The first thing you notice when you sit down to talk with Bertha and Peter Broustis is the laughter.
It’s the third person in the room.
The laughter has been there since the high school sweethearts married 61 years ago, and the longtime Medinah Country Club members have no plans to change their ways anytime soon.
“Always laughter,” Bertha said. “If you can laugh at everything, you know you can survive.”
“You’ve got to be on your toes,” Peter agreed.
That will certainly be the case at the Ryder Cup in a couple of weeks when Peter, who will turn 89 on the final day of competition, will serve as the oldest Ryder Cup volunteer.
And he won’t simply be another course marshal; no sir, he’ll be smack dab in the middle of the mania as he takes his spot on the first tee box Friday morning, perhaps the rowdiest place on the course where beverages suitable for cheering, chanting and singing will no doubt be flowing despite the early hour.
Most people might be a tad wary of what awaits.
“No, not at all, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “My son said the reason they put me on the first hole is because I’m as old as I am and I don’t have to travel too far (laugh).”
While Peter works the first tee, Bertha, 87, will be manning the merchandise tent for the biggest event ever hosted by Medinah. As 32-year members, the Broustises are no stranger to big events: They’ve witnessed and been a part of a U.S. Open, a U.S. Senior Open and a pair of PGA Championships.
But Medinah, to them, has meant so much more.
“It’s been a big part of our lives,” Peter said. “We’ve been here for 32 years, since 1980, and we’ve have many events here — birthdays and wedding engagements ...”
“Anniversaries, weddings, Christmas, Halloween,” Bertha added. “And I don’t have to cook!”
The road to the Ryder Cup for the Broustises, who have lived in Park Ridge for 50 years, began years ago at a high school in Chicago that no longer exists, McKinley H.S., whose most famous alum was Walt Disney.
That’s where the two met. They married after Peter served 2½ years as a combat medic in Europe during World War II.
“He got the bronze star (for heroic achievement),” Bertha gleamed.
“I was glad I was able to go and I was glad that I was able to come back in one piece,” Peter said.
It seems only fitting that their wedding day featured a funny story — in retrospect no doubt, because it was probably no laughing matter at the time.
“My mom liked him because he was going to be a doctor at one point,” Bertha said. “He was pre-med. Then he went to service and when he returned he didn’t want to be anymore.
“The day we were getting married, it was raining, and until the last minute my mom was thinking, ‘Maybe she won’t go through with it.’ She said, ‘Even God is crying today.’”
Said Peter: “I didn’t know she said that until afterward (laugh).”
But it’s been mostly rainbows since for the couple. Peter went on to have a stellar career in the graphic arts field, Bertha taught, and together they raised two children: son George and daughter Jan.
And through it all, golf was, and still is, a big part of their lives. It, along with Medinah, keeps the Broustises active and very, very young at heart.
“We play golf, we go to Florida, we have our daughter in Arizona, so we travel there,” Bertha said. “Even when Peter retired he was still working with younger people, and we got to do all the wonderful ‘young things.’”
Peter will be out with the youngsters again as he works the first tee at the Ryder Cup. And as his 89th birthday nears during tournament week, he has an idea what would make the perfect present.
“Just to be around,” he says.
“Just to be around,” Bertha agreed with a smile, “another year or two ... or 10.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.