There are lots of ideas out there as to what goes into creating — and sustaining — a long-term love relationship.
For Margaret and Don Griffith of Point Loma, who have been married since 1952, the key to their enduring relationship isn’t any secret.
“We’re good friends,” said Margaret. “You have to like each other.”
Don mirrored the sentiment, saying being untrue to one another “is just one of those things that was just never going to happen.”
“Honesty has played a big part,” Don said.
There has, however, always been a clear division of labor within their relationship.
“She takes care of the social aspects of life — the scheduling, all that sort of thing,” said Don.
Margaret replied: “He fixes everything.”
The pair retired in 1995 to a fixer-upper home in Point Loma. Don, a handyman, has polished the residence like a jewel, and said they love living near Sunset Cliffs.
Valentine’s Day this week was “just another day” for the Griffiths, neither of whom puts much stock in “special occasions.” They prefer just to enjoy one another’s company each and every day.
It wasn’t love at first sight, according to the Griffiths. The pair met on a blind date as college students in Iowa back in the late 1940s.
“She was in nursing and I was in engineering,” said Don, adding both occupations are virtually inherited traits passed down respectively from one generation to the next in their family lines.
Margaret and Don were from different backgrounds. She was from a small town. He was a city boy.
Like all long-term relationships, the Griffith’s love has stood the test of time, overcoming accidents, illness — even an earthquake.
The first incident was an auto accident the pair got into while still in college, when Don spun out on a gravel road and Jill was thrown from the vehicle.
“I was in a body cast for three months,” she said. “We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in the hospital, where my mother was taking care of me.”
In 1963, Margaret, who had had three children by then, was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks normal healthy tissue that causes swelling and organ damage.
Having lived with the effects of the condition the rest of her life, Don said he’s done everything possible since to keep Margaret’s lifestyle “stress free.”
Don said Margaret’s survical of a condition like that “makes you appreciative of life … [and] there’s some benefits of tragedy.”
The pair also survived the big Northridge earthquake in the Los Angeles area in 1993.
“That was a pretty big one. You’re shaking pretty good,” said Don.
He said the quake put his “water heater through the wall” and “finished off my chimney.”
The first thing he did was check that their gas and water lines were shut off, as well as those of his neighbors.
Don said their pastor opened up the Sunday School to quake refugees.
“We were without electricity and water for five days,” said Margaret. “It was a war zone.”
By comparison, the Griffiths these days live mostly in a “peace zone.”
Don and Margaret are very active at Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church. Don is in charge of facilities and associated with a group of volunteers known as “Men At Work” at the Presbyterian Urban Ministries downtown.
“It’s a hand up for the homeless, where we fix things and haul furniture,” Don said.
Margaret is involved with a church group that organizes memorial services.
The Griffiths walk along the beach near their home every night. Don is busy with his grandson, working to restore a 1947 Jeep he has sitting out back of his home.
“We’re very blessed that we’re both still here,” said Margaret.
She said a lot of women she knows at church would “love to have been married for 61 years.”
Don agreed, saying men with their generally shorter life spans tend to be sought after by the ladies after a certain point.
He told of a man he knew in his 90s who finally broke down after his wife died and went to live in “one of those care places.”
“He said the ladies always saw to it he sat at their table and always came afterward to visit him in his room. He said, ‘You know, you’ve almost got to lock your door at night.’ ”
Don doesn’t have to worry about that. Not while he’s got Margaret, anyway.