BERWYN – For more than 50 years, Emily and Philip Sylvester went dancing every Saturday night.
The Berwyn couple would always meet up with friends and make time to enjoy nights out together. Now that they’re both nearly 100 years old, they can no longer dance, but they still spend their days together, as they have for more than 77 years.
They married on June 28, 1941, and they have been at each other’s sides ever since.
Emily, 98, and Philip, 99, recently celebrated their 77th anniversary. They met at the Paradise Ballroom in Chicago in the late 1930s and dated for a year or two before marrying in Chicago, where they raised two of their three children. Their daughter, Angel, was born in 1942, followed by two sons. They now have two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Emily said it was Philip’s good looks that initially attracted her to him.
“He was a nice-looking guy, and girls go for nice-looking guys,” she said. “He asked me to date, and I just stuck with him. He was also very kind and just a nice guy.”
Philip worked in a Chicago factory to support his family, and Emily went to work, also in a factory, when her children were older. She said the family lived a modest life, but a happy one.
“I had a good marriage and a lot of friends, so what else do you need for a good life?” Emily said. “We always had good communication and had everything in common. We’re both Italian and liked the same things.”
The couple’s daughter, Angel Savaglio, said the secret to her parents’ long marriage is “determination.”
“They did not believe in divorce, so they stuck it out through thick and thin,” she said. “They went through hard times that knocked them down, but they always got back up and stayed together. We’ve always had a very tight-knit family.”
Even though Emily is confined to a wheelchair, she and Philip continue to show affection with each other. Their youngest son and caretaker, Richard Sylvester, said they still hold hands.
“My mom still rests her head on his shoulder. It’s amazing that they’ve been married for 77 years, and they’re still in love,” he said. “They’ve had arguments here and there, but they always worked it out.”
Richard was the couple’s only child who was raised in Berwyn, and Emily said Berwyn was a great place for her son to grow up. She said the couple still enjoys living in the city, which is why they’ve stayed for 54 years.
“Berwyn has a lot of conveniences. We’re close to the post office, transportation, schools and shopping,” she said. “But it has changed a lot. People don’t seem to be as friendly as they used to be.”
Emily explained the secret to such a long life is a healthy diet and exercise. She said that up until recently, she and her husband were very active and social.
“I’m eating right, and I try to exercise as much as I can. I’m diabetic, so I have to watch my diet and eat the right foods,” she said. “Even though I’m in a wheelchair, I’m always moving and kicking my legs and arms. I used to belong to a health club in Berwyn and went there for many years.”
Savaglio said her parents do eat a Mediterranean diet, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
“They were the most active couple you’d ever meet. They also have good genes,” she said with a laugh.
But it’s the dancing Emily misses the most. She said being able to dance with her husband so frequently was one of the best parts of her marriage.
“I loved dancing. It was one of my biggest pleasures,” she said. “It kept us going out and meeting new people, but I always danced with my husband. No matter what kind of song they played, we would dance.”