Love strong in 62-year bond: Lepores met on a streetcar going to school
Nearly seven decades ago, they met on a streetcar on the way to school and became friends almost immediately. Joyce and David Lepore are still together.
Marrying shortly after they both had graduated from Altoona Area High School, the Eldorado neighborhood couple will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary next month.
“We certainly didn’t agree on everything, but we worked it out … by talking,” said David, now 82.
“Yes,” Joyce, 80, added. “You say things to each other, but you have to know where to stop.”
Added David: “People just don’t have that commitment today. They have a little fight and are ready to quit.”
Not the Lepores. And, they don’t need Valentine’s Day to remind them of that commitment.
“We appreciate one another right now and we have for many, many years,” said David. “We want to be with each other as much as possible.”
David has spent most of his life in the Eldorado neighborhood where he and Joyce now live. She grew up not far away in a Knickerbocker house on Burgoon Road and Sixth Avenue, “when they were real nice homes.”
Both attended the now-closed Eldorado Elementary School, but it wasn’t until they were at Roosevelt Junior High School — also closed today — when they met on that Altoona and Logan Valley Electric Railway trolley.
He got on at the beginning of the line at 58th Street near the present-day Sheetz. She got on at 40th Street. She was in seventh grade, he in eighth.
“She had beautiful long blond hair,” David recalled. “She was a pretty girl. She still is.”
“I liked him so much,” Joyce said. “I was friends with his sister, Shirley, and she was my excuse to go to his house. I’d ride my bike over the hill. I was finding a way to get to know him.
“But he was never home, always working or something.”
David said being in a family of 15, he went to work at the age of 12. He helped — and learned from — his father who did carpentry work and there was always snow to shovel in the winter. He delivered on foot the Mirror to most of the Eldorado neighborhood every day after school and he usually didn’t get home until after dark.
By the time both were at Altoona High School, they started dating, although they didn’t call it that.
“We were friends, getting to know each other,” Joyce said.
“You can’t really call it dating,” he said. But “we were attracted to each other.”
Who made the first move? They each pointed to the other and laughed.
Joyce admitted that she was the first to suggest they go to the movies, and they went to a show at the now-demolished Rivoli Theatre on Logan Boulevard.
“She had the money,” David said. “It was 25 cents for the two of us to get in.”
Neither could remember the name of the movie.
“We probably weren’t watching it,” she said.
But he did remember watching news of the war, which must have been the Korean Conflict in the early 1950s, he said.
Other “dates” were at the Jaffa Mosque (now Shrine Center) where they roller skated on concrete in the basement. They also went to Lakemont Park, where the wooden floor was nicer for skating, they said.
He graduated high school in 1954, she the following year. By that Christmas, the relationship was serious and they became engaged. Three months later, on March 3, 1956, they got married. She was 18 and he was 20.
“I think we always knew we would get married,” she said.
Said David: “That’s what people did.”
The ceremony took place at the nearby Ward Avenue Presbyterian Church, and they were on a budget. He wore a borrowed suit and she a borrowed wedding dress. For the reception in a now-razed fire hall, their families made sandwiches and someone brought beer and polka records for dancing.
“Nothing fancy,” he said.
“But we had so much fun, dancing to those polka records,” she said.
Afterward, everyone stayed to clean up before the newlyweds headed to Washington, D.C., for a honeymoon. They stayed with one of his brothers for a few days and went to all the “free stuff,” such as museums and monuments, he said.
When they came home a few days later, David’s job had disappeared with the closing of a car lot where he worked on automobiles. He quickly found another one — or two — usually doing carpentry work and remodeling on the side. For years, his main job was as a salesman for the North Carolina-based Liggett and Myers Tobacco Co.
Joyce was a homemaker and within two years of getting married, she became a mother, first to Piper and two years later to Penny. David credits her for doing most of the child-rearing as they lived in several places in the Eldorado neighborhood before settling into a home he built on Edison Avenue where they stayed for 47 years.
The family spent a lot of time together camping, their first night in a tent before moving up to a motor home and then a trailer. The girls grew up, got married and had children of their own.
Heart trouble forced David to retire in 1987. He ended up having three open-heart surgeries, and, after recovering, the couple sold their house and moved to Florida.
While there, she picked up a new hobby of quilting, and her first project had the likenesses of all her grandchildren’s handprints.
David started carving wood, intricately. His handiwork includes a large eagle carved from cherry wood that hangs in their living room today. He got a blue ribbon for that at the Florida State Fair in Tampa when they lived in New Port Richey. Another ribbon winner was a 6-inch Little Hummel Boy.
But after seven years in the Sunshine State, Joyce started missing her family and hometown, and they decided to return to Altoona. They bought an old house around the corner from where they had lived for so long and remodeled it and resumed their hobbies.
“He’s always working with his hands,” Joyce said.
“It’s my love,” he said, quickly correcting himself. “My second love.”
It took him three years to carve and paint a life-size carousel horse. Another intricate project was a ventriloquist doll he named George. She keeps several quilt projects going at one time, mostly for family and friends.
“We’ve been blessed,” said David, referring to them having eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
But there were sorrows and worries, too. They are still mourning the loss of their oldest grandchild, Andrew Dick, who died in October at the age of 38. Their newest great-grandchild is 1 month old and struggling with health issues.
And, just last weekend, David’s younger sister Shirley Pizzino — Joyce’s lifelong friend — died suddenly after falling and hitting her head at the age of 80.
“She was in good shape, never had anything bad to say about anybody,” David said through tears. “But when the Lord calls you, you gotta go.”
Her sudden death, he said, makes him appreciate Joyce even more.
“You don’t know how long you’re going to have somebody, so you better really enjoy what time you have together,” he said. “I’m not just saying this because she’s standing there, but I love her more today than I did when we were young.”
Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.