Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2001 | 9:31 a.m.
They've been through wars, raised baby boomers, worked through economic recessions, made concessions and retired.
Through all of the changes that a half-century can bring, there has been one constant -- their spouse.
More than 200 couples from Las Vegas, who have been married 50 years or more, gathered at the Texas Station last week to renew their wedding vows.
They all have stories of events that happen over the years in a lengthy marriage -- about raising children, sending boys and men (and some women) off to war, anniversaries and anecdotes.
The question that many of them get from younger people as the years tick by: What is their secret?
A few of the couples shared their stories and theories about how their unions survived the years.
David and Mary Dean
David and Mary Dean have renewed their vows four times since they were married October 1, 1950.
They said it's easier than a divorce, and much more fun -- Mary usually gets a new outfit.
The two still make a point to hold hands, and David continues to open doors for Mary when they go out or touches her elbow when they walk up stairs to let her know he's there.
"We always say 'Please' and 'Thank you,'" Mary said. "It's a matter of being polite to each other."
There are moments, she said, when the pair, who raised two children, have tiptoed around each other.
"We do have differences of opinion, but we always make up," Mary said. "We still have romance in our lives."
Jerry and Alice Brown
In 1939 Jerry Brown noticed a new young woman at the northern Indiana utility company where he worked. She had a nice laugh.
He took the woman who would become Alice Brown to a Notre Dame football game and pinned a corsage on her lapel.
"That was our first date, and I received my first big, yellow football mum, which I was so proud of," Alice said.
On the way home they had ice cream, and Alice became Jerry's best girl.
"Alice always had the best heart in the world and I guess that's why I fell in love with her, still love her," Jerry said.
As an example of what's kept the pair together, Jerry said that when they share a sandwich, he makes sure she gets the bigger half. She, in turn, gives a piece of her sandwich back to him.
"The secret to any marriage is to please (her). When she's happy, I'm happy," he said. "And she is the same way."
Roland and Alma Dolle
Roland and Alma Dolle were stuck on each other from their first date in 1932. They eloped to Kentucky on July 29, 1933, a year after meeting.
"I got lucky to meet my wife," Roland said.
In 67 years of marriage the couple raised seven children, but always took time for themselves, and included adventure in their lives.
In 1983 the pair celebrated their 50th anniversary on safari in Africa. "We've traveled around the world," Alma said. "Together, always together."
They are already making plans for their 70th anniversary.
Walter and Anne Werfel
Walter Werfel saw his future bride across a roller-skating rink in 1939. They met and courted for three years, until war broke out.
The two married Dec. 21, 1942 and Walter joined the service soon after. While he was away, they wrote letters and made plans.
When Walter came home from the war, the couple struggled through times when money was tight. They raised two children and built a life.
"Hard times keep people together more because you have to help each other to get by," Anne said.
When asked why she married Walter, and how the union has stuck for 58 years, she looked at her husband, who smiled and gave a subtle nod of his head. "He let me have the last word," she said. "And still does."
William and Colette Herrick
In 1945 the future Colette Herrick was on her way to a movie with her sister in war-torn Paris. An American soldier, whom her sister knew, approached the women and talked to them.
Colette married that soldier, William, two months later on Jan. 22, 1946, and came with him to America.
What was love in Paris became work in America.
The couple did not have children until five years into their marriage. They worked through Colette's culture shock, molded careers, learned more about each other and worked out their differences.
They've raised four children during their 54-year marriage, and boast of a few cherished grandchildren.
"Patience. Patience is what worked for us," Colette said.
Gualberto and Zenia Arvelo
The rich traditions of their Puerto Rican homeland played a large part in Zenia and Gualberto Arvelo's 55-year-old union.
They met in 1943. Gualberto knew Zenia's brother and would visit her home often. Her bright, brown eyes and personality caught his attention and, as is the tradition, he asked her family if he could have her hand in marriage.
They agreed to the match, and Zenia gladly accepted. They wed June 23, 1945.
"The main thing is to like each other," Zenia said about marriage. "And he was a good looking man!"
Today they have four grown children and 10 grandchildren and, more importantly, Zenia said, respect for their marriage, their culture and their family.
"You can't just let a marriage go," Zenia said. "You have to live a proper life, cook for the man. There is arguing and fights, but you have to have values, understanding and respect no matter what."
Jack and Norma Wagman
Jack Wagman was a sworn bachelor, until the day in 1941 when a woman wouldn't say yes to his advances.
"He was dating a girlfriend of mine (who) I worked with," Norma Wagman recalled. "But he kept asking me to go out with him for four months. I always said no."
Then one day he didn't ask. That got her attention, and the next time he asked, she accepted.
They courted for two years before Jack asked, "Wanna get married?" His views on marriage had changed. They wed March 25, 1943.
"His theory is to give me my way," Norma said.
"It works," Jack said, "thank goodness."
Art and Anne Cohen
The Cohens have been married 69 years, and don't really remember a time when they weren't together.
They met when they were 12 years old and dated throughout high school. It was the natural thing to get married once they graduated, and wed August 6, 1931.
Anne said she's surprised when people are amazed by the longevity of their union.
"How do you tell someone what it's like to look over 70 years? " she said. "You just become part of each other. You overlook the bad, concentrate on the good and move on."
They have raised two children with patience, love and understanding, she said, also the formula for a good marriage.
"The days turn into years and you just love each other, I guess."