Bride and Groom Married for 70 Years Renew Their Vows in Cuban-Style Ceremony
Carole and Norman Cohen celebrated their lasting love with family and friends at their home at the Atria West 86.
The bride wore an elegant black dress with lace sleeves. The groom wore a pair of relaxed tan khakis and a plaid button-down. The pair looked lovingly in each other’s eyes, holding each other’s hands, as they both said, “I ‘STILL' Do!”
On Wednesday, October 6, 2021 was Carole, 89, and Norman, 94, Cohen’s vow renewal ceremony celebrating their 70 years together as husband and wife. A memorable event that drew family and friends, who all gathered at the Atria West 86 on Manhattan’s Upper Westside, to wish the lovebirds many more years of wedded bliss.
A champagne toast, and memorable speeches recited by the pair that made the guests laugh and cry kicked off the festivities that followed with live Cuban music, Cuban food, Cuban cigars, a custom whipped-cream cake, and lots of lively dancing that transported Carole and Norman back in time, to the year 1951 Havana, Cuba, where the newlyweds had spent their honeymoon.
After the party, Inside Edition Digital got the chance to speak with happy couple about their magical and emotional day.
“Oh, the party was wonderful. The people. The food. The decorations. The music,” Carole said. “You couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was like a dream. Just like a dream.”
Carole said the Atria took care of everything. Even her friends who weren’t able to attend the celebration in person were able to enjoy it virtually. All the couple needed to do was show up.
“I had everything in my closet,” Carole said. “I did my own hair and my own makeup." Though, she joked, "It’s not as good as I had it for my granddaughter’s wedding last week."
The couple, who are both from Brooklyn, had met through mutual friends.
Norman said after he saw a picture of Carole, formerly Carole Nussbaum, in the yearbook, he became smitten. And, once he met her in person, for him it was “love at first sight.”
“I fell in love with her picture and then when I met her I fell in love with her and that’s it,” he said. “The rest is history.”
At the time, Norman was about to graduate college, and Carole was first entering college.
Carole, on the other hand, was not as sure, about Norman, who said he had a reputation for "liking the ladies." ”I called my cousin since I heard he had a bad reputation, but my cousin knew him and said ‘Carole he is a good guy, don’t worry.’”
She listened and as Norman put it, “the rest is history.”
Their first date started in Brooklyn’s famed Prospect Park and ended at a Chinese restaurant and ice cream parlor on Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn. “It was very good Chinese food,” Carole recalled. “When I really took a good look at him, I thought he was very nice looking,” she said.
Norman had invited Carole to his college graduation. He had an extra ticket, he said, and it was at the graduation where Carole would meet her future in-laws. “They were very nice,” she recalled. But, according to Carole, Norman’s grandmother, was not as easygoing.
“She spoke a lot of Yiddish,” Carole remembered and said she wasn't sure if she met his grandmother's approval. To win her over, Carole said she learned a few Yiddish words, ‘Shayna Punim’ (pretty face),' and when she said the words to his grandmother, she said "that was it she liked me after that."
Once she gave them her blessing, things began to move quicker.
Norman, who had been working at a job out-of-town kept in touch through letters and phone calls. Once he found a job in New York, the pair officially became engaged. Two months before their wedding Norman was called to register for the Korean War. He shared a funny story that before his army exam he sat in the garden in hopes that it would exacerbate his allergies before the exam, and his plan worked. Part of the reason he wasn’t drafted, he said, was due to his allergies.
On September 16, 1951, the couple wed at Casa Del Ray. Carole Nussbaum became Mrs. Carole Cohen. Their wedding song was “Because of You,” by Tony Bennett. Carole said their parents did not have a lot of money and remembered their wedding as very small. “We had turkey, potato salad. It was that kind of wedding,” Carole said. “But there was a lot of music and a lot of dancing.”
One of the most memorable moments, she recalled, was was when both of the fathers were crying. “My father was crying “happy tears,” she said. “Norman’s father was crying because I was not rich,” she laughed.
Their honeymoon night was spent at St. Moritz. “They said it was going to be a room with a beautiful view and we ended up in a room facing the elevator shaft,” Carole laughed. “It was fine. We went downstairs and had Chinese food.”
They spent the first leg of their honeymoon in Florida before jetting off to Cuba. A two-engine plane shuttled them to Cuba, which Carole still remembers as pretty “terrifying,” but once they arrived, she said, it was a trip not to be forgotten. She said that they still have the decorative bottles of wine they were given that they never drank, but instead kept as keepsakes.
“It was fantastic. We had a driver that took us around for three days that cost next to nothing. We went all over. The Tropicana. The Highline," she said. "It was a wonderful honeymoon."
Norman worked as a traveling salesman for a masking-tape company, and Reynolds Wrap was one of his biggest clients. “Reynolds Wrap was buying cellophane tape from us that was called Scotch tape,” he recalled.
Over the years, the couple moved nearly a dozen times, because of Norman's job. And, when they lived in Baltimore, Carole said they remembered some experiences they had because they were Jewish, and decided to change their last name from Cohen to Koran temporarily due to some of the anti-Semitism that they encountered.
Despite all the relocating they did, their family grew and the couple had three boys, Steven, Barry and Jeffrey. Carole was a stay-at-home mom, but once her boys grew up she reinvented herself to stay busy. She worked as a decorator until she suffered a back injury, moved into a sales role for a software company, and than became a volunteer for the American Jewish volunteer women’s organization, Hadassah.
At last week's celebration, Norman spoke about his life partner and forever love. He spoke about the family he is so proud of: His son Steven lives in Chicago with his wife, Lori; His son Barry lives in New York with his wife, Terri; His third son Jeffrey lives in California with his wife, Barbara. He has four grandchildren, 2 boys, and 2 girls, and an extended pet family of dogs, cats, horses, and parrots.
To stay close to their children and grandchildren and to stay healthy amid the COVID pandemic, the couple moved into the Atria Senior Living Community on West 86th Street. There, Carole, is able to continue to be a social butterfly and be as active as possible. She enjoys her daily mahjong, canasta and rummikub games. Meanwhile, Norman, who is a little quieter and not as social, is happy as long as Carole is happy.
Their secret to a long last relationship, and the key to their happily ever after, has always been "to compromise."
“Be considerate and always work things out together and always love eachother,” Carole said. "Norman never ever stopped me from doing my interests and I supported him too with his interests. I did everything to make Norman happy and he did everything to make me happy.”
During the ceremony, an emotional Norman said, “I love Carole very much. She is my wife. She is my world. We produced a very, very great family of three boys and the rest is history.”
Carole replied, “We have gone through good times and bad times and our love and our family has gotten us through it," she said. "Norman our ride together through these 70 years have been great and I look forward to many more wonderful ones to come."
She also added: "I also can't get enough of your kisses. They are just delicious.”
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