In June 1941, Carmine and Mary Castellano both attended a wedding with a friend, not knowing that they would soon meet the person who they would spend 75 years with as husband and wife.

They were both about to turn 18 at the time, and Mary recalled how it was the only night that her mother allowed her to go somewhere without a family member, so “we had to believe it was fate,” she said.

As he was walking around the gallery of the ballroom, Carmine spotted Mary, then asked her to dance. When the evening was over, he asked to walk her home. She was hesitant, but agreed, and remembered that the walk proved his character, because he spent the whole time telling her about his newborn niece.

“Instead of hitting on me, he is talking to me about the new baby in the family,” she said, adding that it showed her that he was responsible.

“We never stopped seeing each other since then,” Carmine said.

The Castellanos were married on Sept. 14, 1944 in St. Joseph’s Church in Brooklyn, New York, where they both grew up. They had initially wanted to postpone their wedding until World War II was over, but when they learned that the Army was sending Carmine overseas, they decided to get married beforehand.

“Our feeling was if we were united; if we were one, God would bring him back,” Mary said. “Marriage, as we have found, has to be based in faith. It is not about what we do, it is about what we are blessed with.”

Mary and Carmine Castellano on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1944.

While overseas, Carmine wrote to Mary every day, and Mary spent every Monday night at Our Lady of Mount Carmel praying a novena.

“When I think of that time period, I don’t see anything but black. Everything was very dark,” she said, recalling looking out the windows to see the telegram messengers running around the city delivering messages about family members overseas.

Eventually, God did bless them with the gift of bringing Carmine back from the war. He went on to work as an aerospace engineer, designing planes that were used in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and also helped with the design of the lunar module. When the family moved to the Washington area in 1976, he began working on alternative energy sources.

After Mary and Carmine fell in love, there was another wedding in the family – between Carmine’s younger sister and Mary’s younger brother – which meant the two couples were very close.

Carmine and Mary have four children – Angela, Lynne, June and Tony ­– as well as 12 grandkids and 3 great-grandkids. They are holding a family gathering in September to celebrate their anniversary, which they decided to limit only to immediate family. That comes out to a total of 62 people attending.

“What always mattered was family – even if you didn’t always get along,” said Mary, adding that she wishes she could redo “Parenting 101” with what she knows now, which includes the importance of being patient and respecting one another’s feelings and perspectives.

“As our end time is coming, family has become more precious,” said Mary. “You cherish every moment you have with them.”

When asked what advice they have for younger couples, Carmine said to “have faith in each other” and to “accept what the Lord gives you.”

Mary said she frequently hears young couples say they are falling out of love, or that the romance in their relationship is gone. To those couples, she says, “Build it up!”

“You can always bring a spark of romance back into a marriage,” she said. “If you love someone deeply enough to marry them, the spark is there. Just ignite it once and a while.”

Beyond that, she said it is important to respect each other, even if you don’t always agree.

“You have to understand that you each have personalities, thoughts and opinions on things,” she said. You have to respect each other’s views.”

The couple also emphasized the importance of prayer in their marriage, and they pray the rosary together every day, although “sometimes it needs to be twice a day,” said Mary.

Before moving into a retirement community in Gaithersburg, the couple attended St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg. The family had been parishioners there since its founding in 1978.

The Castellanos were unable to attend the June 16 Jubilarian Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, but they weren’t too concerned about missing the ceremony where the couples renew their vows, because they feel they “have to do it almost on a daily basis,” Mary said. 

“Every time you get up and see your spouse, you know that you’re still together and the vows are intact,” she explained.

The Castellanos are grateful for the blessing of 75 years together, especially since they see many people in their retirement community whose spouses died before they made it to that milestone. 

“Our gift of a long marriage is a gift from God,” said Mary. “Without God’s gift, we wouldn’t be together this long.”