Stories celebrate 121 years of marriage on Valentine’s Day

  • Richard and Masue Uejo have been married for 71 years. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/ Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Pictured is Richard and Masue Uejo shortly after Richard gave Masue a ring to commemorate their 70th wedding anniversary in January 2017. The two have now been married 71 years. (Courtesy photo)
  • Roger and Elizabeth “Betty Mae” Baldwin have been married for 50 years. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Editor’s note: To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald is featuring two Hilo couples who have been married 121 years combined.

Richard and Masue Uejo

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Coffee and sugar.

For Richard and Masue Uejo, those two simple ingredients have nurtured a marriage more than seven decades strong: The Hilo couple celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in January.

“She’s the coffee, and I’m the sugar,” Richard said during an interview a few days before Valentine’s Day. “Sugar and coffee must get together if your coffee is going to taste good.”

The analogy is a reference to their childhoods. Richard grew up on the McBride Sugar Plantation on Kauai. Masue was born in Wainaku but grew up on a coffee farm in Kona.

When World War II broke out, Richard was in high school. He spent his senior year digging ammunition dumps and tunnels and putting up barbed wire barricades around Kauai, under the “watchful eye” of an armed U.S. Army soldier, according to biographical information provided by his family.

After graduation, he enlisted as an infantry soldier. However, he was soon pulled off the ship to serve two years at headquarters in Fort Shafter in Honolulu. During that time, he attended church at Nuuanu Baptist Church in Honolulu. That’s where he first met Masue. The two married in 1947.

Richard forged a long career as a minister. He pastored at Waimea Baptist Church on Kauai, Kaumana Baptist Church in Hilo, and at Hilo Baptist Church and Heritage Christian Fellowship, the latter two he founded in his retirement years. He also served for 48 years as protestant chaplain of the Kilauea Military Camp chapel.

Masue worked as a music teacher and an aide at Keikiland preschool. She also held jobs at other various local businesses including Woolworth, Hilo Lunch Shop and Roy’s Gourmet. The couple raised three children together. They now reside at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home.

Masue said her favorite part about being married to Richard has been “everything,” because “we have always been together.”

“We have had so many years together, I can’t say a favorite time,” Masue said. “It’s all the years.”

Richard gave Masue a ring last year to commemorate their 70th wedding anniversary. They attribute their long-lasting, happy marriage to their strong commitment to their faith.

“We know the Lord,” Masue said. “Everything is the Lord; we can’t do it by ourselves. The Lord is the one who helps us get together and get along.”

“In all things we thank the Lord,” Masue continued. “Because we’re here, we’re living, and we’re together. So everything is great. What do we need? Nothing. We have everything we need. We are so blessed.”

Robert and Elizabeth “Betty Mae” Baldwin

Robert Baldwin can still conjure to mind how he first began “courting” his future wife, Elizabeth “Betty Mae” Baldwin, now 89.

It was early 1967, and the two were at a square-dancing event. Robert said he remembers catching glimpse of Betty Mae. The duo actually already knew of each other — they’d been acquainted since childhood through other family members. Robert had left for the mainland to pursue his education but eventually returned.

“I saw her sitting there that night, and I decided that she looked like the kind of girl I liked,” Baldwin, now 88, recalls of the square dancing.

The two dated just a few months before getting engaged. They married in December 1967 at Church of the Holy Apostles in Hilo. This past year, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

“At that time, I had no idea (we’d be married 50 years), because I didn’t think 50 years in the future,” Robert said during a recent interview at the Life Care Center of Hilo, where he now resides. “And I don’t think Betty Mae did either.”

Robert said their initial decision to marry was very straightforward. When he proposed, he said they were seated on the sofa.

“I turned and asked her if she wanted to marry me, and she said, ‘Yes,’” he said.

The two picked out a ring together the next morning.

Robert — a botanist — forged a long career in academia. Betty Mae worked primarily as an elementary school teacher in Hilo. They raised one daughter together.

They said marriage hasn’t come without challenges, but they insist they’ve never had a fight or argument, which Robert credits to his wife. “Betty Mae will not argue,” he said.

They encourage other couples striving for long-lasting unions to simply trust each other.

“You need to just like each other and don’t be jealous,” Betty Mae said. “And don’t be too bossy.”

“Don’t get worried if your spouse decides to take someone else off to dinner or something,” Robert added. “Don’t get jealous. Just don’t worry about it.”

Robert also said, “having a lot of interests common is important in a marriage,” along with similar values. For example, “We both belonged to the same church,” he said.

Ultimately, he said they never “made a big to-do” about their relationship and instead simply focused on each other.

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“I mean, we were married to each other,” he said. “My daughter knew it, and she knew we loved each other. And Betty Mae knew it. I loved Betty Mae passionately, and I still do.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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