Marie Jolkovski reaches underneath the collar of her shirt to reveal a silver chain, displaying the Sunfish boat charm that she has worn around her neck since 2003. The charm, given to her by her husband David on their 50th anniversary, has represented a lifetime of adventure and partnership spanning 70 years.
Their life together started on June 6, 1953 in the backyard of Marie’s parents’ Staten Island home. Marie (now 92 years old) and David (90) were both fresh out of college at the time of their nuptials. Marie notes that they “were both quite young when we got married, which was both good and bad.”
“We brought each other up,” says Marie from her room at St. John’s Home. “But we were naive and did not really know what we were getting into.”
Neither David nor Marie regret marrying young. They have seen each other learn and grow throughout what Marie calls “an incredible journey.”
David, who says he has always had “a low tolerance for boredom,” enlisted in the U.S. Army two years after marrying Marie. His time serving his country in Europe in the mid-1950s would ignite a passion for new experiences and learning other languages for both him and his growing family.
Upon his return to the U.S. the couple moved around, landing in Ohio for a stint, also spending time in nearby Penfield. Marie raised three children as David worked in sales for paper companies. He was soon offered the chance to work in Holland, and naturally, he and Marie jumped at the opportunity.
While abroad, from the little shore province of Holland named Leiden they called home, the family explored Europe. The Jolkovski children all seemed to inherit David’s “no boredom” policy, as everyone studied many languages and all picked up an admiration for grammar and communication. Marie followed suit, studying Spanish and Russian.
The family’s fondness for learning and immersive experiences would only grow once back in the states.
The Jolkovkis eventually settled in Brighton, New York. David continued his work in sales and set out to start his own company, while Marie worked in human resources at the University of Rochester.
Marie explains that this was one of many times during their marriage when she and David switched roles to better support each other’s pursuits. “It happened that I would call home while David was working on his business at home and ask him to start dinner,” she remembers. “And he said we’ve got to change this. And he became a really good cook.”
With their children graduated and out of the house, and David a successful self-employed sales representative, Marie says she wanted to continue learning. “After the kids left, I wanted to do something more.” She took a proofreading and editing course at Writers and Books before starting her own successful freelance editing business.
David, on his own intellectual journey, also attended classes and readings at Writers and Books. In his case, he studied creative writing and poetry. David remembered one poem he wrote specifically about his wife which seems to make them both laugh when mentioned.
“It was about her learning to drive stick; she wasn’t too good at,” he says with a laugh.
Though Marie struggled with learning how drive manual, she excelled at sailing.
“I had been sailing once or twice growing up, but never had the opportunity to pursue it until we moved here (to the Finger Lakes area),” she says.
Marie joined the Rochester Canoe Club in the 80’s. For over a decade she and David sailed their Sunfish boats, competing in races every Sunday, sometimes against each other. David steered “Rubber Ducky” and Marie captioned “Carpe Diem,” and together they explored places like Keuka Lake and Irondequoit Bay.
Marie says, “I loved sailing. It was something I learned on my own and could do by myself, but we could also do together.” She says that is why she wears her sunfish charm around her neck; “to remember all of the fun.”
For all of the moving around the Jolkovskis did as young adults, their home base has remained in Brighton since the 1970s. That did not change with their move to Brickstone by St. John’s, the independent living community they lived in for over 5 years. Their journey would later bring them next door to the Hawthorne, the enhanced assisted living community at St. John’s Meadows, where they stayed together for much of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The couple are now living at St. John’s Home and celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary with a party planned by their two daughters Karen and Jane (their other child, Tony lives in Germany). Throughout all of their moves, from their adventures as a young couple to their transitions throughout the St. John’s spectrum of senior care, they have managed to stay together at all times, supporting each other every step of the way.
David, quick-wittedly adds, “We are really admirable.”
The Jolkovskis are indeed admirable. Their marriage has been one full of fun and adventure. Knowing that they could always count on each other gave them both the ability to pursue their individual dreams and passions. Both David and Marie could set out on a new path, knowing they were fully supported by the other, and vice versa.
“It’s support,” says Marie. “That’s what separates a good marriage from a bad one, and we had a lot of support from each other.”
From an outsider’s perspective there may be a bit of irony in the Sunfish charm Marie wears. The boat, which is intended for solo speed racing by unstayed, or unsupported masts, represents a relationship with immense support and partnership between two people who seem to be on a long exploratory journey together. It has never been a race for them, only a partnership between two like-minded travelers who have chosen to plot the same course.