July 09, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- Matt Mersino arrived home from work one night only two weeks into his marriage and found his wife, Faye, in tears. When he asked her what was wrong, she told him she wanted to go home— to her parents and siblings.
Matt's solution was to have his wife take him to work the next day in their sole vehicle, allowing her to visit her family. Faye realized she would need to do that more, and this early example of communication and compromise would lay the foundation for a marriage that has endured for six-and-a-half decades.
The Mersinos will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary today with their family.
"We had issues to work through like anyone else," said Faye. "You just keep working at it... You've got to try and make an effort to understand each other."
Faye, now 83, is 8 years younger than Matt, 91. Seventy years ago, she was a student in Oxford and friend of Matt's younger sister, who talked constantly about her big brother who was serving in the Army during World War II. Matt came home in December 1945 and went to work for his father at the City Service gas station. Faye's friendship with Matt's sister Phyllis continued and one night after Faye graduated from high school, Matt drove her home and asked her out.
"He tells everyone he had to wait for me to grow up," laughs Faye.
Their first date in the fall of 1948 was to a Detroit Tigers game at what was then known as Briggs Stadium. Many dates followed, including several at the Blue Sky Drive-In in Waterford, as well as the Villa Drive-In in Lake Orion. They also liked to get milkshakes and go dancing.
"At first he was just Phyllis' brother, but he grew on me," said Faye. "He was very kind, very good, very mannerly."
Matt puts it simply— "She just appealed to me."
Faye's appeal led him to propose to her in his 1942 Lincoln Continental on May 1, 1949, Faye's 18th birthday. Two-and-a-half months later, on July 16, 1949, they married at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion, with a small reception at Faye's parents' home.
"She looked really good," recalls Matt of his bride.
"That's all you can say?" asks Faye.
He smiles sheepishly. "You were beautiful."
"I was nervous and very young and naive," adds Faye.
The first year of their marriage, they had an upstairs apartment at Matt's parents' home. In the summer of 1950, they purchased a small, unfinished home on Seymour Lake. They completed the home themselves as they could afford, a project Faye called fun. Matt began working for Avon Tube, a career that he would continue for the next 38 years, until his retirement.
Their first child, Bradford, was born in December 1950, and he was followed by Rod, born in November 1953; Lana in September 1956; Randy in March 1958; Valerie in September 1960; Doug in November 1963; and Veronica in January 1968.
Faye notes they had children in the Brandon School District for 30 years— from 1956 to 1986.
The Mersinos, who moved to their current home in the township in 1956, had wanted a large family, but Faye couldn't afford to stay home and went to work for Oxford Bank in 1961.
"People would say, 'How do you work with so many kids?'" she recalls. "I would say, 'How do you not work?'"
Managing marriage and a large family required a lot of patience and hard work, Faye remembers, as there was also juggling of kids' schedules that included baseball games, band rehearsals and concerts, piano lessons, and Cub Scout and Girl Scout activities.
Matt notes the kids kept them busy, and Faye said the house didn't always look the neatest, but they kept a good balance.
"Sometimes I dropped everything and I would go outside and play with the kids," Faye said. "The important thing is when you are home from work to give them quality time, too."
Matt adds that they also made time for each other as a couple, getting a babysitter for the kids so they could go out and keep the fire going. He admits the workload was not shared equally, with Faye doing more, except in case of emergency.
One such emergency came when Faye came home from work one day, feeling burned out and told her family she couldn't do it anymore. She gave them an ultimatum— either her husband and children would help more with chores, or she would quit working and they wouldn't be able to afford as many things.
"The kids chipped in and worked like beavers after that," she said. "Matt started doing dishes after that and I haven't really done dishes since."
As the children grew older, Faye and Matt began traveling, and they also found a new hobby—golf— to do together. Matt had always played baseball, but Faye wanted to try golfing. They stopped at the Whoopee Bowl on Dixie Highway one day and inside was a set of clubs and a sign that said, "trade." They offered an old movie camera they had in their car's glovebox and went golfing that afternoon and every weekend after. They still enjoy golfing and love to dance, although dances are hard to come by these days.
"We can still dance in Florida," said Faye, laughing. "They have good music down there— oldies and big band— and that's where the old people are."
Matt is a man of few words, but asked what he enjoys about marriage, he says he enjoys everything about being married to his wife.
"He says he'd be lost without me," said Faye. "He's not a very romantic person, but he's always worked hard and been fair and honest. He's a good person and I love him."
Matt said he would advise newlyweds that a successful marriage requires two people working together, with some give and some take, but always on the same track.
"Even when you forget you love each other, you work at it for your family and then you remember," said Faye. "You talk and have the same goals in life. Our goal was to raise good, happy, healthy, honest children and live to 91, be healthy and strong and make sure the kids knew right from wrong."
Besides their seven children, Faye and Matt Mersino have 24 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren. They are a family of 84 in total, including all of their descendants and spouses.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville