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Better together

Brooksby couple dances hand in hand toward the future

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July 6th, 2016
Brooksby residents and dance enthusiasts Claire and Rusty Farina celebrate their 60th anniversary this year.

Brooksby residents and dance enthusiasts Claire and Rusty Farina celebrate their 60th anniversary this year.

Rusty and Claire Farina come from conspicuously different backgrounds.

She grew up in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, home to a significant Irish-American population. He’s the son of an Italian immigrant who settled in Somerville.

Yet throughout their 60 years of marriage, Rusty and Claire have embraced life together. 

“Even now, every time I see Rusty, he makes me smile,” says Claire.

Auspicious beginnings

Their story dates back to the 1950s. Rusty and Claire were teenagers when they met at the ice cream plant where they both worked.

Claire recalls one of their early dates in July 1951.

“My family was staying at a house in Revere Beach for a few weeks during the summer,” she says. “A girlfriend invited me and Rusty, along with her boyfriend, to her house in Somerville for dinner.”

The details of that evening are still etched in Claire’s mind.

“Rusty was wearing an orange jacket, and I was wearing an aqua sundress with a bolero jacket over it,” she says. “After dinner, we walked out on the porch, down the stairs, and I fell flat on my face.”

Fortunately, Claire wasn’t hurt, and the double date progressed. The foursome went to the movies and then to The Waldorf Restaurant (now closed) in Somerville for apple pie and ice cream.

“Rusty was taking me home at the end of the evening, and we were on the Bunker Hill bus headed to my house in Charlestown,” says Claire. “All of a sudden, I remembered that my family was at Revere Beach. I told Rusty we had to change directions, and he didn’t skip a beat. We spent ten cents on a transfer and got to Revere Beach around midnight.”

Twenty years into their marriage, Rusty divulged a secret from that night.

“He told me he’d spent his last dime on that transfer,” says Claire. “He walked home from Revere to Somerville by way of the street car tracks, about a three-hour walk.”

When she thinks back to that evening, Claire shakes her head. 

“I fell on my face, I took his last dime, and he still came back,” she smiles.

Road to the altar

The couple’s relationship stalled later that year, however, when Claire wrote Rusty a Dear John letter.

“I saw an old boyfriend at a diner, and my heart went pitter-patter,” she says. “I didn’t think it was fair to go out with Rusty while I still had thoughts of another fellow.”

A year later, Claire felt her feelings for Rusty deepening, and they reunited.

“I could count on Rusty for anything,” says Claire. “By 1952, I was working for New England Telephone and Telegraph Company in Bowdoin Square. When I got off work, he was waiting to walk me home.”

The couple’s relationship was marked with milestone tokens, first a friendship ring, then a hope chest, and culminating with a diamond engagement ring in September 1955.

“We were married in 1956 in my home parish, St. Catherine’s Church in Charlestown,” says Claire. “I remember the priest telling us, ‘May you see children and your children’s children.’ Now, 60 years later, we’re enjoying our great-grandchildren.”

“The culmination of all this,” adds Rusty, “is that we have four children, ten grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.”

Raising a family

The young couple settled in Melrose to raise their family. Rusty’s father had opened a neighborhood bar and restaurant in Cambridge in 1935, and Rusty worked for the family business until he retired in 1990.

“I bought a boat when I retired, but I soon realized I needed something more to fill my days,” says Rusty. “I got my captain’s license and went to work for the Jubilee Yacht Club as a launch operator.”

Rusty’s second career spanned 20 years.

“My husband never graduated from high school, but he’s the smartest man I know,” says Claire. “He’s a quick learner, very fair, and people adore him. After just a few years at the yacht club, he was promoted to yard manager.”

Making a move together

Rusty worked right up until he and Claire moved to Brooksby Village in 2011.

“We wanted to make a decision together about where to move,” says Claire.

The couple opted for a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath Hastings-style apartment at the Peabody Erickson Living community. They tailored the apartment to their liking with custom bookshelves, wood floors, and warm paint colors.

“I love living here,” says Claire. “The people are grand, and the staff helps out any way they can.”

Rusty, not one to take a day off, signed up as a volunteer with the Treasure Chest, Brooksby’s on-site resale shop. When residents have pieces of furniture or household goods they’d like to donate to the Treasure Chest, volunteers collect those items and take them to the shop.

“I made so many friends during the first six months we lived at Brooksby because of those connections through the Treasure Chest,” says Rusty.

Dancing into the future

Asked the secret to their lasting love, Claire responds with two words, “affection” and “consideration.”

Rusty says their marriage thrives because they seek out common interests.

“We look for things to do as a couple,” he says. “We started square dancing in 1976, and we’ve been dancing ever since.”

Dubbed the “Fred and Ginger” of Brooksby, Rusty and Claire didn’t waste any time strapping on their dancing shoes once they moved.

“We were in ‘Dancing with the Brooksby Stars’ during our first year at the community,” says Claire. “We did the foxtrot and jive.”

Currently, Rusty and Claire are the treasurers of the Let’s Dance committee, which organizes monthly ballroom and line dances in Brooksby’s McIntosh Clubhouse.

“We’re enjoying life together,” says Rusty. “Here’s to more good years ahead.”

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