BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Paul and Helen Mallon recently celebrated 70 years of marriage, a milestone most don’t get the chance to do.
On a beautiful September afternoon I had the pleasure to sit with the Mallons on the picturesque campus at Fellowship Village to learn their secrets to a happy life -- still in love after 70 years of marriage. Having a lot in common drew them together, sharing world views and values keeps their relationship alive.
Paul recently celebrated his 95th birthday on October 2, and Helen is a few years younger. They take it a day at a time. "We look forward to every morning. We wake up and we're together. I'm grateful," said Helen.
The couple chose to move to Fellowship Village while they were still young enough to enjoy the community. They selected Fellowship because it was close to the community where they had both been very active.
"Having watched with my mother, with so many of the relatives, everybody that got ill came home to her," Helen said. "And I was as the oldest daughter, I did a lot with her. But as she said, no one will do this for me. I think that was the wonderful example that she left with us. And we decided to go early, so that we could contribute and be a part of the growing community."
"So, that would be my statement for and recommendation for others -- don't wait too long, go early. Become a part of an alive and active community. And when you finally get to be old, you've got your friends supporting you. You don't have to wait and have your family there all the time."
"I would say about our house here, it was of sufficient space that we had a lot of family gatherings here. Paul had a bridge group. I had a sewing club and a book group. People could come, we could gather, we could talk -- we had a fireplace -- it was a comfortable and enjoyable space. When we moved from our house in Basking Ridge to here, we lost nothing. We had everything here we were doing there -- but more comfortably because there were no steps."
"I think what's appealing about Fellowship is that it's spread out. It has a more residential look to it, it doesn't look institutional in the same way," she said.
Click here to take a virtual tour of Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge.
Paul and Helen's Story Rich in Values
Helen grew up in Berks County Pennsylvania and attended Albright College and Reading Hospital School of Nursing. "During the [Great] Depression, we didn't go anywhere," she said. "When I was in college, a few of my friends wanted to go to the Jersey Shore to work as waitresses. My father was pretty strict, but because it was Ocean Grove and run by Methodists -- I was allowed."
She stayed in a "rooming house" with two friends. She met Paul that summer when he was a guest of a woman and her son who stayed at the house. "We were properly introduced," said Helen, and the rest is history. During their courtship, Helen said it was important for them to get their education. Paul wanted to get settled with a job and would become a banking executive.
Paul and his father are both World War II veterans. He experienced a lot in Europe, said Helen, who spoke for Paul throughout the interview due to his hearing loss. Paul enjoys reading about military history, and he is particularly interested in how people experienced combat situations.
Their world travels were influenced by Paul's reading interests. "When he was a banker, we could go to conventions in Hawaii, and we could see other cultures."
He would read about Antarctica and then be intrigued to go there.
Helen recalls one of their best travel experiences was a trip to Papua New Guinea in the 1960s. "I remember vividly and it was one of the best experiences. --- When you learn to survive a new culture, you have a new appreciation for our country when you see how more primitive cultures live. We've seen it in Africa, in South America -- we've seen Tahiti, we've seen houses on stilts. Chile was another one. Lots of good places to be appreciative of what we have in this country."
While they enjoyed their world travels -- now, in their 90s, she accepts their love for travel is a memory. "That's gone. It would not be wise for us to travel at this age, when you're nonagenarians." Recalling these treasured memories, she said, "We had a good one." And Paul agreed, "Very much so."
Paul and Helen are avid readers to this day. "Reading keeps your mind active," said Helen. She was the program coordinator for Bernards Township Library for 17 years. She was a trained nurse, and when she took time off to raise her family, she turned to the library.
"We never stopped volunteering," said Helen. "We volunteered at the church. Paul was a trustee, I was a deacon and an elder at the Presbyterian Church [in Basking Ridge]." Paul served as a member of the school board, township committee, and was appointed deputy mayor. "If you're a banker, they want the financial background. And at that time, he was willing and able to do all of that. So there was a lot of volunteer work during that period of time."
"We were trying to serve in whatever way we could," said Helen. "I think the fact is that you keep active, you keep your mind active, which is a good thing. --- You get far more back to you when you're doing volunteer work," said Helen. "You think you're giving a lot, but you're getting a lot back. You're meeting people, you're getting a new appreciation for what you have, the richness of your life as you get to experience what they're experiencing. Maybe you don't feel your life is that rich, or it's that good -- but you discover that it could be worse. And I think it gives you more perspective, and more balance." -- "And I think you want to make a contribution."
Residents of Fellowship Village since the community opened in 1996, Paul was the first president of the Resident Council for two years and would complete two more terms. From the beginning, the Mallons wanted to make Fellowship Village the kind of community they would like to live in. “We immediately wanted to get active,” said Helen. "We were trying to create a community that was enticing for people, a place that is comfortable for them to live." Paul was instrumental in recruiting others to fill volunteer positions in the new community. And Helen used her vast experience to help organize the Fellowship Library, in addition to serving on the Resident Council.
"We remain forever grateful that we are here at Fellowship Village," said Helen.
Paul and Helen have a son and a daughter, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Click here to learn more about Fellowship Village.