Former model and local celebrity Martha Jo Katz has had her share of publicity, but none so touching as the November premier of the “Your Fantastic Mind” series on PBS that featured her and her husband Jerry elucidating how love operates — scientifically and socially — in humans. “After all the TV I have done in the past, I was elated that we were doing this together,” she said.
Along with other diverse couples at various stages of their love lives, the Katzes represented success in their longevity. Martha Jo said, “After 60 years, it becomes second nature. He knows what I do, and I know what he does. I cook and he takes the garbage to the street, and I watch! He fills the birdfeeder and I watch that too! He changes the lightbulbs, I turn the lights on!”
The episode aired in the summer across the U.S. and will do so soon in London. (It’s available on YouTube.) Jerry gushed, “Even at the age of 19, I realized Martha Jo was the one I could spend the rest of my life with. The secret to a longstanding happy marriage is keeping the love flame burning!”
The adventure began when co-executive producer and host of the series, Jaye Watson, posted that she was looking for couples to feature. Filming began in April at I-85 Executive Park, followed by another session at the Katzes’ home with Watson’s husband and co-executive producer, Kenny Hamilton, in May. Cameramen captured the couple folding laundry together. Ultimately, the 10 hours of footage was edited down to 28 minutes — all of it unscripted.
Martha Jo summarized their relationship this way: “Having Jerry’s support is why I was successful. I always knew that I could count on him and that he was proud of me. He may say I am ‘the BOSS,’ but we really are a team.”
Jerry brought up the importance of maintaining chemistry: “Well, some things don’t work the way they did when you were 19. You have to adjust to age and accommodate that into your lovemaking. When our friends ask me about that, I say, ‘They don’t call me Big Jerr’ for nothing!’”
Martha Jo adds that she coined the nickname “Big Jerr’” because Jerry is so tall. She added, “Jerr’ really is a pussycat and has loved all our kitties. We now have Miss Doozy, and their relationship is magical. Seeing him play with her, and teach her tricks, makes my heart sing.”
Although the show’s research apparently found that the longer a couple dates and the later into the relationship the marriage occurs, the less chance there is of divorce. That doesn’t apply to the Katzes, who paired up early on.
“We met the first week I was at UGA in 1960,” Martha Jo said, “[When] the Jewish fraternities were pledging. I saw him standing with the AEPi boys, walked over and introduced myself. He invited me back to the fraternity house for a party, and that was it. After that night, we were together almost every night.”
Jerry confirmed, “I was attracted to her immediately!”
The couple eloped in May 1961, to Abbeville, S.C., kept it a secret, then had another wedding in June.
“My roommate thought I was crazy,” Martha Jo recalled.
Of their longevity, she said, “He keeps me laughing. No marriage is perfect, but knowing what to make important is the key to longevity. Most issues are not really important in the long run.”
Martha Jo often quotes her late mother: “Marriage takes sacrifice and compromise from both parties done without resentment.”