Loretta and C.R. Phipps
It was an aircraft carrier in need of repair that brought this country boy and city girl together in 1957
Photograph by Michael Polito
Growing up in East Prairie, Missouri, C.R. Phipps and his family were farmers. “Me, my brother, and two sisters worked a lot on the farm, walked a couple miles to school — all that bit,” says the 80-year-old. Once he was old enough, C.R. joined the Navy. “I wanted to see the world. I left home, and never looked back.”
Loretta Lent, 78, was born and raised in Brooklyn, where she lived with her mother, a bookkeeper; her father, a bank clerk; and a younger brother. “Growing up, I was always pulling my brother out of trouble,” she says. Even at a young age she knew she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s what I was destined to do.”
In 1957, Loretta was in nursing school in Brooklyn. C.R. was stationed on an aircraft carrier that was being repaired in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The ship threw a party at the nearby Saint George Hotel to introduce the new sailors to the local community. Loretta and her classmates all attended.
“He was drunk when I met him,” Loretta says. “But he was still the most handsome man I had ever met.”
“If I remember correctly, you were a little bombed, too,” C.R. laughs.
Inebriated or not, the young couple danced all night and arranged to meet again; after several more dates they were going steady. C.R.’s ship left port, but the pair stayed in close touch, dating for two years before C.R. popped the question in 1959.
“We were overlooking the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center,” says C.R. “This was after a couple of drinks and a show; she was pretty well bombed by then...” C.R. teases.
“No, I was not!” Loretta laughs. “I said yes, and that’s all that matters.”
The farm boy and the Brooklynite married on Valentine’s Day 1959 in a small affair attended by close family and friends. “She was 30 minutes late,” C.R. claims. “My best man said, ‘She’s changed her mind.’ But I knew she would come.”
The couple had three boys and eventually moved to Monroe. Once their kids had families of their own, they built their current home in the woods near Port Jervis, where they now spend their days enjoying the surrounding scenery. “A fox visits us in the morning,” Loretta says, “and every once in a while we see the mama deer and her babe.”
Over the years, they have traveled around the country in their RV. “Alaska, Montana, Utah, a couple of cruises, a trip to Mexico,” C.R. says. “We’ve seen a lot of things, haven’t we, General?” (C.R. gave Loretta this title when he realized that she would be laying down all the rules of their relationship.)
So what’s the key to a successful marriage? “Respecting one another,” says Loretta.
“I’d say it’s been this long and happy because I have such a great wife,” says C.R. “I would do our 57 years all over again; what about you, General?”
“Yup, from the very beginning.”