Longest Marriages

Two of Southport’s oldest couples give us the scoop on love and making it last.
By Kass Fincher
Though they didn’t know each other, two of Southport’s longest-married couples shared several things in common – the same ages, a strong faith, and a commitment to family. They also both moved here to be near adult children. And, amazingly, each of the women have twin sisters!

Jack and Chris Benjamin are 92 and 91 years old, respectively, and late last year celebrated their 69th anniversary. They moved from Charlotte in July last year and live in the Landing with their daughter Lynn Benjamin and close to their other daughter and son-in-law Susan and Mike Justice. A third daughter
Libby lives in the Atlanta area. The Benjamins proudly claim seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Chris grew up in the Shelby area, where her twin sister still lives. Jack spent his early years in China, where his parents were missionaries. During the conflicts with Japan in the late 1930’s, Jack and his family moved to the United States. Stationed in the army in Petersburg, Virginia, Jack met Chris at a local Baptist Church where she was a secretary. And later it was there in a little classroom that they married.
Jack’s first job was as a time and motion expert for a meat packing plant in Chicago. His daughter Lynn describes his fit for that type of work. “That job was appropriate for him because he doesn’t like to waste time,” she says. “He’s always looking for the quickest way to do things.”
With a relative in Charlotte, Jack started a business – Standard Crankshaft – which required him to travel quite a bit. Like many families in the 1950s, Jack worked while Chris took the primary responsibility for raising their three children. “They were very committed to having a Christian home, rearing Christian children and being involved in the church,” Lynn says. “They had very high expectations for us; they expected us to always do what was right. We’ve done well academically and professionally.”
Today, Jack and Chris are still active. Lynn describes her father’s handyman assets. “He loves to tinker and fix things; he has that typical engineer brain, loves to solve problems.” She relates that he recently created a special tool to fix her faucet and even climbed a ladder to hang a star for the holidays. “We try to keep him off ladders, try to slow him down,” she relates with a laugh.
The couple credits their long-lasting marriage to their faith in God and vows to each other. Active in the First Baptist Church at Oak Island, Jack regularly visits church friends in the local nursing homes and hospital. He even drives to Wilmington at times to visit friends in the hospital, though Lynn says they won’t let him drive farther than that these days.
Lynn believes her parents complement each other in personality. Her father’s “servant spirit” keeps him actively trying to help others. He puts his wife Chris first – making her breakfast each morning and at night asking her what she would like for dessert. Both Chris and Jack take part in exercise classes they enjoy weekly at Southport’s Senior Center.

Similar to the Benjamins, Harold and Marion McCauley – 92 and 91 years old, respectively, were married for 70 years. They moved here from Toms River, New Jersey in 2009 to be near their daughter Jean Malinofsky. “They came here to be near me because I’m the only daughter – you know how that goes,” Jean chuckles. They recently moved to the Carillon Assisted Living facility in Southport.
Harold and Marion met as 8-year-old next-door neighbors in Brooklyn. Harold’s parents emigrated from Ireland; the couple were both raised as devout Irish Catholics. After serving in the Navy in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, Harold joined the New York Police Department and married Marion.
The couple raised their four children in the Rosedale neighborhood of Queens. While Marion stayed home to raise the children, Harold worked for the NYPD for forty years and moonlighted on his days off to paint churches in order to make more money to send the children to private Catholic schools. Their daughter Jean describes their partnership. “They complemented each other. My father was very easygoing; my mother not so much. They truly loved each other. She did all the cooking and cleaning; he appreciated everything she did for him. As old fashioned Irish Catholics; they believed in the power of prayer.”
In their younger years, each enjoyed their separate interests. Marion was a master gardener and avid reader, though recently her eyes have been failing. Harold loved to golf in what he called his “first retirement” in New Jersey.
Jean says her dad liked to tell stories. “Between his service in WWII and 40 years in the NYPD, he had great stories,” she says. One of his favorite sayings in response to the inquiry “how are you doing” was “I woke up on the right side of the grass.” At his 90th birthday celebration, he led 40-plus family members in singing his favorite Irish song – “Galway Bay.”
That humor and self-deprecation contrasted with Marion’s toughness – a product, Jean says, of her Irish upbringing. After moving here, Harold had several falls. “My mother refused to call 911,” Jean says,. “Instead, she called me at 3 a.m. to come help get Dad up.” Even after Harold had fallen six times, it took Jean and her brothers awhile to convince her parents to move to the assisted living facility. “They were both very independent,” she says, “but it was quite a nice place for them to reside.”
Although they put down roots in Southport and became active members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church here, the couple still kept up with family in other places. Marion still has a twin sister who lives in Poughkeepsie, New York. Their sons Bill and Bob live in Florida, and son Gregory lives in New Jersey.
Sadly, just prior to press time for this story, Harold passed away. He and Marion would have been married 71 years this month. In addition to his dear wife, Harold leaves behind four children and seven grandchildren. His obituary lovingly relates: “He was known as a Good Husband, a Good Father, a Good Friend, and a Good Cop.”
Our warmest condolences go out to the McCauley family, for whom, with the Benjamins, we wish the best for the future. We can all learn from both couples’ abiding commitment to their faith, family, friends and each other.
Thank you to all the other submissions:
Kim Smith nominated for the oldest newly-weds – Spence and Kristi Hayden were married last April, Spence is 61 and Kristi is 55. Blake and Rlobin Conklin – 39 years! Tony and Mary Thomas – Married 10/23/1965… 52 years.

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