Celebrations: 70 years linked by love

It’s a platinum year for Jean and Nate Kraft. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Feb. 22, marking the occasion together — along with a busload of family and friends — with a party at the Sheraton Palace in San Francisco.

The former longtime residents of Atherton and members of Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City now reside at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek. Before retiring, they owned and worked together at Kraft Furniture in Palo Alto for 25 years.

He is 95 and she is 92. They had two daughters, Deborah Frank and the late Candace Gegenberg, and have four grandchildren.

J. asked them to share a few memories of their long and happy marriage, starting with how they met. Nate had recently arrived in Tulsa, Okla., to work as an engineer for Douglas Aircraft Co., and recalled being invited by a Jewish friend to a picnic in the park. The same friend also invited Jean to the picnic, which about 20 people attended.

Jean and Nate Kraft

Jean noticed Nate, who was “spending most of his time at the food table,” she said. She sat down, too, and “kept passing him food: pickles, bread, ketchup, mustard, potato salad …” Finally she asked him his name, and they struck up a conversation.

He was attracted to her right away. He thought she had a “wonderful laugh, a good sense of humor, and seemed very upbeat.” Most of all, “she was the most beautiful girl at the party.” Nate asked for her phone number, and soon called for a date.

Six months later he asked her to marry him. He was 24, she was 21.

According to Nate, she responded “yes” in less than 5 minutes. Jean “thought he may not have realized what he said, and may have gone home and been in disbelief.” That wasn’t the case. “I was the happiest man,” he said.

Because it was wartime, they decided to elope, marrying in nearby Coalgate, Okla. and then returning to Tulsa to inform their families. Jean’s parents said it would have been nice if they’d married in a synagogue — so the couple had a “second wedding” and did just that.

So what makes a good marriage? “You have to work hard to build your life together,” Nate said. (He believes that today’s economy, however, does put added stress on young newlyweds.) His lifelong partner added, “A good relationship is built on tolerance, patience, and the ability to see both sides of the problem.”

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.