Lifelong Saugus residents Eugene and Arlene Decareau celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary
Fewer than six percent of marriages last for 50 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But lifelong Saugus residents Eugene and Arlene Decareau this week reached a marriage milestone that only one-tenth of a percent of married couples ever reach – 70 years.
The Decareaus celebrated their Platinum Anniversary last Saturday (Oct. 8) in the function room at Jimmy’s Steer House on Route 1 North in Saugus, joined by a gathering of about 50 people – most of them relatives and a handful of friends.
“Gene Decareau and his wife Arlene are great people who have been married for 70 years,” state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) said in an interview last Saturday, after presenting the venerable couple with a special proclamation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
“I wish them health and happiness for another 70 years. Let me tell you, 1952 was a great year – that’s when they got married and the same year that I was born,” he said.
So, what sticks out most about Gene? “Gene is a great guy and he’s been one of the icons of Saugus between the Lions Club and everything else he does – the volunteer work,” Rep. Wong answered in response to the question. “He’s always there. He’s always happy and he’s always willing to help anyone.”
And what about Arlene? “Oh!! She’s got a handful! She’s taking care of Gene.”
The special legislative proclamation, which was signed by Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy), was offered by Rep. Wong and state Rep. Jessica Giannino (D-Revere), whose district includes Precincts 3 and 10 in Saugus. The proclamation reads: “Be it hereby known to all that: The Massachusetts House of Representatives offers its sincerest congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Eugene and Arlene Decareau in recognition of the joyous occasion of your seventieth wedding anniversary.
“The entire Membership extends its very best wishes and expresses the hope for future good fortune and continued success in all endeavors.”
Last month, Eugene Decareau, joined by his wife, traveled to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, where he was one of 32 fans recognized by the New England Patriots Foundation as a “New England Community Champion” for his volunteer work.
Three classes apart at Saugus High
The Decareaus’ Oct. 12, 1952, wedding was held at 7 p.m. on a Friday in the Cliftondale United Methodist Church so they could enjoy a long weekend together. Arlene, one of two children, is a 1951 Saugus High School graduate. She played the clarinet as a member of the school’s marching band. Eugene, one of nine children, is a member of the Saugus High Class of 1948. He starred for three years on the school’s football team. They lived in the same neighborhood but didn’t meet until Eugene was in the service.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1948 to 1951, during part of the Korean War era. He was discharged as a staff sergeant. Eugene is a retired vice president of Eastern Tool & Stamping Co., Inc., where he worked for 28 years. He served two, two-year terms on the Saugus Town Meeting. He also has served on the Retirement Board for more than 20 years and is a former member of the Board of Appeals. Eugene has been active for many years in community service. He is a Life Member of the Saugus Lions Club and is one of the group’s past presidents. During his 50-plus years with the club, he received the Melvin Jones Fellow Award “For dedicated humanitarian services” – the highest award from Lions Club International Foundation. He served as a cub scout master and was involved with the Little League for 14 years respectively.
His hobby is cooking and baking pies. Arlene loves to knit. Eugene and Arlene worshiped regularly for many years at the Cliftondale United Methodist Church before it closed in 2002. They have been members since then at First Congregational Church-UCC Saugus. They have been longtime volunteers at the Saugus United Parish Food Pantry, which meets every Friday in the basement of the Cliftondale Congregational Church. They have three sons: Stephen (Tewksbury), James (Salem) and John (South Carolina).
How a bet led to marriage
In an interview with The Saugus Advocate three years ago, Eugene recalled that it was a friendly bet that brought he and his future wife together: “Well, I came home on furlough – a weekend pass. And I was on a street corner in Saugus, at the corner of Denver and Central Streets, with a fellow named Donald Rand. And Arlene came out of her house and she was out on the lawn. And Donnie challenged me. He bet me five dollars that I couldn’t get a date with her.
“So, I felt pretty good because I was in full dress uniform. So, I went over and I introduced myself. She knew who I was, but I didn’t really know her. And I introduced myself and I asked her if she would go to the movies with me.
“And she says, ‘Oh, I have a friendship ring. I can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘You’re too young for that, for God sakes!’ So, we talked and I said to her, ‘Well, you know, the Korean War is on and I’m stationed at West Point and I can be sent over any day. And if I am, I may never come back. Don’t you think you ought to go out with me?’ And so she did. That was the beginning and we never stopped going together.”
In the 2019 interview for “The Advocate Asks,” Arlene said it was about a year and a half before the couple got married. “I was scared to death of him, because he was very outgoing and forceful. I was very shy and quiet. [Eugene laughed.] In those days, I was,” Arlene said.
“I don’t know. There was something about him that attracted me to him. We went out and we had a good time. And he had to go back to West Point. And he kept coming home weekends after that, and we went out more and more,” she said.
Arlene credited their faith for the couple’s long-lasting marriage. “We go to church a lot,” Arlene said.
“That’s a good reason why we stayed together. We go to church. God has been good,” she said.