HomeVoorhees NewsVoorhees couple reflects on 71 years of marriage

Voorhees couple reflects on 71 years of marriage

After dating for nearly eight decades, Joseph and Clara Sipia of Brookdale Evesham offer romantic insight.

: Perusing through their wedding album, Joseph and Clara Sipia spent Valentines Day’s reflecting on 71 years of marriage. Their decades of unconditional love have inspired generations their three generations of families and even employees at Brookdale.

As serene evening breezes subdued the dense, sultry summer air blanketing Center City, Joseph and Clara Sipia strolled arm-in-arm down Market Street.

Although Clara had a quickly approaching curfew, the young South Philly couple lingered through the quieting streets, discussing their shared dreams of white picket fences.

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Nearly 80 years later, the pair continues finishing one another’s thoughts over early breakfasts set to the sounds of Dean Martin at Brookdale Evesham in Voorhees.

On Valentine’s Day, the Sipias, who celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in November, reflected on a lifetime of unconditional love that has withstood decades of time and even oceans apart.

“Notice, we’re still sitting side-by-side. This is exactly how we were at home all our lives,” Joseph said. “This is my co-pilot.”

Born in the early 1920s, the couple was fated since childhood, as Joseph and Clara lived just a few houses from one another on 10th and Ritner streets.

In traditional South Philly fashion, they spent their youth playing with one another’s siblings on small rowhome streets. Then, easing into adolescence, Joseph asked Clara out on their first date to the movies.

“We grew up together, so it was so normal,” Clara said. “We felt like brother and sister, because we’ve known each other so long.”

While the couple knew they were destined to dedicate the rest of their lives to one another, Joseph’s proposal to Clara was disrupted by the outbreak of World War II. In his early 20s, Joseph entered boot camp and then eventually the Navy for two years, serving in the Philippines for 12 months.

“Because of the war, we couldn’t get married,” Joseph said. “So, we wrote to one another all the time. It was a lot of lovey-dovey stuff. I missed her.”

As an amateur photographer, Joseph kept photos he had taken of Clara tucked in his uniform while sailing thousands of miles away on the high seas of the South Pacific.

Clara constantly yearned for him as she worked sewing uniforms at the Quartermaster. Joseph only came home twice during his two years of service, but this could not compromise their compassion.

Because furniture manufacturing slowed due to military demands, the couple couldn’t even purchase furniture for their apartment, so when Joseph’s assignment was finally finished, he knew it was time to settle down with his beloved, renting an apartment on Percy Street.

“When I got out in May of ’46, we bought a refrigerator, I said ‘we’re on our way,’” he said.

That following November, Clara and Joseph tied the knot at Epiphany Church. An unseasonably warm afternoon, Clara didn’t even have to wear the gorgeous fur cape she had rented for the big day.

“I didn’t even put it on, because it was so warm. It really was odd. It was surprising,” Clara said.

“It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. It must have been about 70 degrees,” Joseph added.

After a couple years, cramped living in the tiny Lower Moyamensing apartment led to their relocation to Runnemede in 1949 — where they eventually built the white picket fence they once fantasized.

Surrounded by the generations that would follow, the couple resided in the quaint home for 67 years, serving as the heart of the Sipia family, which would come to consist of two children, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

While raising their two sons, Joseph, a woodworker, and Clara, a seamstress, cultivated their crafts at home, leading to a makeshift toy factory. Clara sewed outfits for dolls, while Joseph built children’s furniture.

“We would make stuff and give it away to children,” Joseph said. “We were blessed. We never sold a thing and made a lot of people happy. That was our way of life. We gave back to society.”

“If I made something for my son, I made it for the kids across the street, the kids next door and the kids (in the house) behind me,” Clara added.

Amid their tiresome working days, the couple would meet in the kitchen every day at 4 p.m. for a cup of tea.

Their crafting days were stitched together by summer vacations to Niagara Falls with their boys, which was merely the start to a series of adventurous trips they’d take as a couple, including a roadtrip to Death Valley National Park.

“Our happiest years were after the kids got out of the house, I could take her with me on my travels,” Joseph said. “That’s when we had really good times.”

While summers were spent traveling, winters were close to home, as the Sipias packed close to 30 people in their basement every Christmas Eve, which featured a delicious menu of antipasto, sausage and raviolis.

The couple says the fondest memories of their marriage were watching the expansion of the Sipia lineage.

“After retirement, we had great quality time with our grandchildren and great grandchild,” Clara said.

In April of last year, the couple moved to Brookdale Evesham from their Runnemede home where they continuously inspire the assisted living facility, offering romantic advice to residents and employees.

In fact, one employee sought marriage advice from the Sipias as she was preparing for own nuptials.

“One of my favorite things about them is their humor. They are so playful with each other. I have that with my husband now, and I’d like to hope we’ll have that still in 70 years,” said Stephanie Serrano, the health-care services manager. “They always tell me not to take things too seriously. Seeing how things are today, you don’t have many role models for successful marriages.”

Along with taking life lightheartedly, the Sipias have gathered a few other tips to staying in love, such as remaining within your financial means and not going to bed angry. Clara says her mother taught her to always end arguments before heading to sleep, because you’ll just wake up still upset with the other person.

“Beside that, you’ll miss a good night,” Joseph added.

But, above all, they say everlasting love boils down to compatibility. It’s about seeking a partner who balances the other’s personality, just as Clara’s soothing nature levels Joseph’s high energy.

“Clara can always calm me down. She’s the most generous person I know,” Joseph said. “She can have the shirt on my back anytime. She’s always looked at life through rose petals.”


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