VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Couple still dancing together after 60 years

August 23, 2012 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Josephine and Anthony Orrichio met at a dance at a Knights of Columbus hall in the early 1950s. He asked her to dance.

“And we’ve been dancing together ever since!” Josephine said with a smile as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.

The Orrichios will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in October. On Aug. 21, the couple welcomed a reporter into their Dyker Heights home and talked about their lives as lifelong Brooklyn residents.

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He affectionately calls her “Jo-Jo.”

The couple lived for many years in Bay Ridge, in a house on 88th Street between Gelston and Fifth avenues. It was in that house that they raised their three children — Lucy, a restaurant owner; Anthony, a real estate agent; and Camille, a culinary arts instructor in a school for children with learning disabilities. Camille is also known for her role as founder of the Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization named after her late son. The foundation assists families of children with cancer.

The Orrichios moved to Dyker Heights about 25 years ago, following their daughter Lucy, who had decided to live there.

They are parishioners of Saint Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on 86th Street and 16th Avenue.

Josephine described herself as a devout Catholic.

“It’s very important to me to go to church,” she said.

Sitting in their dining room, over coffee and slices of red velvet cake baked by their daughter Camille, the Orrichios were relaxed and open about themselves. It was their first interview with a reporter, but the husband and wife were completely at ease, as if they had been answering questions from journalists all of their lives.

Anthony, 90, grew up in Windsor Terrace, one of nine children.

“I was number seven,” he said, referring to the fact that he was the seventh child. “I was Lucky Number Seven!”

Anthony’s intelligence was recognized early on by his teachers at P.S. 130. He skipped two grades in elementary school and jumped ahead.

“They would have moved me up another grade, but they decided enough was enough,” he said.

He attended Manuel Training High School.

He was an Army cook in World War II and brought his culinary skills home with him when the war ended.

“Of course, in the service, you were cooking for 250 people at a time,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “I still like cooking.”

Anthony, who was always interested in health and fitness, became a massage therapist. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, it was an unusual occupation. His client base grew as word of mouth spread about the healing powers of a good massage.

“It’s the touch,” he said.

Over the years, Anthony’s clients included actors George Raft, John Belushi, and Michael Moriarty.

Anthony inspired his wife and children to follow his lead. In the1970s, the Orrichio house was probably the only one on 88th Street in which white bread and soda were banned.

For a time, Anthony ran his own health club. He also worked for famed fitness expert Jack LaLanne.

“He always worked hard,” Josephine said. “He used to work two jobs.”

Josephine, 82, grew up in South Brooklyn as one of eight children. She attended P.S. 146 and graduated from Girls Commercial High School. She worked for many years in the credit department in a department store, assisting customers with billing problems.

“If you bought something for $100 and paid $20, and the next bill you got said $90 instead of $80, we handled it,” she said.

Josephine worked as an assistant supervisor in the credit department and was then promoted to department supervisor.

But then her life took a different direction. And it happened because she decided to go to a dance at a Knight of Columbus hall near Prospect Park. Anthony Orrichio was sitting at a table, surrounded by girls.

“He asked me to dance and I said yes. He was so nice-looking and he had a real outgoing personality. He was so friendly!” Josephine recalled.

They danced and talked all evening. But Anthony, ever the gentlemen, made sure everyone got home safely.

“He not only saw me home, he also escorted all of the girls who had been sitting with him at the table home,” Josephine said.

The Orrchios were married at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church on 21st Street in 1952.

What is their secret to a long, happy marriage? Josephine summed it up in one word — respect.

“We respect each other. Look, no marriage is perfect. You have your ups and downs. But if you respect each other, you have everything,” she said.

The Orrichios believe very strongly in the importance of charitable works. The couple has been donating money every month to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital for more than 40 years.

“We send a check every month,” Anthony said.

The couple’s dedication to the hospital and its mission to help children impressed the hospital’s board. A few years ago, a lawyer representing the hospital traveled to Brooklyn to thank the Orrichios personally for their contributions.

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