Henry Baron loves to tell the story of how he met the love of his life. It was the summer of 1940, and 20-year-old Henry crashed a birthday party in Great Neck, New York, with three of his friends. “We went down to the basement and there I saw this girl playing pingpong with another boy,” he remembers. “I said, ‘I’ll play the winner,’ and it turned out to be her.”
The girl was Elaine Feldman, a 16-year-old from Chicago who lived in the Bronx. Henry drove her home that night and from then on, they were inseparable. “I had other boys I was dating, and he just seemed to overpower all of them,” Elaine says.
On July 12, the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary at Ruth’s Chris Steak House (933 Skokie, Northbrook) surrounded by their two children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
One of those granddaughters, Elizabeth Neufeld, recalls the stories of her grandparents’ chaste courtship: Henry was studying at Yale at the time, and would meet Elaine in secret. “They couldn’t live together because of the way the dorms were set up at the time,” Neufeld says. “So they would meet in the library and talk to each other through the bookstacks. [Elaine] used to joke and say it wasn’t always easy, but she was in love with him and he was in love with her.”
In 1942, after President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, Henry — at the time a civilian instructor in the Air Force — proposed to Elaine, and they married at the Covenant Club in Chicago, where his father belonged. Life took them all across the country, from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Dayton, Ohio, and even on 106 cruises. “We’ve done four years on the seas,” Henry says. They finally settled on the North Side of Chicago, eventually moving to Skokie and, later, Highland Park.
Now, at 97 and 93, respectively, Henry and Elaine believe they’re one of Chicago’s longest marriages. Their secret? “I know what Mr. Baron would say, and that’s compromise,” Elaine says. “You have to take the good with the bad, you have to smile sometimes when you feel like crying. At this point in our lives, I am just so grateful we’ve been able to stay together.”
“We’ve been very lucky to have the life we had,” Henry adds. “Everybody has problems, but you have to live beyond them. … And try not to go to bed angry.”