Lou Bluefeld and Edith Seidel met when they were teenagers, on a summer evening in 1937, at the New Howard Hotel where the Criterion Club was throwing a dinner and dance. They both had come with other people as their dates.
From across the room, the strapping young man quickly caught Seidel’s attention. She said to a friend, “Oh my God! I would like to meet him.”
The two began dating in a matter of days, leading to a marriage that, as of their anniversary on Feb. 23, will have endured for eight decades.
Over that time, their relationship would prove enduring enough to weather all manner of challenges, in addition to raising their son, Barry, and daughter, Betty Lynn Steiner. From scraping through the waning years of the Great Depression, to Lou Bluefeld’s deployment to the Pacific theater during World War II, to the stress that naturally comes when one’s catering business is charged with regaling events thrown by the Nixon and Carter administrations, both they and their marriage have overcome all contests and are still going strong today.
Both born and raised in Baltimore as the children of immigrants, Lou Bluefeld celebrated his 100th birthday Jan. 9, while Edith Bluefeld will be enjoying her centennial on Aug. 4.
After they had dated for several years, when he was 19, Lou Bluefeld’s mother took him aside and told him, “She’s a nice Jewish girl from a nice Jewish family. If you’re not serious, don’t waste her time.” When he told his mother that his hesitance came, not from a lack of love, but from a lack of money to buy a wedding ring, she elected to purchase the ring herself, offering to let them live in her home after the ceremony. “If you love her, marry her,” she told her son. “It’ll work.”
They became Mr. and Mrs. Lou and Edith Bluefeld in February of 1941, at the Phythian Hall with around 300 guests. At the request of his mother, orchids played a major part of the theme. Six months later in August, at 51, his mother suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and died three days later. Upon reflection, Lou Bluefeld could not be sure if he would have ever gotten married if not for his mother’s nudging.
In 1943, two years after their wedding, Lou Bluefeld was conscripted into the Army and spent much of World War II in either New Guinea or the Philippines. While initially stationed at a posting in Mississippi as part of an engineering unit, when word came in of heavy casualties in the Pacific theater he was ordered to Camp Beale in California and received confirmation afterward that he would be deployed overseas.
Ignoring her husband’s entreaties otherwise, Edith Bluefeld traveled three days by train to be with him. After meeting her at the station and sharing a meal, Lou Bluefeld pleaded with her to return home. She ignored him again, and when he and 5,000 others finally began boarding their vessel, the USS Admiral W. S. Benson, at the docks of Pittsburg, Calif., he could see her standing by a local hotel, waving and crying.
During his military service, Lou Bluefeld noted that Edith Bluefeld sent him a letter every single day he was overseas until his return home in April of 1946. He recalled waiting in line eight to nine hours to send her a wire with news of his impending return.
Once reunited, Lou and Edith Bluefeld took out a mortgage on an $8,200 house at a new development on Glengyle Avenue, where they lived for 17 years. Along with his elder brother, Phil, Lou Bluefeld returned to his family’s catering business, Bluefeld Caterers, that had been started by their parents in 1937 and which the siblings had officially taken over in 1942.
With the war over, Lou Bluefeld noted, people seemed to have extra reason to celebrate, expressing increased interest in ever larger events for weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like, helping their business to flourish in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In 1959, Lou Bluefeld said, the business actually built its own hotel, a Sheraton Inn, along with a ballroom and commissary to provide a convenient location at which to cater events. He noted the theme of the hotel was “the orchid touch,” in honor of his mother.
They were so successful, in fact, that they were contracted to provide catering for an event celebrating Richard Nixon’s second inauguration. Later, in the late 1970s, the Carter administration tapped them to kasher a small part of the White House kitchen and to provide kosher catering during a 200-person Middle East peace event with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Afterward, they catered for Sadat and Begin at Blair House for an entire week. Lou Bluefeld referred to it as “a feather in our hat.”
Lou Bluefeld and his brother chose to sell the catering business in 1984. In December of 1985, at his wife’s insistence, he retired. The couple relocated to a fourth-floor apartment at the Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla., spending their days visiting the gym, playing golf and enjoying the company of friends and each other.
Lou Bluefeld said that while he and his wife have had their share of disagreements in the past, he emphasized that “we never went to bed angry at each other. Never.”
When asked what advice they had for others seeking the type of romantic success they had found, Lou Bluefeld recommended the following: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, let the little things go and tolerate each other’s quirks.”
As for Edith Bluefeld, she stressed the importance of remembering that “you’ll have a day that is bad, but tomorrow is going to be better.”