Jackie Robinson married Rachel Isum Robinson in 1946. A struggling baseball player coming into his own during the days of the Negro Leagues’ integration with Major League Baseball, Robinson was a pioneer. But he would be the first to tell you his accomplishments would have been impossible without the support his wife provided. The couple were married close to 26 years before a heart attack took Robinson early. For every bump in the road and indignity that society tried to thrust upon Robinson, Rachel stood by her husband’s side. Even after his MLB career ended, the couple continued fighting against injustice when it would have been very easy to step out of the public eye and rest on their laurels. They were supporters of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rachel devoted her professional life to nursing while growing up in an immature society that looked down on both her color and gender. She began the Jackie Robinson Foundation after her husband’s death to assist minority youth in achieving collegiate success and today, she and the foundation remain active forces in establishing equality for all.
According to an ABC News report, Tanya Rider went missing on September 20, 2007. Once husband Tom Rider found out that his wife had not turned up to a shift, he knew something was wrong. Tanya worked two jobs and was as reliable of an employee as any company could ever have. Frantic, Tom began the hard job of convincing police to investigate the crime as a missing persons case. Through patient (and impatient) persistence, he eventually did, but would also fall under their radar of suspicion. As he sat down to take a polygraph test on the eighth day of his wife’s disappearance, the police received a call that Tanya’s car had gone off the road and overturned somewhere in the woods near the couple’s house. Amazingly enough, she was inside the vehicle — alive, but critically close to death. Throughout that turbulent week, Tom was the only one who believed his wife was still out there. He never gave up hope and without his persistence in the face of his wife’s almost certain death, authorities would have never found her until it was too late. Last we heard the Washington state couple were still together, and while it’s anyone’s guess what the future might hold, at that moment in history, Tom and Tanya Rider were perfect for each other.
No matter how you feel about politicians and their beliefs, you’ve got to include Ronald and Nancy Reagan as one of the great couples in history, at least for the 1900 to present day time period. The couple were married on March 4, 1952. Reagan, a divorced actor with political aspirations, was still recovering from his first wife (and the mother of two of his children), Jane Wyman, filing for divorce. Nancy Davis was a horrified young actress trying to enlist Reagan’s help with distinguishing her name from another Nancy Davis, who’d turned up on a Communist blacklist. If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was something very close to it. One of Nancy’s press secretaries had this to say about the couple later in life: “They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting.” When Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Nancy was his fierce protector. When he eventually died in 2004, after 52 years of marriage, she could be seen kneeling down, resting her head on his coffin.
The names Victoria and Steven Wrubel probably don’t ring any bells. After all, they’ve never been the subject of any movies or monumental historic events, save for one. Until April 11, 2013, they were the world’s longest living married couple at 83 years. That was the day that Victoria, at age 101, died. She was survived by her husband, who as of this writing is 103 years old. According to the Huffington Post, the new oldest living couple is Norman and Normah Burma, who have been together 82 years.
When they first met, Liu Guojiang was a six-year-old boy, and Xu Chaoqing was a 16-year-old bride. It was her wedding day when she was approached by the young boy, who in keeping with local custom, wanted her to touch the inside of his mouth for good luck since he’d just lost a baby tooth. Nervous, Liu bit Xu, who turned a sharp eye to him. A nearby woman laughed: “Little rascal, when you grow up, you should find a pretty girl like this!” Liu did find that pretty girl. The same pretty girl, 10 years later, after four children and a recently deceased husband (due to meningitis) left her a widow. To escape village scrutiny, the couple would escape to the mountains of southwestern Chongqing and spend about 55 years together, having four children of their own and three from Xu’s prior marriage (her fourth from the first marriage died). Concerned for his wife’s safety, Liu built a 6,000-step “ladder of love,” so she could walk up and down the mountain without injury. Liu died in 2007. Xu followed five years later.
Singer Perry Como met wife Roselle when the two were still in high school. Their relationship quickly turned to marriage upon graduation. It would be a decision neither would regret for the next 65 years. According to an obituary for Roselle, who died in 1998 — Como followed in 2001 — Perry referred to his wife as “my anchor.”
“I wasn’t always a success. In the early years there were some rough times when I thought I’d quit the business. Roselle always stood by me, never pressuring me either way,” Como added.
When asked why he’d never had an affair during the six and a half decades of marriage, Como said he “had a lot of opportunities,” but “never took advantage of the position I’m in where a lot of women throw themselves at you. Not because I’m a saint, because I’m not. It was because I knew what I had with Roselle was special. She’s special. … I would never have risked doing anything that might hurt Roselle. I would sooner have died. She is a wonderful woman. Her children and her husband come first. I never want for anything at home. She’s my ‘girl.’ She’s my best friend.”
In 1912, Isidor Straus was known as the co-owner of Macy’s Department Store, but the events of April 15 would change that identity forever. Instead of forever being remembered as a successful businessman, he and wife Isidor would forever go down as one of the great couples in history thanks to their words and actions on the night their passenger liner, the RMS Titanic, hit an iceberg and plunged to her death. Eyewitnesses at Lifeboat No. 8 offered a moving account of true love and devotion. Isidor could not bear getting on a lifeboat with so many women and children being held back. He would not let his wealth and identity save him when so many Innocents were condemned to die. Ida, his wife of 40 years, saw there was no persuading her husband and instead of boarding the lifeboat, decided to give her spot to a newly hired maid. “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together,” she was reported to have said. They were last seen arm-in-arm on the deck of the Titanic by departing lifeboats. The couple had seven children, and were survived by six at the time of their deaths.
Which of these great couples in history, 1900 to present, do you think were the greatest? Share your thoughts below.