By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – It’s been said that love knows no bounds, whether life’s challenges lie in age, health or distance; true love can conquer all. There is one such love story going on in Shrewsbury between Lawrence and Frances Laganelli, who will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary on June 30. Although health issues have caused both to move a little slower, their love continues to give them strength.
The pair grew up in the same Worcester neighborhood and actually began courting as teenagers. In 1945 they exchanged wedding vows at local Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Together they raised three sons – Lawrence Jr., Richard and Mark.
As a young boy, Lawrence could often be found following Frances around the neighborhood trying to catch her attention in hopes of earning her affection. It was not until he joined the Navy at age 18 and shipped overseas that Frances realized her mutual affection. When Lawrence returned in 1943 the pair began dating in earnest and two years later decided to get married.
Neither Lawrence nor Frances finished high school. Times were tough and they had to help support their families. Frances worked at Phiefer Shoe on Beacon Street in Worcester, a job she began at age 17. At 20 years old, she left the shoe store to attend the first (ever) hairdressing class at Broms Academy. The year was 1958.
In the late 50s Lawrence worked as a foreman at Mandell Sheet Metal Shop in Worcester. A few years later, in the early 60s, he decided to follow in his wife’s footsteps and attend classes at Broms Academy. He became a hairdresser as well.
Lawrence and Frances owned and operated a variety of hair salons over the years including The White Dove Hairdressing Salon and The House of Silver Blondes. They also bought a building on Burncoat Street which they converted to house Larry’s Beauty Salon, Laganelli’s Deli and a cobbler’s store.
In 1969 the Laganelli family moved to a home in Shrewsbury where they raised their family. Eventually, due to health concerns they downsized to a condominium in town with their son Mark, who has served as their primary caregiver for the past 20 years. Lawrence, now 91, is partially blind and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease while Frances is 90 and is confined to a wheelchair dealing with the effects of restless leg syndrome.
Mark, a retired postal worker, is firmly committed to keeping his parents active and healthy. Each day after helping them get ready, the three go out for coffee or breakfast. Twice a week he takes them to Summit Elder Care, so that they may socialize with others. Mark also takes his parents to the gym three times a week where they ride a stationary bike for several miles to maintain their health.
In addition to his caregiver responsibilities, Mark is a part-time Elvis impersonator. He brings Lawrence and Frances to every show he performs. It’s become a very important part of their lives and offers a wonderful break from the everyday schedule.
“My parents love the music and are my greatest cheerleaders,” Mark said. “The singing Elvis gigs are our life!”
In June when Lawrence and Frances celebrate their seventh decade as husband and wife, they will do so with a celebratory dinner out and possibly a visit to a casino.
Reflecting on his parents’ amazing marriage, Mark said, “I have learned from my parents that love is above all obstacles. Their marriage is a beautiful love story.”
To view Mark Laganelli’s (Elvis) tribute to his parents’ 70th wedding anniversary visit: