Monti family
Mario and Josephine Monti were married for more than 71 years before his death in March. 
Monti family
Mario and Josephine Monti were married for more than 71 years before his death in March. 

Stalwart that he was, Mario Monti lived just long enough so he and wife Josephine could be honored as the longest-wed couple in Oregon.

Monti, a member of St. Ignatius Parish in Southeast Portland, died March 14 at age 98, just hours after Worldwide Marriage Encounter presented the certificate for 71 years of faithful matrimony.  

The Montis, members of St. Ignatius for almost 70 years, were married up the road at Ascension Parish on July 23, 1944. Mario was in town on a three-day pass from the U.S. Army, having traveled from his base in Panama. Before wedding day, he mailed many love letters to Josephine, including one on a coconut.

Mario had been raised in Italy, leaving for America when Mussolini’s belligerance increased. He worked in a Vernonia logging camp, playing his accordion and making friends. There, he met Josephine with her parents, also immigrants.

In Oregon, Mario became a successful salesman with Fowler Distributing, often winning trips for exceeding quotas. The couple traveled the world, including trips to Italy, where they were received as starts by relatives.

During his many decades at St. Ignatius, Mario cooked the ravioli for the parish’s Italian dinner, which his aunt, Lena Farioli, helped start in 1939.

“It unites people and it’s a tradition,” Mario said of the dinner in 2005.  

“He was confident, tall, strong and old school — that meant we did as we were taught — and he taught us well,” Jan Monti, the couple’s daughter, said in a eulogy. “He relished life. He appreciated its beauty and its bounty and its possibilities – he was immensely grateful for every kindness shown to him.”

He was most grateful for Josephine. An enduring memory for many is seeing the couple dance to 1940s Big Band music.  

In 2014, family and friends traveled all over to celebrate 70 years of togetherness with the Montis, a couple that always gave marriage a good name.