As a lively group of elderly women scurried onto a shuttle for a shopping day on a recent Tuesday afternoon, Carla and Jack Weingarten could be found snuggled under a blanket inside their Los Angeles apartment, watching “I Love Lucy” episodes on repeat.

Carla, who’s 100, and Jack, who turns 105 on Dec. 25, used to look forward to their retirement community’s weekly outings. But these days, they prefer a more laid-back afternoon: Sitting side by side in their recliner chairs and watching one of Carla’s favorite shows — Jack mostly just listens because he’s lost much of his vision — as they hold hands for hours.

In August, Carla and Jack celebrated a major milestone: 82 years of marriage.

“We’re very lucky,” said Carla, who has short-term memory loss. Then she leaned over toward her husband to encourage him to chime in.

“Yeah,” he said in agreement, before kissing her hand tenderly. Jack, whose speech and memory have faded in recent years, used to tell their two sons that the key to a healthy marriage is “the man always having the last word: ‘Yes dear.’” Jack doesn’t talk much nowadays, but when he does, he’s typically calling out for Carla or telling her that he loves her multiple times a day.

“I love you too, Jackie,” she always responds.

An estimated 17,000 centenarians live in California, with nearly 6,500 of them in Los Angeles County, according to the California Department of Finance. That number gets even smaller — roughly 25% as estimated by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — when it comes to how many Californians ages 90 and up are still married. According to the Guinness World Records, the longest documented marriage in the world is 86 years.

In other words, Carla and Jack’s long-lasting relationship is somewhat of an anomaly.

The couple’s Hollywood-like love story began in Vienna, where Jack and Carla had been neighbors and family friends since they were kids. Their families also attended the same synagogue, though they didn’t pay much attention to each other due to their five-year age difference.

The family story goes like this: Around 1936, a teenage Jack moved to what was then known as Mandatory Palestine on the advice of a teacher because antisemitism was rapidly rising in Austria and neighboring Germany. Carla fled there a few years later during World War II. Her father thought she’d be safest there because she spoke Hebrew. He’d later be killed in a concentration camp, along with her mother, younger brother and grandparents. Before Carla left Austria, Jack’s mother asked her to give him a letter. His mother didn’t know exactly where he was living, but she hoped Carla would find him.

“They grew up together and now they’ve grown old together, and their relationship remains so strong. [Their marriage] has taught me unconditional love.”

— Lindsay Cohen-Weingarten

Soon after she arrived, Carla ran into one of Jack’s childhood friends, who told her where he was, and they reunited. Carla doesn’t remember what she thought of Jack when she saw him again, but his reaction was laced with the charming sense of humor he’s known for, according to their sons. “You look a lot better now,” Jack said to 17-year-old Carla. Knowing that she didn’t have any family or resources at the time, Jack told her, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you,” and he suggested they get married.

They tied the knot on Aug. 12, 1941, and had their first son, Joel, four years later, then their second son, Henry, in 1950. The young family moved to New York City in 1958 and made their way to Los Angeles a few months later. Jack worked for a children’s apparel company, which he eventually took over, while Carla worked as a seamstress and pattern maker. She also taught sewing classes in their garage.

“They struggled moving to America, but what I respected was that they never brought that to their children,” said Joel. Unlike some of his friends’ parents, Carla and Jack didn’t remind him and his brother about the sacrifices they’d made for them, he added. “I never heard anything from my parents about what they went through. They never looked back, they only looked forward.”

Jack and Carla had a vibrant social life until a couple years ago. First, Jack hurt his head after two falls and had to recuperate during days-long hospital stays. Then he got COVID-19 and pneumonia. But before all that, Jack played bridge competitively for several years. He and Carla would go to every social event at their independent living community and encourage others to attend. If there was a dance floor, they were always on it. “They’re such a loved couple here,” said Deborah Rivera, the community’s business manager. She’s known them since they moved into the retirement complex nearly 15 years ago.

Animations by Li Anne Liew / For The Times

Photos of Carla and Jack Weingarten over the years, including one, left, with sons Henry and Joel and granddaughter Joanne, Joel’s daughter, in December 2022.

(The Weingarten family)

The couple used to travel regularly to places like Hawaii, Austria and Germany, and they have friends of various ages around the world. They’ve outlived many of their longtime friends. Fluent in multiple languages, including German, Hebrew and French, they typically speak to each other in German.

Photos from their trips, along with smiling images of their sons, daughters-in-law and three granddaughters, adorn every square foot of their spacious two-bedroom apartment. Carla used to love making personalized cards on her desktop computer for her loved ones’ birthdays, but she no longer does that these days.

“We’re lucky,” Carla said of their lives. “We thank God. We have no complaints. We have a good place here. We enjoy being here with the people. We have good friends.”

Carla still exercises every day, and regularly gets her hair and nails done at the community’s salon. And when her husband falls asleep in the evenings, she usually goes downstairs to catch up with her friends over a glass of wine. Three other centenarians live at the senior complex, but Carla and Jack are the only married couple, Rivera said.

The word “tenderness” comes to Rivera’s mind when she thinks about the Weingartens. They have a “spark of love that’s still there after all these years,” Rivera said. “But with them, it’s so pure. It’s so genuine. You see that they truly just enjoy each other so much still. You see them walking down the hall, they’re always holding hands, which is so sweet to see.”

“I think that’s what is keeping them alive. The fact they have each other.”

— Joel Weingarten

“I think that’s what is keeping them alive,” added their son, Joel. “The fact they have each other.”

Carla and Jack’s marriage has also made an impact on their three grandchildren.

“We all kind of look up to them as a success story and something to strive for because they do love each other so much and really do enjoy each other’s company and waking up next to each other,” said granddaughter Ashton Cohen-Weingarten, 33.

“They’re so committed to each other,” added her sister, 30-year-old Lindsay Cohen-Weingarten. “They grew up together and now they’ve grown old together, and their relationship remains so strong. [Their marriage] has taught me unconditional love.”

Willie Coronado, one of Carla and Jack’s caregivers, has also picked up a few gems from them. Jack told Coronado, who’s been married for 23 years, that the secret to “living happily ever after” is making sure “that when you go to bed at night with your wife, things are settled. Don’t go to bed upset.”

“That’s something I keep with me all the time,” said Coronado, who’s worked with the couple for more than a decade. “I know it’s not easy, but I know he has so much wisdom in those words.”

Back in Carla and Jack’s cozy apartment, Lucille Ball bounced on the TV screen in their living room. While a housekeeper tidied up their bedroom and a caretaker prepared their lunch, Jack began drifting off to sleep as he and his wife held hands. He didn’t let go — and neither did she.

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