On Feb. 6, Currituck County residents Florence and Marvin Scaff will celebrate their 75th anniversary, and they have a pretty practical view on how a good relationship works.
“I remember someone being asked if she had a good marriage, and she says, 'which year are you talking about?'” Florence says with a laugh. “That pretty much sums it up.”
Even after a short visit, it’s easy to figure out the Scaffs have had mostly good years since they got hitched on Feb. 6, 1944. Marvin was leaving to join the U.S. Navy when they decided to wed. The couple had been high school sweethearts for a year, and at the time, Florence was not quite 16 years old at the time. Such a thing would be scandalous now, but at the time, “it was normal then. You grew up fast in the country. You finished school at 16, and then most people just got married.”
Marvin admitted having an ulterior motive for proposing.
“I thought she was right cute and decided to latch on to her,” he says. “There was just something about her that I didn’t want to let her go − so I kept her for 75 years!”
A lot happened during their three-quarters of a century together − in the nation, in their careers, and in their marriage.
After serving in the navy as a machinist’s mate on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater, Marvin went into construction. As a woodworker, he did interior finish and cabinetry work. Following that, he spent 16 years in the civil service doing specialty woodwork in a naval shipyard.
After raising three children, Florence started her own career later in life, after raising three children. At age 40, she entered college, earned an RN degree in 1974, and found employment as an emergency room nurse.
She tended to a lot of sick and injured people, but looking back at a rewarding career as a nurse, she says the most important lives she saved were those of her own family.
When living on the farm as a young mother, she woke early one morning and could barely move. She managed to make it downstairs and outside, where she noticed she felt better. Florence suspected carbon monoxide from the coal-burning stove, and went next door to her sister’s home for help. Though still feeling weak, she and her sister pulled the rest of the family out in time −− and literally saved their lives.
At age 90, Florence’s interest in medicine has not waned. Until recently, she was still working in an Alzheimer’s advocacy program in area nursing homes.
Now both “fully retired,” the Scaffs still remain active. They have maintained a garden, Florence still sews and quilts, and together they like to visit the beaches of the nearby Outer Banks.
“I’ve never been one to sit around,” says Marvin, now 92, who, despite “eating anything I want,” has stayed at 140 pounds for years. “I always needed to be doing something. That’s one way I kept going.”
Looking back and pondering what they might have done differently, both say they wish they’d invested more time on their education.
“I always liked the work I was doing,” Marvin says. “Maybe if I had had a bit more education, I might could have done a little more. But all in all, I think I had a pretty good life of it.”
“I don’t really have any regrets,” she says. “I do think when you get married early in life, you miss a lot. I did not advise it to my children. In fact, they were almost 30 when they got married. My only regret is that I did not get an education first. But there is a season for everything. Some just do it backwards.”
The Scaff’s great-granddaughter, Alizium Zebin, 26, says she’s inspired by her great-grandparents. She calls them weekly from her home
“They are a huge part of my life,” says Alizium, who grew up New Jersey but stayed a month each summer with the couple. “I’ve always spent time with them, and they always are going to say something to surprise you.”
She continues to ask their advice, some of which she shared.
“She always told me to focus on my education and my job, and don’t do anything crazy, like drop out of school for love!” she says.
Finally, no love story is complete without asking the secret of staying together for so long. Anyone expecting a magical answer will not get it from Florence.
“I don’t know any secrets,” Florence says. “There is a lot of give and take. There are some good years, and some not as good. Just hang in there, I’d say.”
Marvin was even more succinct.
“I guess it’s more or less doing whatever she told me to do.”