KAPAA — When December rolls around, Lolita and William Villanueva will be celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary.
“Fifty years?” Lolita said. “When we got married in 1958, we thought we would both be dead before we reached 50 years. It was a very happy time on the 50th anniversary because all of the children came down. Now, we’re celebrating 60 years. Maybe we’ll reach 70.”
Lolita and Willam will serve as the Valentine’s Day royalty Thursday when the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital unveils its court at the special Valentine’s Day gathering at the hospital’s auditorium.
“We always do something special for our residents at both the Mahelona Hospital, and the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital,” said Josie Pablo, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, Kauai Region recreational director. “We have so many married couples.”
Lolita, 95, and William, 93, met in 1946 in the Philippines where William, born and raised in Kilauea, was stationed with the United States Air Force.
“This was very fast,” Lolita said. “We met in December, and got married in December. Everyone is telling him how lucky he was to find someone like me.”
The couple have six children — three sons and three daughters— with “nine, or 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.”
“The secret to being married 60 years is fighting,” Lolita said. “Actually, in 60 years, we have never had a fight. When I get wild, he always used to get in his car and run away someplace. When he came back, he was always smiling at me.”
William is a resident at Mahelona Hospital and is visited by Lolita who lives in Kapahi with caregivers.
“When he was sick, I would come and visit him every day,” Lolita said. “But that was very tiring so I told him I could come every other day. I would bring him food because he didn’t really like the hospital food.”
She said that in addition to his “sickness,” William is diabetic.
“But he eat any kine food — especially when I make ‘em,” she said. “He always says he wants to taste, and when I look around, the food is all gone. What kine of taste is that? By lunchtime, no mo’ kaukau.”
Prior to retirement, William worked at the Lihue Airport as part of the janitorial crew while Lolita held down three jobs.
“I teach bi-lingual in the mornings,” Lolita said. “Then, after 2 p.m. when I pau teaching, I worked as a cook at the clubhouse in Princeville. And on my days off, I would work part time at Lihue Airport watching the doors because by that time, no mo’ kids so get time.”
During their off-time, the couple would go fishing at different sites on the North Shore.
“I made a boat out of two sheets of totan (galvanized roofing),” William said. “We used to go to Hanalei and Wainiha.”
Lolita said on one of those outings William almost died.
“We used to catch a lot of fish,” Lolita said. “One hundred and five tilapia — that was the most we ever caught. One day, William had a stroke when he was at Hanalei River. He almos’ ma-ke (died). But he came home in his truck — it’s not that far to us. He couldn’t even get out of the car so he was yelling for me from inside the truck.”
Lolita said she called her children, who in turn, summoned an ambulance to take him to Wilcox Hospital for treatment.
“When he moved from Wilcox Hospital to Mahelona Hospital, that’s when I moved from Kilauea to Kapahi,” Lolita said. “I live with a husband and wife who care for me. They drop me off at the hospital on their way to work, and pick me up after pau hana. I get to spend the whole day with William.”
She said their happiest times is when the children come to visit.
“My son from Mililani comes to visit,” Lolita said. “When he comes, he takes us out for the whole day, sight seeing and visiting all kinds of places. And, he even takes us out to a restaurant at the end of the day. This makes us very happy.”
William said they are now makule, or getting older.
“We didn’t even think about the 50th anniversary,” William said. “Now, maybe we’ll make 70.”