At 93, man to marry for first time: ‘Where there’s life, there’s love’

6 mins read
Mary Elkind and Joseph Potenzano
Mary Elkind and Joseph Potenzano at Peddler’s Village in Pennsylvania. Courtesy Photo

In the parable about the 10 virgins — five foolish and five wise — Jesus spoke of the “long delayed” bridegroom (cf. Mt 25:5).

That description could fit Joseph Potenzano.

The 93-year-old is set to wed Mary Elkind, 84, on Oct. 15 at Our Lady of the Visitation in Paramus, New Jersey.

The couple first met 64 years ago at a wedding during which they both were in the bridal party. “I was the best man and Mary, of course, was the maid of honor,” said Potenzano.

elderly marriage
Mary Elkind (fourth from the left) and Joseph Potenzano (third from the right) met at a wedding in 1959. The two will marry in New Jersey in October. Courtesy Photo

“His sister married my cousin,” said Elkind. “Shortly after that wedding, he asked me out and we dated for a little bit. And then I got into Radio City Music Hall. So, I was busy dancing, and then I went away to Europe for a year with a ballet company.”

“I didn’t see her anymore,” said Potenzano of their courtship.

Life took Potenzano and Elkind in different directions. He earned an engineering degree. She pursued her dancing career and eventually married someone else. Potenzano even attended Elkind’s wedding, at which he was neither heartsick nor disappointed.

“Because we had not gotten to a very serious state in our affairs, it wasn’t that heavy on me,” said Potenzano.

Even so, the nonagenarian acknowledged that he “missed the boat.” “I missed out on marrying someone that I could have loved,” he said. “Whatever chance I had of ever marrying her early went down the drain.”

Mary Elkind
Mary Elkind dances during a ballet dress rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 1961. The previous year Elkind danced in Europe with American Festival Ballet Company. Courtesy Photo

Potenzano didn’t give up on the possibility of marriage for himself. “I did date some other women,” he said. “For reasons, which I’ll never know, things didn’t work out with them.”

Over the years and decades that followed, Potenzano and Elkind’s paths crossed consistently on account of their respective families being related through marriage. They’d see each other at family gatherings and holidays.

“Joe was always like part of the family,” said Elkind.

Season of sadness

In 2014, Elkind’s husband passed away.

Potenzano’s life too was touched by loss. He belonged to Catholic War Veterans, which was a source of activity, meaning and friendship for him. That changed with the death of, and the difficulty seeing, fellow-aging friends.

Joseph Potenzano
Joseph Potenzano on a weekend pass from the army in Galveston, TX in 1952. Courtesy Photo

“There was nothing left for me to do in the daytime,” Potenzano said. “I would sit in my chair and wake up in the morning, have breakfast, sit in the chair and there was no place to go and nobody to see.”

Loneliness was a constant companion. “I had no idea how difficult it could be,” said Potenzano.

Elkind was struggling too. After her husband’s death, she’d go out with friends but would come home to an empty house. The evenings were particularly difficult.

In thinking about Elkind, Potenzano knew her painful situation undoubtedly mirrored his. He decided to reach out.

First date

The opportunity came when there was a christening in the family. “I said, ‘Mary, I was wondering, would you like to join me someday for a cup of coffee or for lunch?'” said Potenzano.

“I was just happy when he asked me. I was surprised, very surprised. But happy that he did,” laughed Elkind.

He invited Elkind to join him and some family members at a dance performance in November 2022. With mirth, Potenzano recalled how he and Elkind attempted to be discreet at the performance. “We were trying to hide our affection for each other because my nieces and my sister were close by,” said Potenzano. He described how he and Elkind would drop their hands down so as not to be seen holding hands.

“But eventually, I said: ‘The heck with this. I like this woman and I’m going to hold her hand, I don’t care who knows,'” said Potenzano. “That’s how everything started — on that happy note.”

The couple continued to go out for meals, as well as to the movies. “We enjoy sitting and talking and playing music and singing and just having a good time together,” said Elkind.

It has been both a whirlwind romance and one long in the coming.


“As a fervent Roman Catholic, I believe that the Lord is with us here and … I thought maybe he wanted me to do some other things,” said Potenzano. Accordingly, the retired engineer pondered what God had in mind for him, especially with him being single and Elkind a widow.

“So, I figured, let me use this opportunity to get to know her, bring her close to me, and it worked out. I figured something as nice as that has to be from the Lord,” said Potenzano.

He broached the subject of marriage with Elkind twice.

The first time was a general inquiry about whether Elkind would ever get married again. “And for a minute, I had to think about it. And I said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I would,'” said Elkind. “The second time he asked me, I said, ‘Sure, why not?'”

“I almost fell on the floor,” said Potenzano. “I was happy. I was overjoyed.”

The couple were catapulted into the demands of planning a wedding with a short engagement. “I’ve been running around like a chicken without a head,” said Potenzano.

Joseph Potenzano and Mary Elkind
Joseph Potenzano and Mary Elkind (on the end on the right) at a family gathering for a birthday. Courtesy Photo

The future Mr. and Mrs. Potenzano are realistic about their advanced years. Accordingly, in less than a year from their first date, they plan to be married.

“We decided that at our age, we better hurry up and do it. Because, you know, we want to spend as much time together as we can now,” said Elkind. “So, we had to make our plans quickly.”

Elkind’s daughters will be her bridesmaids and Potenzano’s sister, who Elkind was the maid of honor for in 1959, is also in the wedding party. “She’s going to be my maid of honor,” said Elkind.

Why get married?

The engaged couple lives 15 minutes away from each other, with Elkind in Chestnut Ridge, New York. They see each other throughout the week.

“We’re old school, so we don’t live together until we’re married. That’s one of the reasons why we’re getting married at this late stage of our life,” said Elkind.

Potenzano noted that marriage means as much to him now as it would have if he had married Elkind earlier. A distinction is that he and Elkind see love “on a more mature level.”

“I think every husband wants to make his wife happy. And that’s certainly one of my goals, to make her happy in our advanced years,” he said. “I hope that in this marriage, that we will have some time to be together and that I will be a good husband to her and treat her well.”

Elkind can already attest to Potenzano’s treatment. “He’s such a good guy. I’m very blessed, I really am. I’m so happy,” she said.

Potenzano has played a role in supporting Elkind in the practice of her Catholic faith. She recounted how, prior to dating Potenzano, she didn’t go to Mass faithfully every week.

“I go every Sunday now with Joe,” she said. “Now that I’m back into the Church, I’m so happy. You know, Joe brought me back in, and I feel good about that.”

A tale that inspires

The couple’s story has garnered significant media attention.

Apparently, there seems to be a soft spot in people’s hearts for something like that, because maybe it gives them hope, said Potenzano.

Asked if this might speak to the fact that love is eternal, Potenzano agreed. “It’s always with you and it doesn’t go away,” he said. “I think that love is a special gift from God to mankind. And I think this love is the connection between us and him.”

future Mr. and Mrs. Potenzano
Joseph Potenzano, 93, and Mary Elkind, 84, at a family birthday party. The couple will be married in October. Courtesy Photo

Potenzano elaborated on the nature of love. “It’s just not a regular, common thing that we do in life” such as sleeping, eating, talking and learning, he said. “But [there’s] something about the force of love, that’s different. It supersedes all these other events.”

“Love can be … a very strong factor in your life,” he said. “I didn’t want to be without her anymore. That’s the way it affected me. I wanted to see her, I wanted to put my arms around her, and she told me that she felt the same way about me.”

“The feelings are there no matter what, no matter what age you are,” said Elkind.

When all the publicity happened, Potenzano wondered if there was a message he was being called to give. “I ended up saying that, where there’s life, there’s love. And love is not just for the young, but for everybody,” he said.

Nicole Snook

Nicole is an alumna of Ave Maria College in Michigan. She holds bachelor’s degrees in theology and journalism as well as an MA in Theology. Having experienced a "call" to journalism when she was a youth, her work in media has spanned nearly 30 years. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia with her husband and children.