After 72 Years, a Lifetime Commitment That’s as Strong as Ever

6

Esther & Morty Weiner

  • First Date: September 1943
  • Wedding Date: June 16 and 17, 1946
  • Venue: The synagogue in Brownsville, Pa.
  • Residence: Clarksville, Md.
  • Favorite Activity: Traveling, spending time with family and friends

Like many young men his age, Baltimore native Morty H. Weiner enlisted in the Army at the start of World War II. For the first part of his service he inspected aircrafts at Martin State Airport and served as an air raid warden.

“I made sure there were no lights showing” during air raid drills, Morty, 94, said. In April 1943, he was transferred to St. Joseph, Mo., where the course of his life changed. There, as war raged in every corner of the world, Morty found himself in the middle of the United States, and in love.


Morty’s friend Joe was bugging him to meet Esther. On Rosh Hashanah, Morty finally met the girl Joe was talking about: the daughter of the rabbi in their synagogue. He saw Esther Printz from across the room and told his friend: “Oh, I really do want to meet her.” Esther invited Joe to join her folks for dinner. Morty already had plans that evening, which he promptly canceled to join Joe.

After they had seen each other a few times, Morty wrote about meeting Esther in a letter to his mother. His mother knew there was something special about her son’s feelings, Esther remembered. “She mailed a crocheted handbag to me and put some money inside for me,” Esther, 90, said.

Morty’s mother was right. From September 1943 to September 1944, every time Morty went into the city, it was to be with Esther. While Morty was in love with Esther, Esther says that she, in her mid-teens at the time, was “too young” for those feelings.

“I never even thought of marriage,” she said. “The boys in St. Joe were always at the house. My mother’s cooking kept the house busy and bustling. The soldiers stationed there in St. Joe were part of the family.”

In September 1944, Morty, known to the Army as Air Corp Technical Sgt. Morton H. Weiner, was shipped overseas on a 33-day journey across the Pacific to Bombay and ultimately Dhaka (then in India, now in Bangladesh.) Morty worked in the flight office and had brought with him an 8-by-10 photo of Esther. “Anybody who came through the base had to go through my office,” he remembered. This included the man who had married Esther’s sister, Johnny, who was stunned to see a picture of his sister-in-law sitting on a desk in India.

Johnny and Morty spent more than a year at the base. In another coincidence, Morty’s friend Joe — the one who had insisted Morty meet Esther — ended up at the same base. At the end of the war, Joe and Morty left on a ship while Johnny waved goodbye from shore. Morty was anxious to return to Esther, but the return trip took 43 meandering, agonizing days. “The captain wanted to see the world,” Morty remembered. But the men just wanted to go home. “We were mutinous,” Morty said. Finally, when the ship docked in San Francisco, Morty ran to a phone to call Esther but found “the phone company was on strike.”

Morty took a train to Fort Meade, where he was dicharged from the Army, then went straight to Brownsville, Pa., where Esther’s family was now living. Morty proposed the “old-fashioned way”: He asked Esther’s father for her hand in marriage. Esther and her sister came to Baltimore to meet Morty’s parents, who owned a grocery store in East Baltimore.

At the time, Esther was still very young. “I was almost 17. I thought: ‘I need to meet these Weiners.’” Fortunately, “they were all very nice. But, boy, were they overwhelming.” While Esther’s family was small, Morty’s was much larger, “and they were all there to look me over,” Esther said. Fortunately, Esther and the Weiners loved one another.

Four days before the wedding, Morty went to have his blood taken (Pennsylvania required a blood test to marry), but the squire “didn’t submit the paperwork. He was drunk!” Morty recalled. Esther’s father, brother-in-law and Esther herself appeared, panicked, before a judge, who was sympathetic to their plight and overruled the squire. Legally, they were married June 16, even though their state marriage certificate would say June 17.

The Brownsville newspaper announced their marriage in a headline that sprawled across two pages. Esther’s mother had cooked for days to prepare a huge spread for the guests. They had a legal marriage license, and the weather was beautiful. Esther’s father officiated the ceremony at his synagogue. Afterward, Esther’s mother headed into the kitchen to bring out the reception food for the guests. It was gone.

“The congregants, who had attended the wedding, thought it was for them and helped themselves,” Esther remembered. “There was nothing to serve, and everything was closed. Morty’s whole family had driven up — a whole line of cars — from Baltimore, and we had nothing to feed them.”

Esther’s mom instead invited everyone to the house and cooked another reception meal for the guests until everyone was fed. The Weiners were impressed.

The Weiners spent their wedding night in Pittsburgh, then drove to New York City (“We stayed at the Taft Hotel for $5 a night,” said Morty) and Atlantic City. There, Esther says, she found out “Morty doesn’t like the beach.”

It was the first of many traits she’d learn about her husband. Morty became a pharmacist but later worked for a Fortune 500 electronics company, became a stockbroker and worked in insurance. They moved to New York City, Miami and then back to Maryland in 1988 to be closer to their family.

“Wherever we lived, she’d fit in immediately,” said Morty. “She made friends right away.” Esther shrugs away the compliment. “I like most people,” she said.

Esther has had a number of professional interests and experiences herself. In 2000, she hosted a radio and TV show called “Calling All Cooks.” One memorable episode featured her making horseradish. “It was so strong,” she recalled. “I couldn’t stand it. I ran!”

After moving to Maryland, Esther and Morty joined the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and she became a staff member. She loved the museum and ran the Museum Shop before retiring in December 2015 after 23 years on staff. The JMM honored her by naming the shop Esther’s Place.

The couple is proud of their three children (they lost their oldest child, Michael, to cancer), their three children-in-law, their eight grandchildren and their six great-grandchildren. They’ve enjoyed traveling their whole life: their first trip to Israel was in 1959, and they’ve returned six times.

They’ve learned a lot about marriage over the course of their lifetime together. “Instead of a 50/50 relationship, it should be 60/40 … for each partner,” Esther said. Morty agrees that “half-way is not quite enough!” and said wedding vows are a lifetime commitment. Esther, his partner of 72 years, agreed.

Erica Rimlinger is a local freelance writer.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. What an amazing story. I learned so much about both of you. When there is so much love, it’s probably not hard to make it to 72 years . So happy to be somehow related to both of you.

  2. Esther and Morty’s story is such an inspiration and not at all a surprise! They’ve always seemed to be 100% devoted to each other since I have known them! Talk about “beshert”. How lucky that they found each other—talk about winding roads!—– and how they’ve stood by each other through all these years! I wish them only the best days ahead!

  3. I Love the article and got to know all about how your life evolved together. You both are wonderful people with a wonderful family. All of you have a special place in my heart { and also Jimmy’s while he was with us]. You both are an inspiration to us all how to live a good life.
    Love you both and all the Weiners! Lily

  4. Erica Rimlinger’s Beshert article was terrific…she made sure when she interviewed us, (Esther and Morty Weiner), that all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted!…It was a joy to meet her and work with her on her project!..
    Thank you Erica, and thank you, Editor of the Jewish Times for printing her article as she wrote it.
    Mazeltov!

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