Anyone who has watched in wonder as six older married couples in the 1989 movie “When Harry Met Sally” sat side by side speaking of how they met would love sitting down with Richard and Judy Lovins of Ahwatukee.
The couple celebrated 60 years of marriage Sunday, May 20, with approximately 50 friends and family at the Double Tree Inn in Tempe.
That’s just about how many they had at their wedding in 1958 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Speaking with Dr. Richard Lovins and Judy, author of the memoir “The Redhead in the Mirror,” is like conversing with newlyweds.
They’re courteous to each other, often finishing each other’s sentences. They laugh in unison and both evince a fine sense of humor.
When asked what advice they’d give to those wishing to attain anywhere close to six decades of a successful marriage, she answers first.
“One word. Respect,” she said.
“Mutual respect,” he nodded.
She said, “We still use our please and thank-yous. It doesn’t spoil the romance at all.”
“And we still don’t forget to say ‘I’m sorry’ when it’s due. It’s absolutely necessary,” Judy added.
The couple, who have a son and daughter and four grandchildren, met after the death in Connecticut of Judy’s first husband, Seymour Fenster, at age 29, after a prolonged illness. He too was an optometrist.
It was there the fates brought Dr. Lovins to meet the new widow, who was only 25.
Dr. Lovins, a doctor of optometry, also holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology,
“The very day my husband passed away, Richard was in his practice in another part of the state and said, ‘I’m going to see if there is another practice I can buy.’ So, he came to New Britain because he thought it sounded romantic. It wasn’t romantic at all; it was the home of Stanley Tools. He saw an optometrist office and stopped and asked…,” she paused and turned to her husband, asking, “Honey, would you rather tell this?”
Her spouse took up the telling.
“He said he didn’t know of any in New Britain, but told me, ‘There’s an optometrist who just died, and showed me the obituary.’”
He located the address and drove to see the office.
“And to make a long story short, we met in a business setting,” said Judy. “We negotiated the sale and he bought the practice. I lived in Hartford, but I owned the land, so I’d slip in and see him when he wasn’t busy because he was my tenant.”
That’s how it began. They became friends and then started dating.
“My husband knew he was going and made me promise I would not spend a long time grieving. I was young,” she recalled. “He said, ‘You get up and live your life and be open to another love.’ I made him a promise, and I consider a promise to be sacred.”
Judy and Richard discovered they had much in common, including their religion and how they practiced it.
They’d both gone to the University of Connecticut, but he left the semester before she arrived.
Other serendipitous connections emerged: Their parents were married on the same day in the same year. Judy’s sister was born the same month and year as Richard.
Other mutual coincidences in their lives kept popping up.
“We say it was meant to be,” said Judy. “With the beginning we had, and all the dates coinciding and maybe all the stars aligning. We think it’s a miracle.”
“It was an unbelievable coincidence of events,” he agreed.
The pair married 13 months after his serendipitous drive through Connecticut in search of a new optometry practice.
“The wedding was very happy, with 50 people,” Judy recalled.
Six decades has brought a lot of changes: first their children: son Michael Lovins and daughter Susan Eick. And now, they have grandchildren: Michael’s grown children, Amanda and Alex, and Susan’s college-age daughters, Annie and Leah.
“We’ve weathered a complete change in geography, moving from Connecticut to Arizona, and in midlife, I went back to school and changed my whole profession,” said Dr. Lovins, adding:
“I returned to school at 39 and received my Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut shortly after my 43rd birthday. I practiced clinical psychology longer than I did optometry.”
The family moved to north central Phoenix in 1971 and moved to Ahwatukee 15 years ago.
At that time, Judy was a volunteer with Channel 8, Arizona PBS. She served as a Channel 8 volunteer for 25 years, and the Burton Barr Public Library.
Under the name Judy Horowitz Fenster Lovins, she published “The Redhead in the Mirror” in 2014. Amazon describes it as a story “of the battle between a complex, volatile mother’s desire to sculpt her daughter according to her own vision, and the girl’s determination to find and become her true self…A true coming-of-age story spanning the Great Depression through war and into modern times.”
“I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” said Judy, who after graduating from Boston University’s School of Public Relations and Communications, and prior to her first marriage, worked as an advertising copywriter.
“I was first published when I was 6 years old when a poem I wrote about wearing glasses was published in the local paper.”
She continued her professional years in dual careers as a writer and administrator.
Volunteerism is still important to the pair. He has been with Tempe-based Sun Sounds of Arizona for 16 years and was feted by his fellow volunteers and staff last month to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Dr. Lovins currently has three Sun Sounds programs for which he’s responsible, reading to his audience who cannot read or hold print material because of a disability.
As a volunteer, he reads the Wall Street Journal; he is the voice for The Historian, which covers various history topics; and he’s initiated his own program that shares his knowledge of eye problems and cutting-edge optometry breakthroughs entitled “See for Yourself.”
Sun Sounds director Andrea Pasquale greatly admires the couple.
“Dick inspires me because he is like the Energizer Bunny. He reads three programs and is always looking for more,” said Pasquale. “Dick and Judy are a great couple. They’re so much fun and up for anything. I think their sense of humor is a key part to their relationship and youth.”
Among other volunteer duties, for the past 15 years Judy, has been the coordinator of a book cub called Reader’s Roundtable, held at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center.
“It’s an amazing group of 16 women, all approximately the same education, intellect and sense of humor. People probably walk by and hear all the laughter and think we’re a comedy club,” she laughed.
The two were involved for years with Arizona Masterworks Chorale, and Dr. Lovins performed with the group at Carnegie Hall.
Michael Lovins, of Mesa, was at the anniversary party and remarked at his admiration for, and of, his parents.
“My sister and I are both very proud of our parents, not only for their physical longevity, but the longevity and stability of their relationship which has certainly affected our lives in many positive ways,” he said.
He added he now follows in their footsteps, volunteering in the East Valley, especially with animal shelters.
“When I was going to ASU in my early 20s and majoring in broadcasting, I volunteered at Sun Sounds as a reader and later as an audio engineer,” Michael said. “Little did I know that when my dad retired, he would carry on the family tradition to such lofty heights.”