1948 was quite a year. NASCAR was born, Babe Ruth died, and Bernice and Irving Locker were married. 74 years later, the two are as much in love as ever.
“I love everything about her,” said Irving. “Her smile, her nature, everything.”
“And I love his compassion,” added Bernice. “He cares deeply, and I love how much he gives of himself.”
Irving attended high school with Bernice’s sister. Their friendship was interrupted by World War II where Locker survived five major battles including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. He gained a reputation for being small in stature but huge in heart. After the war he returned home to Passaic, New Jersey. Remembering Bernice’s sister, he fixed her up on a date with his brother. The two fell in love and married. That’s also how Bernice and Irving got to know each other.
“Right away I fell in love with his mother,” laughs Bernice. “She was such a wonderful person, I had to have her in my life; so when Irving asked me to marry him, I said, ‘Absolutely!’ I guess I got lucky that he is just as wonderful as she was!”
Of all they have in common, they agree the most important thing is their outlook. “Something we both have, that we were both blessed with, is a positive attitude towards life,”
said Bernice. “We believe that whatever God throws at you, and we all get our share, that you handle it and work together to get past it.”
They understand that this is easier said than done. “We’ve gone through some very tough times,” said Irving. “We lost both our sons.”
Bernice added, “Both of them died at age 52, two years apart. And if we didn’t have each other at the time, I don’t think either of us could have gotten through it. But we did. We just focus on the fact that they left us wonderful gifts: our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We’re very close with all of them. Can’t ask for more than that, can you?”
For Irving, life at 98 is both full and fulfilling. He speaks before church and school groups about his many experiences in World War II and he is active with charitable groups in raising funds for disabled veterans near his home in The Villages, Florida. But just as often, people ask him about love, relationships and life.
“So many people argue over the little things,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean anything. Then little things become big and out of control. That is what destroys relationships. Just let it go. Don’t sweat the small stuff, do you hear me? Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
And yes, Irving practices what he preaches.
“If we disagree, it’s instantaneous,” added Bernice. “It’s like it never happened. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have differences. But argue? Raise your voice? Never.”
Irving insists it was a mindset that was instilled upon him at a very early age. “I was raised dirt poor money wise, but very rich in loving goodness,” said Irving. “My parents taught us that no matter what, you take care of others, something I’ve always believed in and have always tried to do.”
Perhaps it is why, even though the Lockers are in the twilight of their lives, they insist each day is just as cherished as any other.
“Every morning I thank God for another day and for all the blessings in our lives,” said Bernice. “And every now and then I’ll ask, ‘You’ve kept us here all these years — give me a clue. What are we supposed to be doing?’ When I mention that to our friends, they say, ‘You guys are an inspiration. That’s why you’re here.’ If we can be that, if we can inspire people to stay married, be happy and love each other, then I think that’s a good reason for us to be here.”
“You can’t imagine how good our life is,” added Irving. “We’re very happy to be alive and well, and we’re determined to make the most out of every day we get.”
This article is featured in the Spring 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.