After six decades of marriage, that’s amore

BLUFFTON—Bob Gardner, 76, and Christine Connolly, 70, are proof that it’s never too late to find love.

They both were married for a long time — he for 48 years, she for 38 — when they lost their spouses shortly after moving to the Sun City retirement village in Bluffton. They met at a big band dance in 2009 and quickly discovered they had a lot in common.

“I didn’t have marriage in my head, and [Bob] wasn’t looking for anyone, but we had a good feeling and then love grew, and then we wanted to get it blessed by God,” Mrs. Connolly said. “We were married over Thanksgiving weekend in 2010.”

Their union was one of hundreds honored at the annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration held Feb. 16 at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton.

The turnout was one of the largest in its 14-year history. The church seats about 850 and was filled with people standing along the sides and crowding the narthex. About 400 couples registered in advance for the celebration and received commemorative certificates, but many attended without registering, said Kathy Schmugge, director of the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Family Life which sponsored the event.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and led the couples in a renewal of their vows. He thanked them for their commitment to traditional marriage and urged them to act as role models for young people.

The event drew newlyweds plus dozens of couples who had been married 50 years or more. Darrell and Dorothy Brown of Bluffton, who have been married 63 years, attended with daughter Jeaneen Campbell and her husband Andy Campbell, visiting from Helena, Mont. Mrs. Campbell said it was an unexpected treat to celebrate 30 years of marriage alongside her parents.

Joseph and Loretta Jarzynka, who attend St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head, were one of two couples celebrating 65 years. They grew up near each other in Ambridge, Pa., but didn’t meet until 1949. He was playing a basketball game with other local World War II veterans that Mrs. Jarzynka and a friend had come to watch. They now have two children and five grandchildren.

“The key to staying together as long as we have is not to argue, and to respect each other,” Mr. Jarzynka said. “Our faith has also been very important to us all this time. I know that somebody above has been watching over us.”

It was impossible to say how many participants were celebrating a second marriage after being widowed or receiving an annulment, but Mrs. Connolly said she and her husband offer a positive example for people who are seeking a relationship later in life.

“If you have lost someone, thank God for them, but don’t let the memories keep you back,” she said. “Let go and let God. Find happiness in your memories, don’t dwell in your loss and move ahead. For people who have never been married, if you find someone and love happens to come your way, let nothing stand in your way. God put that person in your path for a reason.”

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