Minted in platinum
By Deb Silverthorn
True love found in three days? Maybe hard to believe, but for Malcolm Shwarts, then just 16, and the former Joan Rosenker, only 15, that’s what it was. The couple, who marked their 70th anniversary July 20, celebrated with family and close friends on Aug. 7. They have indeed lived happily ever after.
The couple met at a Young Judaea convention in Tyler, which Malcolm — a Dallas resident and son of Aaron and the former Lena Utay, both of blessed memory — attended with the local chapter. Joan attended while visiting family from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“We were introduced by Blanche Weinberger (nee Kassid), who I was dating at the time, and it turned out Joan and I were meant to be,” said Malcolm, who turned 90 on May 6. “I went home and told Mother I’d met the girl I was going to marry, and just a few years later that’s exactly what happened.”
After meeting that summer in Tyler, Malcolm went on to graduate from Woodrow Wilson High School and his first two years at Southern Methodist University, and Joan returned to Minnesota to finish high school and, for two years, work at the University of Minnesota.
“He asked if I liked Dallas and when I said ‘yes,’ he said ‘good, because we’re going to be married someday,’” said Joan, 90, who was the daughter of Edith and Max Rosenker, and sister of Alvin and Sam, all of blessed memory. She is the niece of Dallas residents Frieda and Jack Blum and Abe and Sophie Minsky, of blessed memory; they had befriended Blanche, who was then a family neighbor.
“I’m glad it all fell as it did because we’ve had a beautiful life together and made a beautiful family,” said Joan. “We were active in community and always stayed busy, and it’s very special to look back on this wonderful life. We’re so glad to have our kids, and their kids, close and to be a part of their lives.”
After his second year at SMU, where he played tuba in the Mustang Marching Band, Malcolm chose to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. After the couple were married by Rabbi Levi Olan at Temple Emanu-El, it began a now three-generation tradition with children and grandchildren also exchanging vows at the family congregation. Malcolm, who was first stationed in Austin, was transferred to Japan during the Korean War, and Joan lived with her in-laws.
Malcolm was later transferred back to Austin, then to Bangor, Maine. After three years and 10 months of service, the couple returned to Dallas, where they built their family.
In Dallas since 1955, the Shwartses’ family has grown to nearly 40 with their children, grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren: son Mike (Tracey Delisle), their children Matt (Alicia), Ben (Lauren), Lesley (Matt) Peller, Anna Delisle-Rollins (Eban Rollins) and their grandchildren Myles Shwarts, Brady Shwarts, Sadie and Augie Peller and Ellie Rollins; son Robin (Jan), their children Frances (Matt) Jameson, Dr. Ellis (Laura), Ross (Becca) and their grandchildren Phoebe and Ella Jameson, Louie Shwarts and Jake and Andi Shwarts; daughter Cathy (Todd) Teiber and their children Blake (Dr. Alana Reifer), Chad (Alex) and Halle and their granddaughter Shayna.
“Our folks are great people and they’re a perfect match who took turns being strict and less-so,” said Mike, the Shwartses’ eldest son, recalling several cross-country family vacations. “I wish them many more years of good health and time we can be together.”
Granddaughter Frances reflects on laughter and silliness being a family trait, something she believes is key to a happy marriage and to the closeness the family has always enjoyed. Sharing her grandparents with her daughters is a gift she knows is a treasure.
“Family is everything to my grandparents and they’ve passed that on to all of us,” said Frances, who recalls the annual family photo being taken for years, the framed proof of the growing family still hanging on her grandparents’ walls. Now decking the halls of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are dozens of paintings that Papa has made — colorful designs with each child in mind, her Gramma painting memories for the children with time they spend together.
“My Papa still ‘checks with the boss’ about whatever might be up for discussion but they’re really cute — they always have been,” she gushed. “I love that my kids, and their cousins, get to spend time with them.”
Malcolm built and carried a career through many facets of the furniture industry, retiring in 1995, and Joan volunteered and served many areas of the community including a term as president of Temple Emanu-El’s Sisterhood and leadership roles within the Bluebonnet B’nai B’rith and Chai Hadassah chapters. While Malcolm served as an advisor to BBYO’s Kaplan chapter, Joan would accompany him.
Today, he says, “the boys I was sure I needed to straighten out, came out okay. We’re still in touch with many; some of them are now our neighbors.”
Longtime residents of the Bonaventure Condominiums in North Dallas, the couple has remained friends with many from their early days including Blanche — her children and the Shwartses’ growing up at each other’s homes.
“Obviously I did a good job. I’m still crazy about both of them and I love them, and the kids, all so dearly,” said Blanche, who lives at The Legacy Midtown Park. “They’ve had a beautiful life together and I’m still grateful and thrilled to share so much of our lives together.”
Malcolm and his sister, Eileen Freed — also a resident of The Legacy Midtown Park — remain close. The families lived just blocks apart in the Northwood Hills area and the ladies always shared a special bond.
“Joan and I have been ‘sisters’ since we first met,” said Eileen, who celebrated her 90th birthday the day of the Shwartses’ simcha. “We started our families together, our kids always close (in age and relationships), and that’s only grown through the years. I wish them even more of the beauty they’ve shared.”
For all three Shwarts children, Sunday, Aug. 7, was the best gift their parents could receive.
“It was awesome, and we’re grateful to have had everyone come together. We grew up with our cousins and family so close together and sharing Mom and Dad’s anniversary, and Aunt Eileen’s birthday, was wonderful,” said Cathy. “Growing up, and still today, the respect our parents have always had for each other is something we’ve all seen and tried to bring to our own relationships.”
Given the separation from so many in the last couple of years, celebrating with loved ones is a treat for the Shwartses. A toast, a yummy bite and moments together sharing memories — no better gift, no better time.
Seventy years — threescore and 10 — at each other’s side, in each other’s hearts.
“Seventy years? There’s no secret,” quips Malcolm. “We agreed I’d make the major decisions and Joan would make the minor ones. All these years and — imagine that — not one major decision yet. All good.”