By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 25, 2012
Frank and RuthAnn Goeyvaerts walked arm in arm out of church and started a life together they are still celebrating.
It was Saturday, June 30, 1962.
On that same day, so did Andy and Alice Hepburn. And Carol and Joe Kelly. And Marcia and Robert Offerman. And Michael and Theresa Trantum.
The five couples started their married lives that June day. They are among the more than 100 Georgia couples who gathered to celebrate their diamond and golden anniversaries at the annual archdiocesan Mass at St. Brigid Church, which brings out snowy-haired seniors, proud adult children and rambunctious grandchildren.
It is a special day to celebrate a special occasion. According to the US census, couples passing their golden anniversary only make up 6 percent of the population.
All together, at the Mass some 29 couples marked their diamond anniversary and 91 celebrated their golden. That’s 6,290 years of married life.
After the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Luis R. Zarama, the couples, along with family and friends, were treated to a reception.
There’s always a beginning as young people fumble their way into their future.
Somewhere on Jefferson Avenue, along the Detroit River, while stopped at a traffic light, Frank Goeyvaerts turned to RuthAnn to propose.
“I was surprised where it happened, but the answer was yes,” said RuthAnn.
Frank sold his 1953 Ford to buy an engagement ring for his RuthAnn. It came from a raw diamond from Antwerp, Belgium, that the couple customized into a marquee cut.
In 1961, RuthAnn worked at the National Bank of Detroit. Frank worked there too, and they’d often ride the elevator together. He finally got her phone number by asking one of her co-workers for help. RuthAnn said she knew who he was. She wouldn’t have given her number to just anyone.
Their first date was to a party put on by his fraternity at Wayne State University, where he was studying business.
Mike and Theresa Trantum came together as young teenagers on the dance floor at the parish CYO.
Their home parish, Sts. Peter and Paul, in Jamestown, N.Y., hosted the dance. For an elimination dance, Mike asked Theresa to dance. And they won. Mike said, “See? We were meant to be together. Will you go out with me?” Knowing they had a good thing, they met for their first date at a friend of Theresa’s for an afternoon of dancing.
Five years later, they wed—at the same parish where they met. They then set off for Germany where Mike, then 19, was stationed in the Air Force.
For Bob and Marcia Offerman, the death of his mother brought them together.
Marcia worked with his dad at a local school district. When Bob’s mother died, Marcia paid her respects during calling hours where she met Bob.
They went out a few times before he returned to his Army post in Germany. They got to know each other as they wrote letters daily for 14 months. Just months after his discharge from the service, they were married at his parish, Holy Family Church, in Camillus, N.Y., though she was Episcopalian.
It was 18 years before she joined the church. “It was a joyful time for all of us, though Bob and I had never had a word of disagreement over the different faiths,” Marcia said.
Only one of the five couples married on June 30, 1962, were wed in Atlanta. Andy Hepburn attended Marist School, which was then on Ivy Street in downtown Atlanta. Alice Keiley attended Christ the King School. It was a much smaller Catholic community in Atlanta at that time, and they knew many of the same people. They started to date in the fall of 1961. Andy graduated from Georgia Tech in the spring of 1962, landed a job in Florida, and they got married that June at the Cathedral of Christ the King. (They are the parents of Atlanta priest Father Tim Hepburn.)
After the laughter and joy of a wedding, tragedy and sorrow can follow as life unfolds.
The Kellys, who both grew up in New York City and met at Fordham University, faced together the death of their first daughter who was killed by a drunk driver. They have three other children and eight grandchildren.
“The support of St. Ann’s people and the churches in East Cobb was overwhelming,” said the couple.
The Trantums also know the pain of burying a child.
“We lost our oldest son when he was 34. This was definitely the hardest thing we have had to face, but by leaning on each other, praying together and always keeping our communication open, we were able to go through the ordeal and grow as a couple,” Theresa said.
History, traditions and togetherness keep marriage alive.
Today, the couples stay busy in retirement, serving as ministers at their parishes, working to solve crossword puzzles, using knitting needles when doing craft projects. And yet, they continue traditions that started when the marriages were young.
Joe Kelly has played jolly ol’ elf Santa Claus for more than 30 years since he first put on the suit made for his father-in-law.
Christmas Eve would not be the same without a steak dinner for the Trantums. The couple, then an “Air Force family,” were living in Alaska. Theresa surprised her husband when he got off work around 10:30 p.m. He came home to find a formally set table with a steak dinner waiting. The couple continued the tradition, moving the dinner to an earlier hour after their children came along.
“We still do this today, and our children all keep up the tradition with their own families,” said Theresa.
After a half-century together, the couples have earned some insights on keeping a marriage alive. From whispering, “I love you,” to carving time out of the calendar for a date night with just each other, these small gestures carry great weight. And all of the couples said praying together is important.
Trantums said even a weekly appointment at a pizzeria helps a marriage. “No matter how busy you get, or how tight money gets, always take time for a date night. It does not have to be anything big, maybe a piece of pizza at your local pizzeria, but do something.”
Joe Kelly suggested: “Marry your best friend, and if she happens to be a 10 that’s just a bonus.”
Said Marcia Offerman, “Best advice I can give to newlyweds is to trust in God to see you through the tough times and always keep a sense of humor going between the two of you.”
And the Hepburns said, “Have fun together!”
Tips on Marriage, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
THEN AND NOW
President John F. Kennedy is in the White House.
The cost of a first class postage stamp is 4 cents.
Unemployment rate: 6.7 percent, 1962.
Average family income, $6,000.
In the news: Cuban Missile Crisis Erupts Between US and Soviet Union.
Median marriage age, 1962: 20.3 women, 22.7 men.
Top pop song: “Stranger on the Shore,” Acker Bilk.
President Barack H. Obama is in the White House.
A first class letter costs 45 cents to mail, but email is increasingly popular.
Unemployment rate: 7.8 percent, Sept. 2012.
Household median income, $50,054.
In the news: Facebook said it has topped one billion monthly active users.
Median marriage age, 2011: 26.5, women, 28.7 men.
Best seller, pop song, 2012: “Somebody that I Used to Know,” Gotye.