Feel-Good Friday: An Update - WWII Veteran to Marry Near Normandy

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In March I wrote a feel-good Friday post about a 100-year-old World War II veteran who was going to travel to France for the 80th commemoration of D-Day. The rest of the story was that he was engaged to his 96-year-old girlfriend and they planned to be married on that trip.


What better story to use this week than an update on that one? It is such a touching story and I'm a sucker for them. I've been on overload this week as so many stories are available during the week of the D-Day anniversary. We can never repay the Greatest Generation. 

The story of Harold Terens and his fiancee Jeanne Swerlin, 96, is a heartwarming one. They plan to be married tomorrow, June 8. He didn't arrive in France on D-Day but twelve days later.

The pair loves to snuggle, hold hands and make each other laugh. They are also excitedly getting ready for a historic wedding trip. Terens, a Lake Worth Beach resident, and Swerlin, of Boca Raton, Florida, will tie the knot on June 8 in France, the place where Terens faced some of the most formative experiences of his life as he helped the Allies fight the Nazis as a soldier during World War II.

Terens, a native of the Bronx, did not land in France on D-Day but arrived 12 days later to help ferry captured German soldiers and freed American troops to England. He became an expert in Morse code and participated in war missions in Iran, Ukraine and England before his service ended in 1945. He had been deployed for three years.

This is Terens' fourth D-Day trip to France to celebrate the day. According to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, there are only 119,550 American veterans left from the 16.4 million who served in the war. One veteran died en route to Normandy this year. Robert Persichitti was 102 years old. 


Terens and Swerlin lived full lives before they met.  

He married his wife Thelma, who became a professor at Hofstra University in New York, in 1948; she died in 2018 after 70 years of marriage. They had two daughters and a son and moved to Florida from New York in 2006. Terens, a former vice president of a British conglomerate that distributed beer, cigarettes and other items, has eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Swerlin, a Brooklyn native, also has two daughters and a son and has been married twice before. She has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Swerlin had lived with Boca Raton resident Sol Katz for 25 years until his death in 2019. Katz’s daughter, Joanne Schosheim of Boca Raton, introduced Swerlin to Terens in 2021. Schosheim’s children attended camp with Terens’ grandchildren.

Their first date didn't go well because Terens was too shy to look Swelin in the eye. “I had been married for 70 years and my wife died,” Terens said. “For three and a half years, I saw no one.” She gave him a second chance and the second date went very well. The rest is history.

Terens credits an upbeat attitude with longevity. 

Terens, who is participating in a longevity study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said his life has been deeply influenced by the work of the late Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the 1952 best-seller, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” The centenarian believes the upbeat attitude he learned from Peale, who became his friend, as well as efforts to minimize stress, good genetics (his mother lived to 100) and luck have been the primary drivers of his longevity.


They will be married in the town of Carentan-les-Marais, not far from the French beaches where Terens served. The mayor will officiate at the wedding at City Hall. There is expected to be a parade after the ceremony. Cards will be distributed at the parade with the 20-year-old Terens' picture on them. Many of the details of the day were arranged by employees of the French consulate in Miami. Terens has gotten to know them from his previous trips to Normandy. 

The guest list includes 38 friends and family. There will be a 24-piece band of bagpipers. 

What a great story. I wish them well tomorrow. It's a great ending to an important week of commemoration.

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