With nearly 200 Valentine's Days between them, three Cape Coral couples recently opened up about meeting the love of their life and what it takes to build a happy union that stands the test of time.
Bill and Pat Pranger met in Chicago, Ill., while attending Wilson College.
"He played basketball," she said. "He was good looking - he was over 6 feet tall."
Cape Coral residents Pat and Bill Pranger have been married for 65 years.
Pranger, who was on the homecoming court, was looking for a dance partner.
"I needed a date, so I picked him up," she laughed.
The couple started dating after that.
"We just got along," Pranger said. "We just sort of hit it off."
After a little less than a year of dating, her beau popped the question. They were married a couple of months later on Sept. 29, 1948, in Chicago at a priest's rectory - she was Catholic, he was protestant.
"We were still in college, but we dropped out and went to work," Pranger said.
About three years into the marriage their first child, Karen, was born. Over the next 10 years, the couple welcomed Linda, Susan, Bill and Donna into the world. They now have five grandchildren.
In the retail business, Bill Pranger traveled often for his job and the family moved a handful of times, from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Oklahoma City, Okla., then to Greensboro, N.C., and later Akron, Ohio.
Seasonal residents, they eventually settled in the Cape in 1988 when Bill retired.
Traveling has been a shared love between the two over the years.
"We've been all over the world, even Egypt - all those places," she said. "Lots of cruises, lots of overseas travel - seeing places that you wouldn't normally see."
Pranger shared her and her husband's first overseas river cruise, which trekked from Amsterdam, Denmark, to Vienna, Austria, as one of her most memorable times with him.
"Everything we saw, everything we did," she said.
"It was a lot of fun growing old. It's not so much fun when you're old," Pranger laughed.
Mary Reisdorf was in the U.S. Army Air Corps when she agreed to a double date with a girlfriend. The girlfriend's date needed a vehicle and his friend, Cornelius "Corky" Reisdorf, had one - but no date.
"We were blind dates, which in our day was kind of common," she said.
Also in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Corky Reisdorf had returned from serving overseas.
"Right away we just clicked," Reisdorf said.
She, however, explained to him that she was not looking for a serious situation, but was open to a friendship. They even shook on it. Thirteen dates and about five months later, they were wed.
"He just proved that he's so responsible. Everything he said to me - he bent over backwards to keep his word," Reisdorf said. "I felt that, 'This is somebody you can spend your life with.'"
They married on Sept. 2, 1945, at Rosecrans Fields in Saint Joseph, Mo. He was 25 and she was 23. The couple later moved to Denver, Colo., where they spent 35 years. They raised one son, Mark, and a daughter, Nancy. Today, they are the proud grandparents of four and have seven great-grandchildren.
In 1988, the Reisdorfs settled in Cape Coral.
A shared devotion to country and God have connected the couple over the years.
"We both served," she said. "We have a deep love for our country."
Raised as a protestant, Corky converted to Catholicism for his new wife.
"He wanted so bad that we would be a united family," she said. "There was never any question about where we would be on Sunday morning."
Asked to share one sentimental memory, Reisdorf recalled when they went to a well-known prenatal doctor to set up an appointment, and there were 50 or 60 pregnant women waiting to do the same. The couple had already faced one line after another following the war - for a refrigerator, a home, more.
"He took my hand and looked me in the face and said, 'We have stood in line for many things, but we're not going to stand in line to get our baby," she said. "I thought how precious that was to me."
The Reisdorf found another doctor, and Mark was born.
"I think coming through the war years brought about an appreciation of things and life," she said.
Both raised in New Jersey, Betty and Ernest Dentzau met during high school.
"The first thing I looked at was how tall he was," she said. "I always liked tall boys."
The attraction was mutual.
"We took an immediate liking to each other," she said.
After going out a few times, Dentzau became away of Ernest's attentiveness.
"He would have his arm around me," she said. "He took care of me."
The couple would often take walks together. One day, after Dentzau had graduated from school, they were out walking and came upon a jewelry store. Inside, they saw a ring and marriage came up.
"We didn't really have any money, so he bought the ring on time," she said. "It was paid for by Christmas and so that's when we got engaged."
The engagement worried Dentzau's mother because she and Ernest were young. Dentzau quickly explained to her mother that she should not worry because they were not getting married right away.
"But four months later, I got married," she laughed.
The couple said their vows on April 26, 1953, in North Arlington, N.J.
"He told me after we were married that when we started going together that he told his friend that he was going to marry me," Dentzau said. "He made up his mind right away."
"I only knew that I like him and hoped that one day we would get married," she said.
After six years of marriage, their family grew with the birth of Michael, followed by Jeffrey two years later. The now grandparents of two lived in New Jersey for about 45 years before moving to the Cape.
Dentzau pointed to her whole life when asked about a special moment in her and Ernest's life.
"I think God every day that I've had the life I've had with him," she said.
As for advice on achieving a long marriage, each of the women offered up a few tips.
"We just have from the beginning had a great respect for each other," Reisdorf said. "These days a lot of couples have to prove their love, but from the beginning we have never had to prove our love."
She added that Corky's thoughtful gestures over the years also have not hurt. For instance, he always has a flower at the breakfast table for her, even if it means sneaking one from the neighbor's yard.
"I've really appreciated that. A lot of people, as they grow old, that diminishes," Reisdorf said.
"He has always been a hero, and he's treated me like a queen," she said.
Supporting each other and solving problems together also is key.
"We've all had our problems through the years, but you work through them," Dentzau said. "The advice that I would have it you need to talk, you need to discuss things, and you can't have any secrets."
Any big purchases or plans are not set in stone without a discussion.
"To this day, we do not do anything unless we talk it over with each other first," she said. "I think that's important - the communication between two people."
Being the peanut butter to your partner's jelly also does not hurt.
"I think we complement each other," Dentzau said. "I was always extremely outgoing, and he was just the opposite. He just kind of sat back and let me do my thing."
And, maintaining a sense of independence was something all three woman touched on.
"Bill traveled, so he was gone at least a week out of every month. That probably kept us together," Pranger said. "We had space between us - I think everybody needs their own space."
For them, that always meant one vacation spent together and one separate.
"I think the secret to a marriage is having your own space," she said. "To be willing to let one person go her way and another person go his way and still be together."
Not holding onto fights also does not hurt.
"Things will smooth themselves out," Pranger said.