Great Island couples: Ron and Nancy Ferreira

Married 50 years, the Ferreiras are still singing the same old song.

The Ferreira children: from left, Robyn Rinehart, Marie Dunkleberger, Mary Waltermire, Ron Jr. (Nancy and Ron), Amy Perreault, and Margaret Guinzali. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

On Friday, Feb. 27, Ronald and Nancy Ferreira of Oak Bluffs celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They iced the event — no pun intended — with a celebration on Saturday, Feb. 28th, when they renewed their vows at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church on Franklin Street in Vineyard Haven, the same place they wed five decades earlier.

The day began with the church service, officiated, as it was 50 years earlier, by Nancy’s brother, the Rev. Thomas Lopes, one of the seven Lopes kids from Tisbury.

This was an important anniversary for him as well. On Feb. 13, 1965, he became an ordained priest of the diocese of Fall River. Not only did he preside at the original ceremony in 1965, but the Ferreira event was his first wedding as a priest, and the first of many, many nuptials where he united lives, hearts, and heaven.

After the service at St. Augustine’s, the celebration continued at the Black Dog Tavern on Vineyard Haven Harbor. Some 65 family members clustered around the senior Ferreiras as they enjoyed the buffet of many favorites, including chowder, codfish, and a rib roast, after the renewal of their vows.

The Black Dog was humming with Ferreiras and warmth, set against a background of the frozen harbor. All of their children, plus 13 grandchildren and assorted in-laws, such as Maggie O’Donnell, sister of the bride, who also helped as an organizer, miraculously appeared, romping together and getting along.

The first of their six children, Amy Perreault, now of Taunton, was born in 1966; next came Ron Jr., who now lives with his family in Pelham, N.H., where he is a computer tech; followed by Marie Dunkleberger of Cohasset, who organized much of the affair. The remaining three children are Robyn Rinehart of Randolph; co-event coordinator Mary Waltermire, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., where her husband is in the Navy; and Margaret Guinzali of Pembroke, the final child, born in 1976.

But all this began many years ago. Nancy Lopes and Ron Ferreira met at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in the first few years of the Island schools all consolidating.

They are both native Islanders; he was from Oak Bluffs and she was from Tisbury. They knew each other, and would even dance together, but didn’t date at first. Ron said he was interested, but that Nancy was seeing another member of the high school band, Armand Fritas. Armand played the trumpet and Ron played the drums, so they were all friends, but when her romance with the brass section waned, Ron moved in with flowers and hearts.

Nancy recalled that their first date was to one of the Saturday-night dances at the old Edgartown Boys’ Club, the social event for Island young folks.

Ron remembered that “their song” was “Good Night, My Love,” a wonderfully sappy ballad by Ray Peterson. The soulful Jesse Belvin recorded it first, but it was later released for white radio stations by Ray Peterson. Those were different times — but both versions were lovely. Ron also said that besides being their song, “Good Night, My Love” was always the last song played at the Saturday Boys’ Club dances.         Standing in the tavern after his second set of vows, his eyes lifted up across the harbor into fond memory, once Nancy reminded him of the name of the song.

Nancy and Ron dated until 1961, when her family moved to Brighton so her father could take a job for an electrical project at M.I.T. By 1962, Ron had graduated from the Regional High School and found himself working at the Quincy Shipyard, a far shorter commute to Nancy in Brighton than from the Vineyard.

He looked across a relatively calm frenzy of grandchildren on Saturday and explained that a great part of his job was testing the waterproof seals on U.S. submarines. He said with a certain urgency in his voice that when the American sub tragedy occurred in 1963, the “Thresher incident,” his job became more intense, to the point where he received a draft deferment in order to continue in his specialized field.

The U.S.S. Thresher (SSN-593) was the lead boat of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the U.S. Navy. She sank during deep-diving tests on April 10, 1963, claiming a total of 129 lives, making it the worst sub disaster in this country’s history, and leading to a new and even more rigorous submarine safety program than before.

With the new arena of atomic warcraft and the boosted scrutiny of safety requirements, Ron was an integral part of the program and national security, but still very much in Nancy’s life. They continued to court between Quincy and Boston, and their love blossomed. Eventually, they returned to the Island to wed, and returned 50 years later to wed again, only this time in the presence of their entire family.

When they married it was a very different time. Among other things, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president; the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Ala.; and the first official U.S. ground troops landed in Vietnam. It was truly a remarkable time to be alive, and a turbulent time to raise children, but the Ferreiras did so with great grace and dignity.

What has the half-century meant to Nancy? “We were very fortunate,” she said from their Randolph home this week, the town where they raised their children. She repeated it: “We were very fortunate.”

Ron spoke from his Randolph-based business, R.D. Ferreira Plumbing and Heating, where he is still not quite retired. He said, “Now we really have time to enjoy ourselves.” And of course, they’d do it again.

As for Armand Fritas, he married and settled in California. Ron said they are still all friends, and stay in touch.