In a time when the average first marriage lasts eight years, reaching a milestone anniversary like 65 is something to celebrate – unless there is a global pandemic scheduled, in which case, the party will have to wait.
Brian and Susan Mayall will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on May 14. The couple planned to take their family to Hawaii to mark the date, but had to cancel plans after restrictions were made on travel in response to the coronavirus.
Brian and Susan met on a blind date while attending Cambridge University in England. She was in the history program, while he studied science and economics.
“There were 10 men to each woman at Cambridge at the time,” Susan recalled. “So there was lots of choice, and there were none of these silly rules about dating and having to stick with one person at the time, so you had a lot of chance to check around, and he ended up being the one.”
Susan said she was attracted to Brian’s kindness and stability. Brian admitted that for him, it was love at first sight. They married on May 14, 1955, and soon after, moved to Canada where Brian attended medical school. They then migrated to Philadelphia, where Brian took a position at the University of Pennsylvania studying the effects of radiation on cancer. It was in the City of Brotherly Love that Susan took her first position as a history teacher in a girls’ prep school.
“The big thing I did there was I founded a week-long seminar on the rise of Nazism in Germany,” Susan said. “We had a German general who happened to be in the area at the time come and speak at the seminar, and members of what had been the resistance, and we showed movies. I think that was the best thing I did there.”
In 1972, the couple moved once more – to Livermore – and have called it home ever since. They raised four children, all of whom live in the area and have given Brian and Susan nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Brian and Susan thoroughly enjoy having their family nearby and spending time with their progeny.
Brian continued his career in medical research, collaborating with the team at UC San Francisco to apply his research to humans, rather than mice, and founding a scientific journal.
Susan also kept busy, opening Goodenough Books in 1977, where she cultivated an active literary community, hosted author luncheons and filled her neighbors’ bookshelves. She sold the store in 2003, after 25 successful years.
The Mayalls have spent the last six and a half decades enjoying their time together, traveling the world and choosing each and every day to be present in their marriage. They are active Rotarians and help to organize a speaker series at The Bankhead Theater.
“There’s a real advantage to getting married quite young,” Brian said when asked about his secret for a lasting marriage. “When you get married, you are creating a new personality that is different from either of the individual’s. While you’re still very young, it’s possibly easier to do that, particularly when you have children. It’s been a very interesting journey.”
Susan added that they had decided from the beginning to make things work.
“Maybe a lot of people do, but we decided that we were going to stick together,” she said. “We have thoroughly enjoyed our children … and we just do a lot together; we always have. We travel alone together and have a lot of fun.”
The Mayalls hope to host a garden party at their home to celebrate their wedding anniversary once restrictions on gatherings have been lifted.