Bill DeCaro remembers his wife as a stunning young woman who could tap like Ginger Rogers. Marie DeCaro recalls her husband as a handsome hoofer who was going to make it big in show business.

It was the start of a beautiful - and enduring - romance.

Wed in a Roman Catholic church in South Philadelphia in 1929, the DeCaros will mark their 80th wedding anniversary on June 20. That's not the only milestone the dancing duo is celebrating this year.

On March 31, Bill DeCaro turned 100. Marie becomes a centenarian on Oct. 20. Their oldest surviving "kid" is 70.

While they are not the world's longest-married couple - that feat belongs to a man and wife from India who were married almost 85 years - they sure seem to be among the happiest.

"They've been beautiful, beautiful years. Who could ask for anything more?" said Bill DeCaro, fingers laced with the woman he still calls "his bride," in their room at Harlee Manor, a senior community in Springfield, Delaware County.

The 99-and-100-year-old couple from South Philadelphia met at Madam Duvall's Dance School when they were just 15 and 16. He knew right away that the perky blonde with the crimped hair and bow lips was for him.

She played the field a bit.

"They were fly-by-nights, but not boyfriends, if you know what I mean. He was the real deal, he was a great guy," Marie said about her husband.

They use walkers now, and Marie's eyesight isn't so good. But they still manage to hold hands and cuddle. Recently, during a fire drill when there weren't enough seats for everyone who had gathered in a room, Bill sat and pulled his lady love onto his lap. She giggled like a schoolgirl.

For five years during the 1920s, they traveled the vaudeville circuit with Bill's brother as the DeCaro Brothers and Marie. The boys, dressed in tuxedos and top hats, performed a comical drunk act. Marie tapped.

Before she could join the act, though, she had to learn to do a cartwheel. Not wanting to let her slip away, Bill stepped up and taught her the move.

"I had my eye on her," he said as she giggled at the long-ago memory.

They laugh a lot, these two, which they say is the secret to a long and happy marriage.

"Don't take life seriously," Bill counseled.

Their other advice: Never go to bed angry or tell the other person what to do.

As if on cue, Marie said, "A woman says to me the other day, 'Here comes the boss, your Bill.' I said, he's not the boss. He doesn't tell me what to do. Forget that boss business."

Asked whether they ever fight, Bill joked, "Last night we almost got in a fight, but we went to bed and hugged."


Traveling across the United States and Canada, living out of a suitcase, playing theaters big and small, the couple's years in vaudeville were among the happiest of their long lives. They shared the spotlight with the biggest stars of the day, including Bing Crosby and Burns and Allen.

"There was nothing like it. Getting on a train, going places," said Marie, demonstrating some of her old moves by kicking her still-toned calves.

One of their few regrets is that they never made it into the movies. After vaudeville gave them the hook, they settled in Aldan and raised three children. Bill, who left school at age 14 and had three weightlifting titles to his name, worked for Sun Life Assurance Co. He stayed 43 years and made a good living with only an eighth-grade education, he said proudly.

During the Depression, he also worked as a printer and danced at the Lamb Tavern in Springfield to support his growing family.

"What we're going through now isn't as bad as what we went through in the Depression. Her sister's husband was a college graduate and he was selling apples on the corner," he said.

At 35, he was drafted and served two years in the Pacific during World War II. Marie, with two children at home, went to work as a hostess at the Crystal Tea Room at John Wanamaker, her first and only nondancing gig.

In February, their oldest son, who never married, died at age 76. The other two live in Seattle. Six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren are scattered throughout the country.

The DeCaros, who have lived at Harlee Manor for three years, treat everyone they meet with respect, said Rebecca White, the assisted-living administrator. The two go on weekly trips to the store and love to play Frank Sinatra CDs for the other residents. He never comes downstairs without a suitcoat; she's always in a skirt and stockings.

And every afternoon, they hang a Do Not Disturb sign on their door.

Lifelong Democrats, they keep up with current events and think President Obama is doing a good job. They also support gay marriage.

"We have no prejudice against anybody," said Bill.

With family far-flung, the DeCaros have only each other now. That's the way it's always been, said Marie.

"Bill and I were always very close. That was the most important thing. You can't have everything," she added.

Their son, Charles, 70, a retired engineer for Boeing Co., still marvels at his parents' devotion.

"They're two of the most in-love people that I've ever met in my life," he said.

Before moving to Harlee Manor, they used to take daily walks in their neighborhood and always held hands. People who saw them thought it was romantic.

"That's the way it's always been," Charles DeCaro said. "They were made for each other."

They couldn't agree more.

"I'm her right arm and I'm still taking care of her," said Bill. "She's a great girl. There's only one reason I want to be here. Marie."

Then, because things were getting too serious, Marie piped up, "OK, Bill, come out of it."

Bill offered one other piece of advice. His mother died at 43 and his father at 49, yet five of their six children lived past 90.

So how do you make it to a ripe old age?

"Keep breathing," he said.

Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123 or