A husband and wife thought to be Rockland County’s oldest married couple will celebrate their birthdays this weekend — with a combined age of 212.
Duranord Veillard turned 109 on February while his wife of 83 years, Jeanne, turns 105 in May.
The couple plan to celebrate a milestone few others will see with family, friends and well-wishers at their home, where they live with a daughter, Marie Eveillard.
The son of a fisherman, Duranord Veillard was born Feb. 28, 1907, in St. Louis du Sud and grew up in Les Cayes in southern Haiti.
He studied law and lived in Port-au-Prince. The couple tied the knot in November 1932 — the same month Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in landslide victory over Herbert Hoover and Groucho Marx performed on radio for the first time.
Duranord and Jeanne Veillard raised five children. They moved to the United States in 1968 after Duranord lost his job as a judge and was awarded a visa to visit the U.S. He settled in Spring Valley. One by one, family members joined him.
Veillard got a job as a lab technician at the Good Samaritan Hospital and worked there for about 10 years and retired for a second time.
On Thursday, wearing crisp white guayabera, brown slacks and brown leather shoes, Duranord Veillard basked in the attention of his family.
Nearly blind and hard of hearing, and swallowed up by his easy chair, Veillard spoke loudly and at length in French Creole — cracking jokes, asking for his American flag and serenading the room with a song he picked up in Cuba in the 1920s.
Later, he offered a reporter a piece of birthday cake: frosted and crowned with the number 108.
“He remembers everything,” said his son, Vely Veillard, 62. “Look at him! He don’t want to use a cane. He’s a superstar.”
Jeanne Veillard sat quietly next to her husband, wearing a white linen dress and a pair of pink slippers. They patted each other on the hand. How did the happy couple meet?
“I found him in the street,” she joked in French Creole, making the room full of relatives laugh.
Rockland County doesn’t keep records of its oldest person, but Veillard’s family believes Duranord and Jeanne are the oldest married couple in the area. They have 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Veillard also let The Journal News in on his secret for living a long and healthy life: “That’s God,” he said in French Creole.
Veillard starts his day at 5 a.m. and does five to seven pushups. For breakfast, he has a cup of tea, oatmeal and fresh fruit. Lunch and dinner consist of fish and fresh vegetables. The centenarians nap early and often.
The couple do not leave their house except to see the doctor. Neither walks without assistance. But both are looking forward to celebrating another landmark in their life.
“Thank you very much,” Veillard said to well-wishers. “Merci beaucoup.”