Gasperino, 90, and Elena, 88, will be the oldest married couple that will receive blessings from Bishop Robert Kasun on Marriage Sunday, Feb. 11, at Blessed Trinity Parish in Toronto. Photo by Jean Ko Din

A couple that prays together, stays 70 years together

By 
  • January 31, 2018
Gasperino De Gasperis is a tough, but gentle soul, while his wife Elena is a regular spitfire. After 70 years of marriage, they still make each other laugh.

“It was January the 6th, 1948. I married her and we’re still together,” Gasperino said with a smile.

“E non stai bene? (And aren’t you well?),” Elena quipped back in Italian.

They have a playful but blunt banter that can only be forged after years and years of companionship. But the real key to marriage, said Gasperino, comes in the form of two pillars — love and prayer. Through good times and bad, these two things saw the couple through all that life threw at them.

Their faith has been the steady foundation that has seen them through immigrating to Canada with two toddlers, a tragic death of a beloved granddaughter, Gasperino’s ear operation and Elena’s two brain surgeries.

“It is important to love each other and to pray together. More important is to pray,” said Gasperino. “Go to church together, love God together and that’s how the family grows together.”

Gasperino, 90, and Elena, 88, will be the oldest married couple that will receive blessings from Toronto Bishop Robert Kasun on Marriage Sunday (Feb. 11) at Blessed Trinity Parish. The couple celebrated their 70th anniversary on Jan. 6 by renewing their vows in front of their family, friends and the congregation at St. Philip Neri Church in Toronto.

“Elena did everything for Gasperino and Gasperino did everything for Elena,” said Fr. Charles Zichella, associate pastor at St. Philip Neri Church. “In the last 40 years that I’ve known them, every day they pray the rosary together. Every day, every day there is daily prayer.”

Gasperino and Elena have been a regular presence in the parish community. The retired couple will be seen altar serving at the 7 a.m. Mass. Before Mass, they are in the pews praying the rosary together.

The Franciscan Capuchin Friars who run St. Philip Neri Church know the couple well. Zichella said he visits their home for dinner often. When visiting friars are in town, Elena makes sure to invite them over for dinner.

“Four or five times a year, the family gathers together around good food. The whole family, which includes children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, everybody,” said Zichella. “I have visited their home many times. I have known them for a very long time and sometimes, I have witnessed bickering, but there is always respect. Unconditional love, also.”

Gasperino and Elena met as teenagers living in a small village in central Italy just after the Second World War. Elena’s father was working in New York to help support the family, so it was her grandmother that took care of the family.

When her grandmother died of a stroke in 1947, 17-year-old Elena and her family moved in with her mother’s sister, Gasperino’s stepmother.

“She started coming to my house, but there was another girl I was engaged to for about a year,” said Gasperino, who was 19 at the time. “But my grandfather pushed me and my father told me too, take this one.”

His grandfather was pressuring him to marry Elena because he wanted to ensure the security of Elena’s family.

“To tell you the truth, I was upset for a couple of months, a year,” said Gasperino. “And after year, I said OK and I talked to my grandfather…. I obeyed him and that was it.”

Gasperino’s grandfather was a very religious man. He taught Gasperino and his two older brothers how to pray the rosary every day in Latin, a practice that he still continues today.

Twenty-year-old Gasperino and 18-year-old Elena were married at their local church. It was a simple ceremony with their two families as witnesses. “There were no pictures for the wedding. Just family,” said Gasperino.

In 1952, he, Elena and their first two children — three-year-old Luigi and one year-old Carla — immigrated to Canada. Their youngest daughter Gloria was born a year later.

Gasperino’s first job in Canada was as a bricklayer and the first project he took on was to build St. Philip Neri church. They haven’t left the parish since.

“It was all swamp here,” Gasperino said, looking out at Jane Street and Wilson Avenue. “When the priests bought the land, all this, the stores, the plaza were all part of the property. They built a school and a board of education office. I remember all of it.”

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