By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 14, 2010
For Jim and Margaret Rosentreter, it started with matchmaking that went awry.
William and Marilyn Meyer caught each other’s eye on a New York City trolley. He was on his way home from basketball. She was riding after registering for Catholic high school.
Gene and Rose Gangarosa grew up across the street from each other and attended the same schools, but it wasn’t until after his military service in World War II that sparks flew.
It was a picnic that changed their lives, she said.
Rose “discovered what a kind, compassionate and caring person Gene is.” And for him? Simple. “Love at first sight.”
For the fifth annual Marriage Anniversary Mass, the Atlanta Archdiocese hosted 125 couples celebrating this year their golden and diamond wedding anniversaries, 95 and 30 couples, respectively.
More than 1,000 people were on hand at St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, to celebrate the occasion on Saturday, Oct. 2, with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
The couples wore yellow boutonnières. Couples snaked through the church lobby waiting in line for a photographer to get their portraits. Some of the couples pushed spouses in wheelchairs to their places. Eyes grew teary when the archbishop led them in renewing their wedding vows.
Archbishop Gregory said they were “hall of famers” whose love matured.
“People who are in love only get better through the years,” he said.
He reminded them how they were amateurs when the couples were first wed. The years dealt them life lessons they would never have anticipated, he said.
The faithfulness to each other has “enrolled (the couples) in the hall of fame of Christian marriage,” he said. And it is a love that only seems to get better with every passing season, he said.
Tony and Nancy Kanicki, natives of Michigan, were among those marking 50 years of marriage.
“It was directed especially at the anniversary couples. I was really impressed with that. It made me feel special,” said Tony.
The Kanickis, parents of two daughters, attend St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw. They help at the food bank and with senior activities.
“It also gives you a chance to realize how many people there are who have dedicated their lives to each other,” said Nancy.
Jim and Peggy Rosentreter
The Rosentreters met in high school in Rochester, N.Y. Margaret, who goes by Peggy, was trying to help out a girlfriend who was sweet on Jim. But as things happen, he ended up more interested in Peggy than the other girl.
“It may not have been love at first sight, but it certainly happened very quickly,” said Jim.
The two married in 1950 at Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, at the tender age of 19.
“It seems like yesterday. It has been a wonderful year with numerous celebrations with children and families,” she said about the 60th anniversary.
“It has brought back many memories, especially the good ones, and has brought us closer together,” he said.
Before retiring to Georgia, he worked in industrial sales and marketing and she was a nurse. They have three children: Robert Rosentreter, Donna Kalikow and Mary Ann Bullis.
They moved to Georgia in the mid-1990s to be close to family. They volunteered at their new parish, Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain, and joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society where both became active and Jim eventually served as Atlanta council president.
“This has been a life growing experience for us,” she said.
The Rosentreters are now members of St. Thomas More Church, Decatur.
Both are cancer survivors, which made for some anxious moments.
Peggy said, “We have gained tremendous patience and tolerance for one another. We now blend together so well. Our Catholic faith has strengthened through the years and this has been a wonderful experience.”
Bill and Marilyn Meyer
The trolley ride for Bill and Marilyn Meyer, of Marietta, made all the difference.
They too celebrated their diamond anniversary with family and loved ones. They first tied the knot at St. Pancras Church, Glendale, N.Y.
“Love one another and work through difficult times. There are always ups and downs in a marriage. You have to work at it all the time, more so now,” said Marilyn, who is 80.
They said their best times were spent enjoying their four children growing up. The most difficult times were making ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck when Bill worked as a member of the New York Highway Patrol. They have four children.
“It doesn’t seem possible that all those years have gone by,” he said.
Nine family members joined the Meyers at the Mass. The Meyers attend St. Joseph Church, Marietta.
Marilyn said the celebration for her was more special than their 50th anniversary celebration. Two years ago, Bill had open-heart surgery and there were complications.
“I thought I was going to lose him. Every day since he’s been home, I’m counting my blessings,” she said.
She said marriage means something else when you are older and children are grown.
“I don’t say it’s a second honeymoon, but you appreciate each other more now,” she said.
Gene and Rose Gangarosa
The relationship that blossomed at the picnic in upstate New York took Gene Gangarosa, a public health physician, and his wife, Rose, to Pakistan, where he established a medical research center, and to Lebanon where he helped open the American University of Beirut’s School of Public Health. Meanwhile, Rose taught English to secondary school students, served as principal of the Lahore American School in Pakistan and worked in a science library at the American University of Beirut.
Life in Beirut was difficult at times for them, especially as water was rationed and tensions during the Lebanese civil war escalated.
The family later moved to Atlanta for teaching opportunities at Emory University. They live in Stone Mountain and attend Holy Cross Church, Atlanta.
The Gangarosa family grew to four children.
They started the Gangarosa International Health Foundation, which has supported Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, and other nonprofit foundations to develop safe water and sanitation systems.
“We have had an ideal marriage sharing our experiences, our resources, and treating each other as equals, companions, partners, and enjoying all the benefits of marriage. We are grateful for all of our blessings and for the quality of our life,” said Rose, who is 85.
Gene, 84, said he and his wife “are still compatible and in love after 60 years.”