ORANGEBURG — In the late 1940s, Cyril Kozel was a young man just back from serving three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. There was one skill he desperately wanted to learn.
“There were a bunch of us in junior college, and we were just back from the South Pacific and didn’t know how to dance,” Kozel said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “So they found a bunch of local girls to come in and help us.”
One of those dance instructors was a fellow junior college student named LetaMae.
“I stepped on her feet a lot,” he said with a laugh.
That obviously did not matter because she ended up becoming his partner for life.
The two married in 1949 after two years of dating, and 60 years later their love for each other is still strong.
The Kozels were honored on Feb. 15 at the Diocese of Charleston’s ninth annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration as the attending couple who had been married the longest.
Mr. Kozel, 83, and Mrs. Kozel, 79, moved to South Carolina in 1987 from Arlington Heights, Ill. They both retired from careers in education. He was an elementary school principal, and she taught first grade.
The Kozels had three sons, Tom, Jeff and David, and now have two grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
“We came to South Carolina because we just wanted better weather,” Mrs. Kozel said.
They settled in Simpsonville and were two of the original 200 members of St. Mary Magdalene Church, where they are still parishioners.
The Kozels say patience and a willingness to share everything are two keys to a long and happy marriage, and it also helps to have a sense of humor.
“We joke and tease each other a lot,” Mr. Kozel said.
Their Catholic faith has also been central in their marriage, giving them strength when son David died in a car accident at age 24.
“When David was killed, we reached down in our faith and that helped us the most,” Mrs. Kozel said. “Faith is the best thing to have when something like that happens.”
These days, they enjoy spending time with son Jeff and his family, who also live in Simpsonville, and visiting Tom and his family in Pottstown, Pa.
“Our children have been the biggest joy in our lives,” Mr. Kozel said. “Getting to be with them is a joy.”
“It’s just fun to see your family keep going and growing,” Mrs. Kozel added.