In the 1950s, Helen and Ed Prieto met in Cuba, while Marty and John Gillin met in Chicago. Today, the Prieto’s have been married for 56 years, and the Gillins for 62 years. Both couples now live at Lenbrook and shared their stories as well as advice for successful relationships.
“Ed grew up in Cuba, right next door to my grandmother,” Helen said. “When I was growing up, pre-Castro, my father would send me to stay with my grandmother every summer, so I would get to know the language and the culture. And I got to know Ed.” For her quinceañera (a Latin celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday), she chose Ed as her partner.
The two soon started going steady. Their romance was interrupted when Fidel Castro became president of Cuba and ordered the immediate departure of all U.S. citizens, which included Helen. Helen and Ed didn’t see each other for years, but when Ed’s family ended up stateside, he re-connected with Helen. Their reunion was magical. “We got together on a Wednesday,” Helen said. “That Saturday, he proposed. It was quick!”
Helen said that marrying Ed was the proudest moment of her life, and they built a wonderful life together. Both received master’s degrees from Nova University in Florida. Then, Helen went to Columbia University in New York for a program in International Marketing, while Ed attended George Washington University for project management skills. Both began working at BellSouth, which eventually led them to Atlanta.
Today, the Prietos live in Kingsboro at Lenbrook where they moved in June 2022. They note that it’s important to do things together. They enjoy traveling together and taking advantage of Lenbrook’s amenities. Ed noted, “I use the gym here, sometimes two times a day! The trainer mapped out a program for me that fits my needs.” Added Helen, “There are so many more things that I’m involved with compared to my life at my previous home.”
Marty and John Gillin agree that being active is important in a relationship, as are being friends and enjoying similar interests. They met at a Christmas party in Chicago in 1959 when John spotted Marty across the room and made his way through the crowd to meet her. Marty said his opening line was not original. “He asked me ‘Haven’t we met before?’ I smiled and said, ‘I don’t think so,’ (but I wished I had.)” They talked that night and began dating, eventually marrying in 1961.
They bought a house in a Chicago suburb and started their family. They moved to New York a few years later, then to Atlanta when John began working for Coca-Cola. His 36-year career with the company took the family to Houston and then back to Atlanta. Marty traveled with John on some business trips toward the end of his career. They have also traveled to Italy and Hawaii – and to Antarctica on an expedition trip. “It was absolutely fantastic!” Marty said.
The Gillins grew up in the Midwest and have similar backgrounds, an important part of their relationship, they say. Another key is how they treat each other. “We accommodate each other and are respectful of each other. We are soulmates,” said Marty. John agreed and added, “Being best friends is very important as is having a continuing, pleasant relationship.”
Both Marty’s and John’s mothers moved to Lenbrook in 1983 when the community opened, so they knew where they wanted to live in retirement! They moved to Lenbrook two and a half years ago and spend time together enjoying the community’s amenities, including the large, beautiful outdoor space. “The garden and patio are so nice – great assets to have – and it feels so safe being enclosed among the community buildings,” Marty said.
John added that having things in common with others in the community is a benefit of life at Lenbrook. “One thing you notice when coming in as a resident is that couples have often been married for a long time,” John said. “That’s a commonality here. We like that.”
(Photo: Couple on right - The Prietos. Couple on Left - The Gillins)