A boy with “no prospects” and a “knock-out” girl who could dance

There is something about long time marriages that tug at the heart strings.

Bob Shapiro didn’t know how to dance. But he knew how to look cool, and so he struck a pose,

Anita and Bob Shapiro in the mid-1940s. Photo Courtesy of National Post and Matthew Sherwood
Anita and Bob Shapiro in the mid-1940s. Photo Courtesy of National Post and Matthew Sherwood

as teenagers do, sitting on the edge of a table, one leg dangling down, not watching — but watching — the dancers at a tiny club for Jewish kids in Brighton, England, whirling round and round.

A girl across the room was watching him, watching. She had porcelain skin, sparkling blue eyes and jet-black shoulder-length hair. The girl across the room was gorgeous and then she was standing right in front of Bob Shapiro, sizing up his 17-year-old self, asking him a question he didn’t have a very good answer for.

“Why aren’t you dancing?”

Bob mumbled something about not knowing how before mumbling — yes — after the girl, Anita Bazar, a 19-year-old knockout, told him she could teach him.

“I was shocked,” says Bob Shapiro, some 75 years after his first dance with the woman who became his wife. “I have never really been able to figure out why Anita picked me.”

Bob and Anita Shapiro celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last summer.

Imagine being 94, as Anita is today, and 92 as Bob will be in a few months. They still live on their own, in a big house in Richmond Hill, Ont. They still kiss each other good night and wake up together in the morning.

Time does not necessarily make love true but the Shapiros’ time together can teach us all a little something about love. It taught Bob, early on, that it makes you crazy.

Bob and Anita Shapiro on their wedding day, June 15, 1943. Courtesy of National Post and Matthew
Bob and Anita Shapiro on their wedding day, June 15, 1943. Courtesy of National Post and Matthew

“I had no money and no prospects,” says the Royal Air Force veteran. “Anita had carloads of boys chasing after her. I have no idea how I got the guts to ask her to marry me and, to this day, I still have no idea why she said yes.”

But she did, and their journey of love and marriage was one of celebration and hard work. Bob served in the Air Force. When he returned from war, they moved with their daughters to Canada where “Bob sold fur coats at Simpsons” and “Anita sewed “beautiful things” for the kids.” Bob bought the family skates, and they enjoyed visiting attractions like Niagara Falls. They appear to have lived a typical family life.

Bob loved fishing. Anita liked nice hotels. Bob could fix a broken refrigerator. Anita could sew matching outfits. Bob liked a good sandwich, on thick slabs of bread. Anita was happiest with a dainty cup of English tea. Bob was always talking. Anita mostly listened. They argued. They never stayed mad.

“Dad is nuts about Mom and she would always look a bit embarrassed when he’d say how beautiful she was,” says Jackie Mills, the couples’ eldest child. “He still says it to her, and she still looks embarrassed.”

He is 91; a fool for love.

Life can be hard, and love can be fragile. But for those who want it to last, love is sustaining.

Anita and Bob Shapiro, 2013. Photo courtesy of Matthew Sherwood, National Post
Anita and Bob Shapiro, 2013. Photo courtesy of Matthew Sherwood, National Post

“I don’t understand how shallow marriage has become and how couples can break apart so easily these days,” Bob says.

“You got to tough it out, because the hard times don’t last. With Anita and I, the older we get the closer we become, the deeper we feel for one another. I can’t describe it. We need each other.

“And I still can’t get over her beauty — not even today.”

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