By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 13, 2011
JOHNS CREEK–Barbara and Earl Beck laugh about it, but they are serious when they say their first meeting left them with “mutual dislike.”
Their moms had played matchmakers. If they knew one thing, dates arranged by mom could not end well.
Said a smiling Barbara, “I told my mother I wanted to do my own shopping.”
But here they were on a sunny afternoon at St. Brigid Church renewing their wedding vows 50 years later.
“It went by too quickly,” said Earl, 83, a retired chiropractor.
In 1960, their mothers set them up and it went badly. But something clicked the second time. They credit it to “good Wisconsin cheese.”
His parents moved to Florida for the winter and, being from Wisconsin, they wanted some cheese. Her parents were heading down, and Earl dropped off the cheese at Barbara’s house for her parents to pack. One thing led to another and in July of 1961, they stood in front of the altar in their Milwaukee church.
Looking back, Barbara said they were nearly strangers at the altar (and she wouldn’t have allowed her children to make the same decision). But a lifetime later, it more than worked out for the couple, who have three children. They are members of St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville, where they volunteer with hospice and other ministries.
“It’s a special time of thanksgiving,” said Barbara, 79, about the annual archdiocesan celebration of marriages, held this year at the Johns Creek church.
The Becks on Saturday, Oct. 1, joined more than 100 other couples marking their golden or diamond wedding anniversaries in 2011. The Mass is organized by the archdiocesan Family Ministry.
The entry to the red brick church had a prom atmosphere. Volunteers pinned yellow boutonnieres to gentlemen’s lapels and women’s dresses. The line of couples, some hunched and many gray-haired, stretched down the hallway as they waited to be photographed. After Mass, a toast honored the couples at a reception, complete with a four-tiered cake.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory commended the couples for their fidelity and commitment.
“As you blessed the love of their youth, continue to bless their life together with peace and joy,” he prayed.
In his homily, he recalled how the marriages started with a backdrop of the impending Korean War in the 1950s and the Cold War in the 1960s. The cartoon characters “Rocky and Bullwinkle” were making young people laugh. And “you brought the love of your life to the altar,” he said.
For Trudy and Ray Klein, the romance started in the choir room at North Miami High School.
“I met my husband after choir practice in my junior year of high school. My impression was, ‘Oh boy, he was good-looking!” said Trudy in an email.
After catching each other’s eye in 1959, the two spent time together at drive-in movies and eating at car hop restaurants.
“After going together for two and a half years, it was a sure thing that we would get married. I don’t recall any official proposal,” said Trudy, who is 70.
The two were married at Holy Family Church in Miami on Sept. 2, 1961. They have two daughters, one son, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They also renewed their marriage vows on their 25th anniversary.
Trudy said her advice for a good marriage is to “always be truthful and honest with each other and love each other.”
For his part, Ray, a retired traffic engineer, said he’s learned a happy marriage “takes a lot more give and take.”
High school sweethearts Mary and Ted Baldwin also savored the day.
“This is a very special Mass, not only because you get to celebrate it with the archbishop and other special couples, but you get a chance to show the younger married couples that you can stay married for a lifetime,” said Mary, 69, a clerk for the postal service for 41 years.
The couple are long-time members of St. Paul of the Cross Church and were married there. They have two children. Their eldest son died in August.
At the time of their engagement, just out of high school, Ted had planned a surprise. The couple passed a jewelry store, and Ted casually suggested they go in to look at something.
“I then told her to pick out an engagement ring, which she did, and I had to put it on layaway, because I didn’t have the money to pay for it at that time,” he said.
With all the insights that 50 years together brings, Ted said he’s learned a thing or two.
“I now know that it takes a lot of believing in God, giving, forgiving, understanding, trusting in God and your partner, and not thinking that you have all the answers. Most of all I learned that in order to have a lasting marriage and loving relationship with your wife, you have to look for the good gifts that God gave your partner, and accept the imperfections that we all have,” he said.
The celebration had a special richness for JoAnn and Ronald Carr. As they marked their exact wedding anniversary, on May 13, Ronald was in the hospital for heart surgery.
“We feel pretty grateful to be among the select few to make it to 50,” he said.
They met in Omaha, Neb., at a Catholic club for young adults. She saw in him a mate who was faithful. And he prayed about marrying his wife, but he was confident she was “the one.”
They were married at St. Adalbert Church, Omaha, after a courtship of a few months.
Standing together, holding hands after so many years, Ronald said, “It brought tears to my eyes.”