MARPLE — September 11 may invoke sadness and horrific memories to many, as they remember the terrorist attacks on America that took place on that now-historic day in 2001. However, to one Delaware County couple, Jack and Freda Gross, the day always brings a warm smile and reason to celebrate.

This year, Sept. 11, 2019, the couple will celebrate 70 years of marriage. Jack met Freda in 1947 at a party where a mutual friend introduced them.

“My husband was very good looking,” Freda confided in a recent interview. “I didn’t know when I first met him that I would marry him someday, but I did know that I liked him a lot!”

They got engaged in 1948 and married on Sept. 11, 1949, in the former Beth El Synagogue, 58th and Walnut Street, Philadelphia. The couple said it was a big wedding.

“At the time, my father owned Posner Drug Store at 62nd and Woodland Avenues,” Freda remembered. “I think he invited every single merchant along Woodland Avenue to our wedding!”

The young bride and groom honeymooned at the now-defunct Grossinger's Resort Hotel in the Catskill Mountains, before settling down to the day-to-day routine of married life and raising a family.

Freda, a Southwest Philadelphia resident, and Jack, a Chester native, made their first home in Chester on West 21st Street. They eventually moved to Wallingford in 1965, where they raised sons Larry and Ken, and daughter, Linda.

Jack went to work at his family's business, Ben’s Market, originally located at 14th and Crosby streets. The market was founded in the 1940s by Anna and Ben Sherman, Jack's mother and stepfather. The business later moved to the corner of Rose and Upland Streets, after Jack took the reins. He worked there for more than 40 years.

According to Jack, the store sold groceries and a variety of other items, including used television sets. He said that he “worked day and night, seven days a week” at the store. Freda would join him at the store on Sundays, bringing Linda with her. 

“I enjoyed working in the market until it started getting robbed,” Jack said. “I was held up multiple times in the later years, until I finally sold the business.”

“If Jack was 10 minutes late coming home for dinner, I would start to panic,” Freda added, shaking her head and creasing her brow at the memory.

Before retiring altogether, Jack went to work for Tri-State Alarm on Edgmont Avenue in Brookhaven, where he stayed until retirement. Sons Ken and Larry founded the company in 1977, operated it for 12 years, and then sold it in 1989 to a national company. According to son Ken, in its heyday, the successful business had 25,000 customers in the tri-state area, 200 employees, and revenues of $20 million.

Freda, who had a 45-year career with Weight Watchers as a receptionist, joined her husband in retirement. Five years ago, Jack, 94, and Freda, 89, sold their Wallingford home and moved into Wesley Enhanced Living Main Line in Marple Township. With their milestone anniversary on the horizon, Jack and Freda reflected upon their seven-decades-long marriage recently and shared the ups and downs of sickness, in-law issues and other struggles that tested their marital strength and, consequently, made their union stronger.

Their deceased daughter Linda Joy Gross was born in 1961 with Cerebral Palsy. Having physical and intellectual disabilities, Linda required a great deal of extra care. Her parents sent her to the George Crothers Memorial School at CADES in Swarthmore, then called United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware County. Jack and Freda said that Linda enjoyed her school years and made good progress. As an adult, Linda became an active participant in the Adult Day Program at CADES.

When she died in 1990, the Gross family dedicated themselves to fundraising and establishing the Linda Joy Gross Center for Childhood Development at CADES. Through the Gross family’s generosity, the center provides a place where others with disabilities similar to Linda's can be helped to live life to its fullest. As active former CADES board members and dedicated donors, Jack and Freda ensured the legacy of their beloved daughter lives on.

“Linda brought a lot of heartache, but also a lot of love and joy into our lives,” Freda said. “I’m not going to lie – it was tough. We weren’t able to take vacations much or do things other couples may do, but I am not complaining. We had a good life and we loved Linda with all our hearts.”

In addition to being active at CADES, the couple was also active in Congregation Ohev Shalom in Wallingford, where they are still members. Jack, a World War II Army veteran who was assigned to personnel at Fort Dix, New Jersey, from 1944-46, was a member and past president of the Jewish War Veterans - Chester Post 134.

The 70-year celebrants are unsure how they will spend their special anniversary day. Most likely, they will enjoy a special quiet dinner together at home. Now the grandparents of four and the great-grandparents of four, the couple has a proud legacy to celebrate. When asked for any “secret” to the longevity of their marriage, Jack replied, “I think you have to be congenial to make a marriage work. You also have to be very patient.”

“Jack is a wonderful husband and has always been a wonderful father,” Freda added, as she took hold of her husband's hand. “Our marriage has been built on trust and friendship. I think, they are the two most important ingredients in any marriage. You have to like and trust each other!”

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