Georgetown couple, married 63 years, wins state contest

Henry and Isaura Palma of St. Helen Parish in Georgetown are the 2016 state winners of the Longest Married Couple Project sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. (Photo courtesy Grace Palma)

By Michele Chan Santos
Senior Correspondent

Henry and Isaura “Ishy” Palma, parishioners of St. Helen Parish in Georgetown, are a warm and loving couple, devoted to each other and to their large family. Both 83, they have been married for more than 63 years. They are the 2016 state winners of the Longest Married Couple Project sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME). 
Isaura is quick to point out that this makes them the longest-married couple in Texas who were nominated for the award, not necessarily the longest-married couple in the state. They were nominated by their granddaughter, Toni Eubanks.
Henry and Isaura were both born in New York City. They met in 1947 in the Bronx, when they were in junior high. 
“She lived on one block, and I lived on the next block,” Henry said. Henry’s father was from Panama, and his mother was from Puerto Rico; Isaura’s parents were from Puerto Rico.
“A friend introduced us and we dated all through high school,” Isaura said. Both graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx, in January 1951. In May 1952, Henry enlisted in the Air Force, at age 19. 
“It was just understood we would be married,” Isaura said, “and we got married when he was on leave, six months later,” on Nov. 22, 1952.
The next 24 years brought Henry and Isaura five children and many moves, as they traveled all over the world with Henry’s Air Force career. They lived in San Antonio, Germany, San Francisco, Japan, Washington, Denver, Germany again, and finally Austin.
While in the military, Henry earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations from San Francisco State College. He attended classes at night after working all day. 
“Very few people earn a degree while married and raising five children,” Henry said.
He then became an intelligence analyst for the Air Force and later earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
During their many years with the Air Force, Isaura took care of their children and home duties. She became an excellent cook, and can cook foods from Japan, Germany, Puerto Rico and many other places. 
Along the way, they became close friends with other military couples and their families. They credit the support of these close friends with helping sustain their marriage.
“We have been so fortunate,” Isaura said. “We have had a fabulous life with all the people we have met. We have met the most wonderful people along the way. We are still close to them. We’ve supported each other, we’ve lived in other countries together. We became each other’s family.”
They still keep in touch with these friends, travel to see them, and welcome them to their home in Sun City, a retirement community in Georgetown.
The Palmas’ five children are Denise, Henry Jr. (married to Cindy), Dane (deceased), Victor, and Joe (married to Grace). They have five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Henry and Isaura have been part of St. Helen Parish since moving to Sun City. Before that they belonged to St. Martin de Porres Parish in Dripping Springs for many years; and before that they belonged to Sacred Heart Parish in Austin.
Grace Palma, their daughter-in-law, said Henry and Isaura are wonderful role models for marriage.
“They honor that commitment, they respect and honor each other. There’s always love here,” Grace said.
Henry and Isaura are known for their Christmas Eve “open house,” where friends, family and neighbors come for food and festivities. It is a decades-long family tradition which they still do each Christmas. Family members travel from all over the country to be with them at Christmas time.
Among their plans for this spring are attending the 90th birthday parties of some good friends.
“This is a good life,” Isaura said. “Enjoy every moment while you have it. It goes so fast.”
Worldwide Marriage Encounter offers married couples the opportunity to spend time together away from the distractions of the world to focus on each other, and offers tools for building and maintaining a strong marriage. Upcoming weekends are on April 15-17 at Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Belton; July 29-31 at St. Thomas More Parish in Austin and Sept. 23-25 at a hotel in Round Rock. For more information or to register, 
go to www.austinme.org/WEEKENDS.