LUCIANO and ERIBERTA VILLAFANES lived in Camden for many many years before moving to nearby Woodlynne. The met at Ourt Lady of Fatima Church and married in October of 1957. The Villafanes celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2007. 

Camden Courier-Post * November 2, 2007

Couple's love endures 50 years as city changes

Courier-Post Staff

It happened more than half a century ago, but Ediberta Villafane still blushes when telling the story of how she met her soulmate.

She was only 15 when she met Luciano Villafane. That day, all the seats were occupied when she arrived at the improvised theater of Our Lady of Fatima church to watch a movie.

Luciano, 18, a shy, yet cour­teous young man, stood up to of­fer Edlberta his seat. After a brief negotiation and with the approval of her strict father, she accepted the offer.

From that day on, Luciano rode his bicycle around her house every chance he could. Ediberta watched him through the slit in the curtains; her heart beating fast.

The strict customs of that time did not allow them to go out alone or have long conversations.

Thus, their romance was limited to brief meetings at the church entrance or when they gave discrete waves and gazed at each other from afar. 

Luciano, fearful, yet determined, decided one day to approach Ediberta. He took her hand and held it respectfully and without a single word put a ring around her finger.

Luciano and Ediberta were married on Oct. 19,1957.

Romance used to be that way; adjusted to the customs and mores of a city where life was slow-paced and quiet.

"Camden used to be a beautiful, quiet and safe city," Ediberta says. "If you forgot to lock the doors before going to sleep, there were no problems; nothing bad would happen."

Luciano adds, "Truly it was a haven of peace."

The Villafanes' romance is extraordinary because it is simple, perseverant and strengthened by their faith in God.

For these reasons, they are now celebrating 50 years of marriage.

Their marriage has lasted this long because of a common bond that has not been drowned in the negative currents within a city of decadence, fear and violence.

Camden is not a trace of what it used to be. Not only must doors remain locked, but houses must be protected with powerful iron bars.

Romance today is not as innocent. Today, the youth who ride their bikes around Camden are sometimes selling drugs.

Despite all this, in the heart of the Villafane family, nothing has changed. They continue to renew their love like they have done for the 18,250 days they have been married.

"We are happy," Ediberta says, while Luciano backs her up with a beaming smile. Then she adds, "Despite the obstacles, it has not been difficult for us to find happiness. The secret has been love, fidelity, communication, faith in God, mutual trust and the will to get ahead."

The couple agrees that 111ey were able to protect their daughters from the dangers to which they were exposed in the fallen city. They gave them love, taught them about discipline and stood by their side at all times.

"Even though we worked hard, we never abandoned them with the excuse of not having enough time," Ediberta says. "For sure we did not have time to rest, but for our daughters, there was always time," she adds.

Ediberta worked more than 20 years as a seamstress and after some adult education, she worked another 28 years as a medical assistant until she retired.

Luciano worked as an un­skilled worker doing all sorts of jobs. He then assumed responsibility for maintaining the athletic fields for the Cherry Hill School District. After 30 years, he retired.

For more than 50 years, the Villafanes lived in Camden. To day they are living in the neigh­boring city of Woodlynne

Luciano and Ediberta Villafane celebrated their 50th anniversary on Oct. 19. The couple has seen many changes in Camden during their marriage.

Their daughters are success­ful. Norma Ruiz works for Camden's Municipal Council. Nancy Velez works for the Philadelphia School System and Monserrate Martines is employed by the Camden Police Department.             .

Each has a home of her own and they agree that the best lessons received from their par­ents were how to be happy from day to day, regardless of adversity.

The three sisters say because of the love they were shown and discipline they were given, they are now fulfilled women. They are· happy in their roles as daughters, mothers and wives.

This, the Villafanes say, will be the best legacy they leave to their children and will carry them through for years to come.