The staff at Mulberry Gardens assisted- living community in Munroe Falls found a beautiful and simple way to honor both those who have been called our “Greatest Generation” and our greatest institution of love: marriage.
It happened Friday afternoon when six of the facility’s longest-wed couples appeared before a festively decorated, chapel-like arch and in front of family, friends and residents, renewed their wedding vows.
The husbands/grooms acted like you might expect they did when they first said their “I do’s”: nervous and wondering aloud what was taking their wives/brides so long to come down the aisle. “Just like when we were waiting at the church,” one said. To which another replied, “Yeah, hurry up and wait!”
Harpist Sue Wheeler and guitarist Tim Coerver supplied appropriate music — Amazing Grace and Try to Remember — as the couples took their places before Pastor Cheryl Delaney of First Christ Church of Stow.
All told, the six couples celebrated a combined 388 years of marriage.
Didn’t matter that some were in wheelchairs or relying on walkers; their love for one another was passionately on display as captured in their original wedding photos on small tables decorated with white cloths and their own mini cakes.
“We gather here today as family and friends, celebrating love,” Delaney said. “What already exists. The great adventure they’ve been on called marriage.”
The most senior of the couples asked to continue “to promise to be loving and faithful … in plenty and in want, in joy and sorrow, in sickness and health … ” was John “Jack” and Charlotte (Nehrenz) Bracht, who have been married 75 years and counting.
He wore a light gray suit and his bride chose a champagne-colored floor-length satin three-piece formal suit.
To renew their vows, both spoke in clear, easy-to-hear voices. “I surely do,” he declared.
“I sure do,” she replied, adding, “Are we done?”
The 97-year-old husband/groom is a retired tire development engineer with Goodrich; his 93-year-old wife/bride was a homemaker. They have three children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Others clasping hands and sharing a smooch this day were:
• George and Pearl (Deonise) Wilson, married 62 years. The 88-year-old husband/groom retired from B&W Tube with 32 years of service. His 87-year-old wife/bride ran the family restaurant, the White Palace. They have three children and five grandchildren.
• Harry and Carol (Smith) Smith, married 65 years. Harry, who is 90, worked 35 years for Davey Tree; his 85-year-old wife/bride worked there also. They have four daughters and three grandchildren.
• James and Claire (Henion) Allen, married 61 years. James, 87, is a retired aeronautical engineer and his 80-year-old wife is a retired early childhood educator. They have four children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
• Leo and Maryann (Burke) Repeta, married 62 years on July 15. He is 86 and worked 35 years as district manager for the Plain Dealer. His wife, 84, is a retired bookkeeper with Cleveland Trust. They have six children and nine grandchildren.
• Another couple, who didn’t want to be named, celebrated 63 years of marriage.
Maryann Ervin, Mulberry Gardens’ administrator, and Tara Beradinelli, activity director, said the renewal ceremony, for which they pulled out all of the bells and whistles, was about three to four months in the making.
Asked by another female resident how she could be married to someone for 75 years, Mrs. Bracht was quick with an answer and an easy smile:
“He was easy to train.”
“And she took very good care of me,” her husband said.
Sounds like true love to me.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.