By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 12, 2009
Couples repeated their “I do’s” at the annual archdiocesan Mass to celebrate marriage.
St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, hosted the brides and grooms, many years after they first walked down the aisle as young married couples. Certainly, there would have been more hair and fewer pounds the first time, but now there were grown children and grandchildren to applaud them.
Auxiliary Bishop Luis Zarama celebrated the Mass on Saturday, Oct. 3.
More than 150 Catholic couples commemorated their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries at the Mass. They are in rare company. According to government statistics in 2001, some 6 percent of couples currently married have reached the 50-year milestone.
Each of the couples has different stories of good times and hard times, celebrations and sorrows.
Couples like Peggy and Deacon Jerry Connell, who met on St. Simons Island on a class trip in college. Now, Jerry, 74, and Peggy, 71, celebrated their golden anniversary. The duo married on Aug. 29, 1959.
Or George and Jackie Waterhouse, who were reintroduced as young adults when they were both asked to be godparents to a newborn. They attended the same Catholic grammar school in New Jersey, but never knew each other there. George, 74, is retired from the U.S. Public Health Service and Jackie, 72, from DeKalb Medical Center.
And then there is Fred and Virginia Hedges. They attended the same Atlanta parish, but didn’t cross paths since their families didn’t attend the same Mass. It was only after he conspired to attend Sacred Heart Church’s novena where Virginia would be praying that Fred asked her out for a date.
Peggy and Deacon Jerry Connell
What did you do your first date? We heard a washboard band, danced and had dinner and spent time with other friends on the trip.
Please describe your wedding. It was at 9 a.m. in a small chapel with family and a few friends. The chapel is now called the Kennedy Chapel and is located on West Georgia campus in Carrollton.
How did you pick your best man? Jack Harte was a good friend and still is. We would go camping together with Scouts. We went to Marist together and he would go on dates with us.
How did you pick maid of honor? Dena Baker—my sister and best friend!
Please describe your husband. Jerry has a great sense of humor and it feels good to be around him. He is a good person. He put family first in his decisions as a husband, father and business owner. He is optimistic. He is talented in cooking, woodworking and anything he decides to do. He makes life interesting.
Please describe your wife. I knew I should marry Peggy because she had all the qualities that I was looking for as a wife and mother. Peggy is patient, kind and understanding. She enjoys cooking and has shared that gift with many. She is thoughtful and picks flowers for loved ones on her nature walks and they add joy to our home. She also keeps in touch with our families and friends with cards. She is there for me whenever I need her love and support.
Is there a secret to being married for 50 years? Christ has always been the center of our marriage. We both were able to say, “I am sorry.” We both tried to show our love for each other on a daily basis and said, “I love you” daily.
How long have you lived in the Atlanta area? Jerry moved from Charleston, S.C., to Atlanta in high school, and Peggy has lived in Georgia all of her life. We first lived in Athens as a couple in 1959. We moved to Monroe a few years later and have lived in Monroe since then.
Parish: St. Anna Church, Monroe.
George and Jackie Waterhouse
How’d you meet? Although we both attended the same small Catholic grammar school in New Jersey, George was two years ahead and we didn’t get to know each other. Years later, while George was in the U.S. Navy and Jackie a high school senior, mutual friends of our parents at our church asked each of us to be godparents for their new baby. We started dating until several months later when George shipped off to spend two years in the Philippines. Upon his return we resumed dating. Jackie was now in nursing school, and George started under the GI Bill at Seton Hall University.
Is there a secret to being married for 50 years? The secret to being married for 50 years should be no secret at all: it is total commitment, each giving 100 percent with no thought to the marriage not working out.
Do you have any children? Three children: Michelle Marie Bell, Colette Marie Cabe and Michael Waterhouse.
Parish: St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, since our arrival here in 1968.
Fred and Virginia Hedges
How long have you lived in the Atlanta area? Fred was born on June 13, 1925, in Atlanta and I was born on Aug. 1, 1925, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Fred was one of three children with two sisters, and I was one of seven children with four sisters and two brothers. My father was transferred to Atlanta in 1937. Fred went to public schools and graduated from Boys High School in 1943 and joined the Army the Monday after he graduated. I attended St. Joseph Catholic High School and graduated in 1944. We both attended St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Atlanta. He lived on one side of Fort McPherson, and I lived on the backside of Fort McPherson. We did not know each other because we did not attend the same Masses. However, my sister’s best friend was his girl cousin.
Our first date was to his fraternity house Delta Sigma Pi, which was where Northlake Mall is now located. At that time it was all very rural and seemed to be at the end of civilization. There was a long dirt road leading to it with a lake and rustic house. I wasn’t quite sure where he was taking me. When we got inside, his friends were wonderful and made me feel very welcome.
Please describe your wedding. We were married at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Oct. 22, 1949. My sister Dolores was my maid of honor, and Fred’s fraternity brother Jim Hardy was his best man. We went to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for our honeymoon. At that time Gatlinburg only had one hotel and it was used mostly as a get-away for rich elderly people. Every time we came into the lobby, we could hear the guests say, “There’s the newly married couple,” and all eyes followed us everywhere we went.
What has 60 years of marriage meant for you? Besides our wonderful family of eight, we now have seven wonderful in-laws and 27 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, with another great grandchild due in December.
We have been active in RCIA, the Cursillo movement and St. Vincent de Paul both at Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Matthew Church. We now own and run Carmel Retreat Center in Hoschton.
Parish: St. Matthew Church, Winder.