After graduating from high school, Miriam moved to Aunt Bea's home so she could study early-childhood education at the University of Pennsylvania. Bea was friends with Morton's family, and soon, so was Miriam.
Miriam still found Morton magical. And Morton's mom, Hattie, thought Miriam was just the kind of girl she'd like to have for a daughter-in-law.
"She pushed and I pulled," Miriam said.
Before long, Morton was cheering next to Miriam at Penn football games, and she was in his arms at her school's formal dances.
Morton said it wasn't so much the pushing and pulling, just the getting to know Miriam. "I just got to like her much better . . . and to love her," he said.
How does forever sound?
In 1940, Morton and his brothers had already established Waber & Co. Insurance Agents, and Miriam ran a nursery school in a basement, earning $10 a week.
One day, Miriam was miserably sick with the flu and Morton came to visit. Without saying a word, he handed her the engagement ring she still wears. She cried, and put the diamond on her finger.
"It was the greatest decision I ever made," Morton said.
It was so them
Miriam and Morton married at a hall in Westmount, Quebec, in 1941. World War II was on, but 30 Philadelphia Wabers reserved a train car for the trip. The couple danced while Miriam's Aunt Gussie sang "Because."
"I really felt so happy, and contented, and I knew we were going to be married forever," Miriam said.
While Miriam waited for the paperwork that would allow her to reenter the United States, the couple spent each of four nights in a different fancy Montreal hotel - for about $8 a night. Then they drove to Virginia Beach, Va. and honeymooned there a few days before returning to Philadelphia.
Toward the end of 1942, Morton volunteered for the U.S. Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During his two-year deployment, Miriam was a substitute teacher and "floated" between her in-laws' home in Philadelphia and her parents' place in Montreal. When Morton returned, they bought a home in Havertown, and Miriam gave up teaching to raise Lewis, Maxine, and Paul. During her last pregnancy, the family moved to Merion, where they lived for 37 years.
When her youngest child reached high school, Miriam returned to teaching - first as a substitute, then at a parent cooperative nursery school in Southwest Philadelphia. Some of her students had a hard time paying attention. When she asked why, they told her they were hungry. They had come to school without breakfast.
When Morton heard, he was appalled - and determined. With the permission of the principal and commitments from parents and other volunteers, Morton began showing up at Miriam's school early each morning with bread, peanut butter, jelly, orange juice, and milk.
The first school year, Morton paid for it all himself - he persuaded a local bread baker to give him a discount. That summer, with the help of a lawyer friend, Morton set up a charity called Food for Thought. Other schools heard about it and wanted to participate, Miriam said. Morton spoke to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which agreed to subsidize the program. Five years later, with the school district running the program, Morton stepped down from his volunteer coordinator position. About 30,000 children were getting a free breakfast.
He later started a free-lunch program for senior citizens in Lower Merion.
Miriam retired from teaching in the early 1970s; Morton retired from his insurance business in 1984.
Life was good, but not without challenges. In 1985, Miriam was diagnosed with breast cancer. She listened to what her doctors said and showed up for treatment, but decided to otherwise ignore it. "I was very active in aerobics, and I went right back to it," she said. "I forgot about [the cancer] and went back to living my life." She has been cancer-free for 27 years and did aerobics until about five years ago, when she and Morton moved to the Shannondell at Valley Forge retirement community.
It was so them - again
As their 70-year anniversary approached, Morton, who is now 95, and Miriam, 92, knew they wanted a party.
Determined that this party would not be dull, the couple decided to celebrate the duration of their long-ago vows by renewing them.
"We wanted it to be fun, and not too serious. And we wanted to involve the whole family in it," said Miriam. In addition to their children, they have five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
So Shannondell set up the Audubon Dining Room chairs with an aisle in the middle, and Lewis, the couple's oldest son, escorted his mother down it. The couple's daughter, Maxine, and daughters-in-law, Brenda and Pam, also walked down the aisle. And their grandchildren served as ushers to their 80 guests.
The chuppah was made from an antique lace tablecloth that had belonged to Morton's mother.
Son-in-law Tom led the ceremony.
Miriam read Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee," and Morton gave advice on how two people can live together for 70 years.
"Make sure there's laughter," he said. "And make sure that you say 'I love you' often enough."
Miriam didn't give advice at the celebration, but she offers it here: "Never make a big deal out of anything; it can always be worked out," she said. And always do little things to show your spouse you care.
This time around, Miriam and Morton danced to "The Anniversary Waltz." Miriam decorated Morton's walker with white garland for the occasion.
A group of friends from Shannondell provided a floor show - a line dance. Then everyone joined in to tunes from Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby. "The music made the party," Miriam said.
Her sister Pearlie and the couple's friend Bernie wore sashes that read, "I was there in 1941!"
This was a surprise
Miriam couldn't believe it when the couple's niece Debbie, who lives in Turkey, walked in.
"It was a happy, loving evening," Miriam said. "It was so nice that I want to have another one at 71."
Said Morton: "We had a good crowd there, and it made us feel really important and good."
A bargain: Miriam found the perfect dress - cream-colored with beading at the top and a flowing skirt - in the back of her closet. She had worn it one New Year's Eve.
The splurge: The couple upgraded the menu to include lamb chops, Cornish hens, and salmon.
"This time it's family style," Miriam said. She, Morton, and 13 family members spent a week in the Berkshires.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Tom Livingston, son-in-law of the couple, Jenkintown
Shannondell at Valley Forge, Audubon
Shannondell dining manager Anthony Joe
The Waber clan
Hal Martin, Hal Martin Entertainment, Blue Bell
Plaza Flowers, Norristown
Made by Maxine Waber, the couple's daughter, Jenkintown
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