When first casting their eyes upon each other eight decades ago, Ida and Abraham Yaker were far too young to even think about marriage. Both Baltimore natives, Ida and Abe were, respectively, 14 and 16 years of age.
“I was in a girl’s club at the [Young Women’s Hebrew Association] on Monument Street,” recalls Ida, now a bubbly 94-year-old with a stylish red bob. “We had dances and the boys used to come over to see the girls. That’s how I met Abe.”
That was a lifetime ago. On Jan. 9, the Yakers, who are residents of the Atrium Village assisted living facility in Owings Mills, celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. They marked their special diamond anniversary occasion with a festive family dinner at Lutherville’s Peppermill restaurant.
In a recent interview with Jmore, Ida admits it was not love at first sight for the Yakers, and she notes that Abe, now 96, initially “took out my cousin.”
But a few years later, Ida, whose maiden name is Girshin, invited her future husband, a graduate of Baltimore City College, to her prom at Western High School, and the two began dating. The courtship was the first serious one for both of them, and in 1942 Abe proposed to Ida at a banquet at the Lord Baltimore Hotel.
During World War II, Abe served in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the “Seabees.” His first assignment was just outside of Providence, R.I.
In January of 1944, while Abe was on leave from the Seabees, the Yakers were married in the study of Rabbi Abraham I. Rosenberg, spiritual leader of Baltimore’s Har Zion Congregation at 2014 W. North Ave. After the ceremony and reception, the couple traveled to Rhode Island together.
When asked what initially attracted her to her husband, Ida jokes around. “Why did I marry Abe? Who remembers?” she says with a laugh. “I loved him, so we got married. He was cute, nice, had blond, wavy hair. He was kind and he liked me.”
Several months after their nuptials, Abe’s battalion shipped out to Brazil, where they built barracks and cannons for the war effort. Meanwhile, Ida, who was pregnant, left Rhode Island and returned home to Baltimore to be near family. Abe was stationed in Brazil when Ida gave birth to their first son, Martin, now 74 and a Reisterstown resident.
“She didn’t tell me what she had,” Abe recalls, alluding to the baby’s gender. “She just wrote, ‘Bring [home] a baseball and a bat.'”
After serving with the Seabees for exactly “two years, 10 months and 28 days,” Abe says he was discharged when a cannon accidentally went off near him, seriously damaging his ear.
Back in Baltimore, Abe began a long career as a foreman for several construction companies. In 1950, the Yakers welcomed to their family twin boys, Allan and Stanley. (While Allan today lives in Reisterstown, Stanley resides in California.)
“They were a complete surprise,” says Ida.
In the early days of their marriage and family life, the Yakers say their lives were full of friends, parties and weekly gatherings with extended family members. Their “Ball and Chain Club” soirees were a particular highlight.
“We started the club because we wanted to get together with our friends who were newly married,” says Ida. “There were about 15 couples. We met monthly at each other’s homes. Sometimes we would do things like hayrides, and the girls would pack lunches. On Valentine’s Day, the girls would all put their names in a hat and the guys would chose a name. Whoever’s name they chose would be their date for the night.
“We had some good times,” she says. “They were our friends for 50 years.”
The Yakers – who lived in Sudbrook Park for 52 years before moving to Atrium Village — were also active in many local clubs and organizations. Ida still belongs to the Covenant Guild and tap-danced in that nonprofit group’s theatrical productions until nine years ago.
Meanwhile, Abe has held leadership roles in the Pikesville Rotary Club, served as a Cub Scout leader, and is the oldest and longest-standing member of the Easterwood Park Boys Club. In his spare time, he was also a talented potter.
After their sons were grown up, Ida worked for the late Dr. Edgar Berman, a prominent local surgeon, community leader and author. “He worked with Albert Schweitzer,” says Ida, holding up a copy of Dr. Berman’s memoir, “In Africa With Schweitzer.”
Over the years, the Yakers have enjoyed traveling together around the world, visiting such countries as France, England, Colombia and Israel. They have four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and a great niece and nephew.
“We took care of each other,” says Ida, when asked about the secret ingredient of their long and happy union. “We never needed to see a psychologist. But it wasn’t always easy. It was hard. We worked hard.
“People ask me, ‘What’s your secret?’” she says. “I don’t know. The days just roll on.”