Alfred Ruffilli vividly remembers the carefree drive he took around Sarnia on a Saturday afternoon some 75 years ago that led to his first date with Noreen.
Cruising the town, Alfred spotted her with a group of girls – some of whom he recognized from SCITS – congregating near one of their homes.
After sparking up a conversation the 18-year-old eventually asked Noreen out to the movies.
She said yes.
The cost of admission to the theatre was ten cents.
“A cheap date,” Alfred joked in the couple’s city apartment.
“It wasn’t a cheap date,” Noreen interjected. “Because after the show he had to take me out for something to eat.”
They were married five years after that memorable first outing, and last week the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Noreen, who was 14 at the time, wasn’t an obvious match for Alfred, the son of Italian immigrants.
She wasn’t Catholic, for one thing.
Not a deal-breaker, but the source of conversation with Alfred’s family about converting, Noreen says.
She was also quite slender.
After scouting Noreen at her job, Alfred’s mother joked she might have tuberculosis because she only weighed about 90 pounds, the couple says.
Nevertheless, their love blossomed over the years.
When Alfred, then 22, learned he would be deployed overseas as part of Canada’s Second World War effort, they realized it was time to get married.
It was an understandably emotional period for the newlyweds.
“I cried when he went away, I cried when he came home, cried we he went away,” Noreen said.
As a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Alfred went to the East Coast before landing in England to begin bombing runs.
He says he was fortunate the war ended shortly after his deployment.
With the world again at peace, Alfred returned to Sarnia to be with Noreen and soon began scouring the city for gainful employment.
He turned down an offer to study to be an accountant in Toronto and instead accepted a job at a plant in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley – much to Noreen’s delight.
They’ve been living in Sarnia ever since.
As for how to sustain a long-lasting union, it boils down to just knowing each other, the couple says.
“He is a wonderful person. He puts up with me and I have a rotten disposition,” joked Noreen, 88.
“You give and take,” added Alfred, 92. “I know a bad day, and I know when to go outside and pull dandelions.”