Joe O’Connor | Dec 11, 2012 10:21 PM ET
His name was John Jacob Kramer, but Moll, whose full name was Molly Rusonick, called him JJ for short. JJ was a part-time milkman, back when there was such a thing, paying his way through the University of Toronto’s pharmacy program in the 1930s by delivering fresh bottles of the good stuff to cottages around Lake Simcoe, about an hour northeast of Toronto.
His favourite summer destination was Bell Ewart, a quaint little crossroads where JJ would invariably dawdle on his daily route in the hopes that Moll’s mother might invite him inside for some cake and cookies and conversation with her daughter.
The cake and cookie courtship blossomed. In 1939 there was a wedding, then a honeymoon in Miami where the newlyweds — JJ with his rakish-looking Clark Gable moustache and Moll with her twinkling Betty Grable eyes — posed for goofy photographs, promising to pack as much into life as they possibly could.
Somehow, they did. They were married for almost 74 years. They died in early December, just 48 hours apart.
“It is sad, of course, because I have lost my grandparents, but their story — it was a true love story,” says Karen Kramer, one of Moll and JJ’s six grandchildren. “What they had was poetic.”
I’m telling you their story because what JJ and Moll Kramer had is something we all, in theory, want in love and in life: a partner in crime, a best friend, a person to come home to. Some of us are fortunate enough to find those things. Some of us hold them tight and never let go.
JJ and Moll Kramer held on tight.
He got that pharmacy degree and would open his own store — Kramer Drugs — on Queen Street, down by the lake. He and Moll lived in the apartment upstairs. They had a daughter and later a son. Every day they went to work together. JJ in the dispensary, dealing with patients and filling prescriptions, and Moll in cosmetics dispensing beauty secrets to her loyal clientele, who came from all over Toronto just to see her.
They saved every penny to buy their first house. JJ was a gardener and the fix-it man. Moll ruled the kitchen. He loved to eat. She loved to bake. There were always plenty of cookies.
JJ could be a little disorganized. But Moll kept him on his game. When they fought, they didn’t stay angry. When they were younger they would go dancing at the Palace Pier and the Club Top Hat, and when they were older it was bridge and bowling and tennis. They were always a team.
Karen Kramer remembers going on back-to-school shopping trips with her grandparents. She would pick out two pretty dresses and bat her eyelashes and say pretty please. Her grandfather might hesitate. Her grandmother would give him a look and purr: “JJ.”
“Sure enough, both dresses would land in the bag,” Ms. Kramer says, laughing.
In retirement, Moll and JJ traveled to Israel, Morocco, Russia, Panama and China, where the then octogenarians went for a stroll along the Great Wall.
JJ stayed current in his golden years. He had an iPad, a cellphone and was a regular on email. Whenever anyone asked what the secret to a long life was he would tell them: “Have a sense of humour and stay away from doctors.”
He didn’t stop driving until he was 93 and didn’t take any prescription medication until he was 95. When the doctors finally told him the time had come, the old pharmacist wrote his own script, determining exactly what his pills would be.
Old age was less kind to Moll. In 2008 she was diagnosed with dementia and, soon after, moved into a full-care senior’s facility. The disease wasn’t pretty. When an apartment became available in the nursing home, JJ moved in to be close to his wife.
He visited Moll every day. Held her hand. Told her stories, stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. Sometimes they listened to music and sang along. Sometimes JJ would just sit.
He died on Dec. 1. He was 98. The family went to visit with Moll after the funeral, to let her know that her great love was safe and that everything would be OK.
And as she lay there listening, with a wrecked mind and a broken body, a tear rolled down her cheek.
Forty-eight hours later she was gone.
“You never want to say goodbye to the people you love,” Karen Kramer says. “But with my grandparents, you know, they are back together again, the way they always wanted to be.
“They really were inseparable. They had a magical connection.”