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Flushing couple marks 50 years of life together

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At 76 Ed Bochner is full of profundities, like “We’re all gonna die — we just don’t know when.” His wife, Marilyn, has almost as much life experience as her husband — 71 years to be exact — but demurs at making such statements. “My husband is a real kibitzer — I guess you didn’t know that.”

The Bochners have a lot to be happy about, for they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Monday. They received proclamations from everyone, from state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, their representative in Flushing where they have lived for the last 45 years, to Borough President Claire Shulman, to the mayor of Freeport, L.I., where they made their home, albeit briefly, nearly a half century ago.

So why such a fuss about a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary? Apart from a long and fruitful marriage, the Bochners have spent much of their time in Flushing volunteering for various community groups. And nearly 51 years ago, Ed Bochner opened up Gem Expert Repair Service on Northern Boulevard, a business that started out servicing all manner of appliances and later evolved into a wheelchair repair shop.

“It was the normal course of business,” Marilyn Bochner said. “It was just the natural thing to get into.” But, her husband swiftly added, he made his foray into wheelchair repair when a part-time staffer pointed out something that Ed Bochner probably knew but was too modest to admit.

“You have a good way of talking to people,” he recalled the staffer as saying. “You should get into the wheelchair business.” And so he did.

Ed Bochner’s dry sense of humor that he adds to every conversation can at times be so dry that it might be mistaken for unabashed sarcasm. His wife is quite adept at elucidating his humor.

Both husband and wife are retired, though Ed Bochner prefers the phrase “semi-retired.” It is now mostly his son, Jeff, who oversees the day-to-day management of the business. Marilyn Bochner, a former teacher at a high school in Roselle, N.J., where her husband grew up, was the owner and director of a nursery school in Flushing for 39 years.

Today, she spends much of her time with the National Council of Jewish Women, where she has been a member for more than 20 years, and with the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts, a crafts group that designs miniature rooms and furniture.

For a number of years the Bochners together participated in “The Gift of Life,” a program born out of the Rotary Club of which Ed Bochner is a member. It was started to aid children from other countries who needed heart surgery and were brought to the United States for treatment. The Bochners were among the many volunteers who would pick these children up from airports.

“They came here black and blue and in big trouble, and we’d bring them back to life,” Ed Bochner said.

As for the Rotary Club (he was a past president of the Flushing chapter), Ed Bochner brags about not having missed a meeting yet. No matter where their travels may bring the Bochners, whether nationally or internationally, Ed Bochner always finds a way to make his meeting.

He and his wife also find plenty of time for their four children — there are actually three, but Marilyn Bochner insists that Jeff’s wife, Debbie, is also one of them — and their three grandchildren.

The last 50 years have gone by at lightning speed, both husband and wife say. Ed Bochner was asked what it felt like to be married for a half century, a question whose express intent was to evoke a wry response. He thought for a while about his answer, though, and before he had a chance to respond, his wife filled in the dead air.

“It doesn’t seem believable,” she said.

Reach Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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