Ben and Phyllis Isenberg will celebrate 73 years

Meadow Ridge residents Ben and Phyllis Isenberg met while attending college in 1936. On Feb. 21, 2013, they will celebrate 73 years of marriage. —Kaitlin Bradshaw photo

On Feb. 21, 2013, Ben and Phyllis Isenberg, residents of Meadow Ridge, will celebrate 73 years of marriage. Mr. Isenberg described how they met as a “cute” story.

At the age of 15, Mr. Isenberg enrolled at the Teachers College of Connecticut, which is now Central Connecticut State University. He was sent home after college officials realized how young he was.

Two years later, on Mr. Isenberg’s birthday, March 5, he had a meeting with the president of the school and was able to be reinstated as a student in 1936. He was dating Mrs. Isenberg’s best friend, he said, and she wanted him to meet her roommate, Phyllis.

“I said, ‘Wow,’” said Mr. Isenberg. “I decided I was coming back [to school] and that I’d spend the rest of my life with Phyllis. And that’s what we’re doing.”

He described his bride as having an “an aura about her.”

“She was athletic and beautiful. She had that spark of life which shone,” said Mr. Isenberg. “And that’s what it’s been.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Isenberg were active in college.

“She loved art and I was president of the senior class,” he said.

On the day of their graduation, Mr. Isenberg gave Mrs. Isenberg “a token he could afford.”

“It was a small gold watch,” he said.

The two didn’t have an engagement, they just got married, said Mrs. Isenberg.

“We got married on Feb. 21. It was the snowiest day,” she said. “We got married at the rabbi’s house. It was just us and our immediate family. We had a five-minute ceremony and I kept checking my watch to see if we’d make the train, which was a 10-minute walk away.”

For their honeymoon the two took a train to Washington, D.C., and stayed in The Dodge hotel.

“When we made it to the train, we settled in our seats and I got up to get sandwiches,” said Mr. Isenberg.

“When he got up, the conductor came and asked [me] for the tickets. Forgetting I was married, I said, ‘Oh, my friend has them.’”

The Dodge was an expensive hotel, so they stayed only one night and spent the rest of their honeymoon at the Belvedere across the street, said Mr. Isenberg.

When returning home to Norwalk, Mr. Isenberg started his teaching career at the Gilbert & Bennett School in Georgetown.

“I was there for two and a half years, then went to Norwalk to teach to replace a man who went into the service,” he said.

Four months later he took a job in Chicago.

“I volunteered to work in the Navy as a teacher —  not in uniform, but as a civilian,” he said.

Mrs. Isenberg got a job teaching in Norman, Okla., just outside of Oklahoma City.

For a couple of months Mr. Isenberg went back and forth between Chicago and Oklahoma until Mrs. Isenberg gave up her job to be with her husband. After a year they came back to Connecticut.

Mr. Isenberg was drafted into the Army and was chief of training methods at Aberdeen Training Ground in Maryland. While he was in the service, Mr. and Mrs. Isenberg welcomed their first child, Cathy Lynn, and later had a second child, Shelley.

Mr. and Mrs. Isenberg have three granddaughters and three great-granddaughters.

“And we have wonderful son-in-laws and grandson-in-laws, too,” said Mrs. Isenberg.

“We just burst with pride,” said Mr. Isenberg.

Between Mr. and Mrs. Isenberg and their children and grandchildren, there is more than 200 years of teaching in their family, said Mr. Isenberg.

“When I first started teaching I made $1,200 a year and they took back 8%,” said Mrs. Isenberg.

When asked what’s the key to a long-lasting and loving marriage, Mrs. Isenberg said, “Fight every day, make up every night.”

Mr. Isenberg said having a wonderful family is the key.

“They’re a great bunch. Everyone is different,” he said. “But that’s the story of our life. It’s been a lot of fun.”

 

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