or two about making a relationship work. Some of these seniors have been married well over fifty years—and their answers to what makes a relationship work may surprise you.

Ruby and Con Mills remember the first time they saw each other as juniors in high school. Since catching each other’s eye between classes, they found themselves frequenting every high school dance as a couple, and the two dated throughout their junior and senior years.

“In between classes, we would be holding hands, and some teachers didn’t approve of that,” Con Mills remembered.

This bond continued as the couple went to the same junior college, where he studied accounting, later graduating business school and becoming a certified public accountant—and afterward, leaving to serve in World War II. The two high school sweethearts tied the knot on July 4, 1946 and raised four children, not to mention a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ruby Mills said that turning these pages of life with someone for so long involved “lots of patience” and “[praying] a lot.” She offered some words of wisdom for those just starting out in a relationship:

“My advice would be: don’t always expect to be happy. Accept the times that you are, and the others will pass. It’s not going to be a bed of roses all the way.”

“Stay together, stick it out,” added her husband.

Although every relationship has its bumps in the road, the Mills have traveled on that road to many different destinations around the world, enjoying their time together as they visited Australia, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, among other destinations. Now, the ninety-one-year-olds’ traveling days may be over, but the next chapter of their long lives is still unfolding.

Ruby, having been born in July, gamely pointed out that she is the oldest of the pair, whereas Con was born in December. “I’m a cougar,” she laughed.

It may have been this wit and sharp sense of humor that brought the couple close together for so many years.

For Jane and Cliff Goldner, it has been 68 years of marriage peppered with a similar brand of wit and humor that has kept them together. Cliff Goldner, who dubs the couple endearingly as “Jane and Tarzan,” said it was his wife’s wit, humor and good looks that turned his head.

Jane Goldner took notice of two of her future husband’s character traits: “He was a nice person and not real rough.”

The two grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, both stemming from religious backgrounds. “We both knew we came from good families,” Cliff Goldner added.

The couple had initially started off as school friends and later turned into something more, and they would go on to tie the knot in 1949. The then-young couple, now with Jane at 87 and Cliff at 93, even had their honeymoon in New Orleans.

“We came to New Orleans for our honeymoon, never knowing we would eventually move here.”

The Goldners moved here three years ago to be closer to their daughter, who married a New Orleans native. After almost seven decades of marriage, they remain closer than ever. The secret to a happy relationship, Cliff Goldner said, is “going with the flow.”

“You’ve gotta give and take, go with the flow. Accepting what the other one says and so forth.”

His wife added, “Don’t get uptight about everything that is a little different than you would like for it to be.”

For Burnell Rovira, however, the trick to a happy relationship is even simpler than that. Though the love of her life, “Skeets” Rovira has passed away, she remains ever fond of him and remembers their first encounter: meeting him through a co-worker while working as a nurse. They dated for three years before officially marrying in 1940.

“We were always seen doing things together. He always supported whatever I was doing.”

Shortly after finishing school, Burnell Rovira came down with a bout of tuberculosis. That did not stop her husband from nursing her back to health, tirelessly working, and making certain she had the necessary resources to make a full recovery. To this very day, Burnell Rovira remembers her husband’s kindness and easy-going nature.

Now 98 years young, she spends much of her energy reminiscing and keeping tabs on the couple’s two sons, six grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Her advice to the young couples out there is short and sweet.

“Spend time together. If you both enjoy the same things, you’ll know if you enjoy being together. Your interests have a lot to do with it.”