One Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1953, 14-year-old Sheila Bliden had been on the phone for hours when her father insisted that she hang up. The family had recently moved within walking distance of Beth Tfiloh, then on Garrison Boulevard, and Sheila needed to get over to the shul immediately.
She wanted to attend a singing contest there. It was there that Sheila met Stanley Bush, four years her senior. She joined Stanley and some friends out in groups. At first, she dated his friend. Then, Stanley took her out.
“I liked the way she acted – ladylike, special, bubbly,” recalls Stanley. “I was drawn to her.”
Says Sheila: “He was very nice looking, with beautiful brown curly hair and blue eyes. Several girls were after him. That made it for me to zero in. I wasn’t going to let him get away.”
Sheila recalls falling in love with Stanley’s family as well. His sister, Sandy Klapper, remains her closest friend.
Sheila and Stanley dated and went steady, enjoying AZA youth group events, movies and bowling in the Forest Park section of Northwest Baltimore. But what they loved most were the fraternity dances. They could foxtrot, waltz, mambo, tango and samba.
Within a few months, they were “madly in love,” Sheila says. Her parents, too, were “crazy about him. I think they liked Stanley more than they liked me,” she jokes.
When Sheila was 17 and in her senior year of high school, she and Stanley got engaged. “We just ticked together,” says Stanley. “We liked the same things, went to the same places. It just seemed we were meant for each other.”
They married on Sept. 1, 1957, on Stanley’s 22nd birthday, in a small ceremony and reception, and honeymooned at Miami Beach.
Over the next dozen years, they added four children to their family – Lawrence (1961), Michael (1963), Randi (1966) and Natalie (1969). Stanley worked in engineering in Baltimore before moving Sheila and the two boys to California for a job with the Singer Corp. in 1965.
Later, Sheila sent an application for a job in Israel on Stanley’s behalf and before he could object, the family moved to Jewish state, where Stanley worked as an engineer for an Israeli aircraft company for three years. Just prior to the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, they returned to their native Baltimore and Stanley owned two businesses –Avalon Hardware and Minuteman Press – before serving as executive director of Beth Tfiloh, which had already moved to its current Pikesville location.
The couple moved south in 1992, and Stanley served as a synagogue executive director in Tampa for a few years. Today, after taking courses, he serves as a mediator for the Hillsborough County, Fla., court system a few days each week. He also supervises kashrut for the Weinberg Village assisted living community, Congregation Kol Ami, the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center and a Publix supermarket bakery, all of which are in Tampa.
Sheila, in the meantime, enrolled at Baltimore Hebrew University when Randi was 10 and pursued Jewish studies and languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic. She worked for Baltimore Hebrew Congregation before heading to the Sunshine State. She served the Jewish National Fund tree planting office in Florida and now volunteers in the gift shop at Congregation Kol Ami.
Today, the Bushes proudly look back over six decades of marriage. They are especially grateful for their family, which now includes 10 grandchildren.
“We don’t have a bucket list because we’ve done everything we wanted to do,” says Sheila, now 78. “There’s nothing lavish or exciting. We don’t have to. We just enjoy our family.”
Stanley, 82, acknowledges that he and his wife still kiss before going to bed every night. “I still look at my wife and feel very good that I have someone that special,” he says.
Linda L. Esterson is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Photos courtesy of the Bush family
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