By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 16, 2014
Some 158 couples reaffirmed their wedding vows at the annual archdiocesan Mass to honor 50- and 60-year marriages on Oct. 4.
These couples had first said their I do’s in 1954 and 1964, but this time they and their families gathered at St. Brigid Church, in Johns Creek, with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory to celebrate and renew their longtime commitment.
In 1964, the Beatles ruled the airwaves with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty. Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win the best actor Academy Award, honored for “Lilies of the Field.” And these three couples, the Nicholsons, the Trujillos, and the Murphys, started their married life together.
ATLANTA—Raul Trujillo stood at the foot of the altar. Annie Trujillo stood at the other end of the long aisle of the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Unlike the first time she walked the lengthy marble expanse in 1964, this time her children, family and grandchildren surrounded her as she made her way to her awaiting husband.
“It was more thanksgiving than anything else, giving thanks to God for 50 years of marriage,” said Annie, speaking of their anniversary. She was sitting in her living room where paintings compete for wall space with family photos.
“It feels like yesterday. I don’t know where the time went,” Raul said.
The couple marked their milestone twice, organizing a Mass and renewal of vows on their Aug. 1 anniversary and joining with more than 150 other jubilee couples at the archdiocesan marriage celebration Oct. 4.
Strangers in an unfamiliar land, they found each other and started a life together of love and happiness, which included children, community service, and heartbreaking loss. A constant thread is their faith that in the end, life is in God’s hands.
The Trujillos were among the small number of Cubans who made Atlanta home in the early years after the Cuban revolution. They each left their native island country and came to Georgia for opportunities.
One night, they were invited to attend a party of Cuban immigrants. Raul rode with his friend to the Decatur party when his friend stopped to pick up Annie, along with her mom who came with these 20-somethings as a chaperone. The chaperoning continued.
“Until we got married, we had my mother and father,” she said.
That was 1962. On Aug. 1, 1964, they shared wedding vows at the Peachtree Road cathedral. A novelty at the time, the celebration was in Spanish, which would have been unique to hear for Raul’s English-speaking friends. The Cuban wedding tradition was to have the father of the bride and the mother of the groom participate in the ceremony, which they did.
Their family grew: a boy, a girl, a girl, a boy. Raul, who is now 75, trained as an architect at Georgia Tech and worked in the profession. Annie, 72, worked at various positions, including as a director at Catholic Charities in Atlanta. She served with several Atlanta arts organizations. They settled down in a home off of Roswell Road, just inside the Perimeter. They worship at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
In 1981 the family suffered a heartbreaking loss. Annie was a speaker that day at a retreat, but when she finished she was hustled out of the room. Her family had been in a car crash. At Piedmont Hospital she learned that her 6-year-old daughter, a first-grader, was killed. Raul was driving the car and blamed himself.
Annie, with tear-filled eyes, said she never saw it that way.
“God gives. God takes away,” she said. “We didn’t help each other. God helped us,” she said.
God has long been at the center of their lives. In fact, Annie said, “Marriage is not two (people), but three. God is the center of your life” as a married couple, she said.
Their youngest son, Michael, said a lesson he’s learned from his parents was not only to have faith but to live the faith.
“My parents not only went to Mass on Sundays, but instead they lived the Gospel in their daily lives through their volunteer efforts of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Cursillo and their work lives,” he said. “Through their example of dedicated service, I learned that everyone has a God-given gift that he or she can share with others.”
He said his mother told him, “It is my responsibility to help my children get to heaven. I hope that in my daily life, I can help others get closer to God.”
As the years go by, the couple said there is much they admire about the other.
Annie said she admired how Raul would come home from work and take the children outside to play. Or how he had the patience to teach their daughter to improve her handwriting. A teacher at the school, after the child’s death, told them she had the best penmanship in the class.
He is a “good worker, good father, good husband, a man of faith,” she said. But she added quickly, no one is perfect.
For Raul, Annie has been steadfast in her faith, always trusting God will see them through. In addition, she has long encouraged him in his service. It wasn’t unusual for the house phone to ring at all hours of the night when he served with St. Vincent de Paul, he said. She didn’t complain and, in fact, encouraged him to keep the ministry when he felt discouraged, he said.
“God gets involved in all these things. Why do you worry?” she has told him.