Greek-American couple Connie and Charles Cotros have been living a real life love story for the past 60 years.
Today, many believe that long-lasting, health marriages are dying out, but Charles and Connie prove them wrong.
Married in 1962, the couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in June. “Every time, people ask us how long we’ve been married and we tell them ’60 years;’ they look at us like we’re nuts. But it’s been a great, great, great experience,” Charles states to Greek Reporter.
The couple grew up together in Memphis, Tennessee. Charles is the child of a Greek-American mother and a Greek father from the village of Elatou, near Nafpaktos.
Connie’s parents were both born in Greece — her mother in Patras, in the Peloponnese, and her father from a town called Zourianos, also near Nafpaktos.
Both part of the tight knit Greek-American community in Memphis, the couple went to the same church, sang in the choir together, and lived just blocks away from each other as children.
The love story began at choir practice
Although they grew up together, Charles never really though of Connie as anything more than just a family friend until he came back from college. “When I went to college, she was just the scrawny girl down the street…When I came back from college, that scrawny little girl became a beautiful woman.”
Although he immediately took interest in Connie, he didn’t have time to take her out when he got back from college, as he was busy building up his business with his father.
All the while, Connie had been lamenting to her family that she couldn’t find a nice Greek boy.
“There’s no way I’m going to meet a Greek boy,” Connie recounts saying to her mother. Luckily, though, her mother would often pray for her daughter to find the right match.
Thankfully, “she prayed Charles into my life,” Connie says. “The best thing that ever happened to me was this man.”
Charles and his father went into business together after his father’s previous business partner passed away. Together, the father-son duo started the Tri-State General Food Supply Company and managed it themselves.
It was only after the business became established and began to grow did Charles begin thinking about the future, and he never forgot about Connie.
From the time he saw her after coming back from college Charles knew he had to ask Connie out on a date. He remembered that they both used to sing on the choir together, so one day Charles went to choir practice hoping to run into her and ask her out, but that was the one day she didn’t go.
So he called her after practice to try to ask her out. Connie recounts that, in the moments before Charles called, she was talking to her dad about how she never thought she’d find a good Greek guy to marry.
“I asked my dad, ‘how would you feel if I married someone who wasn’t Greek?'” Connie reminisces. At that moment, Charles called her and asked if she’d like to go out. When she told her dad, he said “Now that’s a nice boy.”
From family friends to husband and wife
It was Christmastime when Connie and Charles went out on their first date. Together with another young couple, the pair went to a Christmas festival in Memphis.
They both had a wonderful time, and knew that they had found “the one” in that moment. “I never had another date with with anybody else,” Charles says. “Me neither!” Connie chimes in.
Connie’s parents adored Charles. “My mom and dad loved him so much,” Connie recounts. Charles had to work very hard and wake up early, so he was often exhausted by the end of their dates. When he would bring Connie home, he’d often just fall asleep on her couch from exhaustion.
Upon seeing Charles asleep on her couch, Connie’s mom would exclaim “Oh poor boy! He works so hard!”
The young couple dated for a year, and were engaged for nine months before they got married in June of 1962.
Their engagement started in an unlikely place–the hospital. “The first time he asked me to marry him, he was in the hospital with a ruptured disc, but that’s not when he gave me the ring. He gave me the ring at Riverside Park in Memphis,” Connie tells Greek Reporter.
Meanwhile, Charles’ hard work at his small business paid off. His dad handed the reins of the business over to his son, who developed it until it truly flourished.
Wholesale food giant Sysco Foods soon took notice of the booming business and wanted to buy him out. After accepting that offer, Charles moved up in the ranks at Sysco Foods and eventually became the CEO, working there for 30 years.
“We still hold hands at the movies” after 60 years of marriage
“We’ve had a great marriage,” Charles beams. The couple remain devoted to each other and are clearly still in love.
The couple is dedicated to their children. “We have three beautiful children, 11 grandchildren, and almost 7 great-grandchildren,” Connie says. “I’m yiayia (grandmother), he’s pappou (grandfather), and now we’re big yiayia and big pappou with our great-grandchildren.”
When asked about their parenting philosophy, Charles replies: “You need to discipline your children, but never let your children go to bed unhappy. If you’ve disciplined them, you need to let them know you still love them before they go to bed.
“To me, that’s very important, because how your children turn out is very important to how your marriage will end up being,” Charles stresses.
Even after 60 years together, Connie and Charles are still tender with each other. They keep their love alive through their family, as well as through regular date nights every week.
Before the pandemic, the couple would go out to the movies and go to dinner every Friday. “We still hold hands in the movies,” Connie notes. “And we still hold hands walking down the street!” adds Charles.
“Never go to bed without saying ‘I love you.'”
When asked what the secret to making a marriage last, Charles says: “Love, respect, and understanding each other.”
“And never go to bed without telling each other ‘I love you,’ we tell each other every night. It’s so important,” Connie adds.
“We’ve been married for 60 years and we’re truly blessed, but that’s not easy! You have to work at it. You have to respect, you have to love your church, believe in God, and recognize that you don’t always have to say yes to everything, but you need to respect and understand your wife, and she needs to respect and understand you,” Charles stresses.
“Every couple needs to understand that there’s give and take. you cannot expect to have everything your way all the time..You need to respect your wife, to understand her, but you also need to give into her,” he continues. “I think that’s the biggest problem– either people are immature, or they don’t what to do when it comes time to give.”
There are moments of tension and arguments in all marriages. Charles advises couples to work through their small issues when they appear so that they don’t fester and become larger problems in the future.
“You’ll always have issues. You can’t let it get out of control…you cannot let a small problem become a major problem. if you don’t address it, it will get out of control,” Charles asserts.
Since Charles retired, the couple has enjoyed traveling the world together with their family.
Charles and Connie are dedicated philanthropists who have donated millions to charity and NGOs, including to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where there is an area of a wing called “Connie’s Corner.” The hospital provides free medical care to children with cancer.
They’ve also donated to the local church where they sang in the choir together, along with the seminary and the college where Charles went to school.
Charles is going to take his wife Connie out for a lovely meal at a fancy restaurant for Valentine’s Day. When asked what the best gift her husband has ever given her was, Connie replied, “his support, his love, and three beautiful children.”