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West Seneca couple lauded for a lifetime of love Married 72 years, Fronteras are New York winners of Longest Married Couple Project

True love has kept John and Victoria Frontera's marriage together for more than seven decades, but a drink a day also helps.

The West Seneca couple have been married an astounding 72 years, the equivalent of a lifetime for many people.

So what's their secret to a long, happy marriage?

"Have a glass of wine every day," said 96-year-old John.

The Fronteras were recognized Tuesday as the 2012 New York State winners of the Longest Married Couple Project sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a faith-based marriage enrichment program.

The honor was based on nominations from throughout the state, said Mark Kulyk, a leader with the organization. He and his wife, Joyce, represent New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and most of New Jersey in the program.

"The search started four years ago for the longest married couple in the United States," Mark Kulyk said. "Then we realized we had enough [nominations] for every state."

If it seems like 72 years is a long time, it's because the notion of marriage has changed over the decades.

According to a recent New York Times article, 57 percent of people surveyed in 1957 said they believed adults who preferred to be single were "immoral" or "neurotic." And married couples made up 78 percent of U.S. households in 1950.

But today, married couples represent just 48 percent of U.S. households, a record low, according to the Census Bureau.

The Fronteras stand in stark contrast to the statistics.

Both were born in Cortale, Italy. John Frontera came to Buffalo in 1929 with his family; Victoria, 91, followed with hers in 1931.

She was 10 when they met, and what impressed her about him was the fact that he liked school and was easy on the eyes.

"He was handsome," said Victoria.

Years later, John made an even bigger impact on her through a sweet gesture following an accident at her high school.

Victoria was cooking in her home economics class when she got burned in the face. When John found out, he visited her two days later and brought a plant as a get-well gift.

"He proposed right after that," Victoria said. But she didn't accept right away.

"I said, 'Just a minute. I have to think about it,' " she said.

The couple got married Oct. 28, 1939, on a snowy day, Victoria remembered, and then took a train to New York for the World's Fair for a weeklong honeymoon.

John worked at Niagara Mohawk for 46 years, retiring at 73.

They had three daughters -- Paula Kurzawa, Francie Smith and Joanne -- and two sons, Joseph and Thomas.

And John and Victoria put them all through college, except Joanne, who was born with special needs. John and Victoria were her primary caregivers until she died in 2007 at age 41.

Except for Thomas, all of the kids live in the Buffalo area. Today, John and Victoria have 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

"They are happiest when family is together," Thomas said.

The couple still live in the same house they moved into in 1964. John helped build the home. Their daughter Francie lives across the street.

And even though they both are in their 90s, the two keep busy.

John drives them both to 4:30 p.m. Mass every Saturday at Fourteen Holy Helpers Catholic Church, about a block from their house. They have been members there for at least 70 years.

Up until two years ago, John bowled on four teams, and he still plays pinochle at the West Seneca Senior Center and at their church.

He's been making his own wine for years.

And long before organic foods became hip, John was growing all the vegetables his family ate in a garden adjacent to his house and in a small plot in the backyard. He still gardens, Smith said.

Victoria used to make sauce from scratch with the tomatoes from the garden, where John grew about 35 varieties.

Her homemade ravioli was her family's favorite dish.

Primarily a homemaker, Victoria ran a produce stand while raising her children. She also rented out apartments in properties the couple owned. And she found time to volunteer with special-needs kids.

"I wasn't lazy," said Victoria, who has her own advice for a long, happy marriage.

"There's always gonna be some things he doesn't like and something you don't like. There will always be mistakes," she said. "You gotta make a little compromise. Before you know it, it's all gone."

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com