It’s free, and they dine among friends their same age.
But Friday, April 19, was special.
The table where they sat was decorated with red roses and a metallic balloon. It was their 61st wedding anniversary.
The lunch wasn’t their only treat. That evening, they celebrated their anniversary again at dinner at a Mexican food restaurant.
“They might be a little old,” observed Victor Ortiz, the BCAA Senior Services coordinator, “but they’re party animals.”
After lunch, the couple sat and tried to remember the pertinent details from the early 1950s when they met.
Lucio lived in Panna Maria; Elida lived in Pettus, 25 miles away. They met about halfway at a weekly community dance at the San Benito Dance Hall in Karnes County.
Lucio scanned the crowd, focused on Elida and asked her to join him on the dance floor.
“We started dancing, like friends,” she remembers.
“She was lucky,” Lucio says, and laughs.
A few days after the dance, Lucio wrote a letter to Elida.
“In those days,” she says, “we didn’t have a phone.”
Or email or texting or Twitter or Facebook.
At a subsequent dance, Lucio popped the proverbial question.
“Well,” Elida answered, “I need to think about it.”
She did. Lucio waited. And waited. Months.
“I was only going to ask her once,” he says.
Elida finally agreed, but doesn’t remember when she said yes.
Their engagement lasted six months.
They were married in 1952 at a Roman Catholic church in Pawnee.
No honeymoon. “We were poor people,” Elida says.
Elida never attended school; Lucio stayed in school through the third grade.
The newlyweds moved in with Elida’s mother.
“I didn’t feel too good about that,” Lucio admits.
Two years later, Lucio became an independent trucker, driving a blue-and-white tractor.
He also leased land near Mineral to farm.
Over the years, the couple had two sons and a daughter. But a cloud comes over their faces when they remember. Both sons died, and parents are not supposed to bury their children.
Their surviving daughter, Leticia, lives on the same street where the Peñas have resided for more than half a century.
“We’ve had the same phone number for 50 years,” Elida says.
And the secret of the success of their marriage?
Elida offers the answer.
“I don’t know.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.