AIKEN—Imagine a marriage that lasted 9,000 years.
That’s how many years of matrimony were represented among the 300 couples who attended the annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration held Feb. 21 at St. Mary Help of Christians Church. They ranged from newlyweds to senior citizens and came from 25 different parishes.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and offered a moving homily about the importance of finding God’s grace in the midst of daily life, even at the most difficult times. He thanked the couples for their living witness of love and commitment, and said it was especially important in an era when many young people don’t understand the importance and beauty of the sacrament of marriage.
At the end of Mass, the bishop asked all the couples to stand and state how long they had been married. As the numbers went higher, couples sat down until only three remained.
The three with the longest marriages all came from St. Mary Help of Christians. James and Mary Boyle have been married 66 years and William and Jean Shipman have been together for 67.
The couple with the longest marriage was Donald and Elizabeth Darr of Aiken. Mrs. Darr attended with her son, Keith, because Mr. Darr was unable to attend the event. She beamed as Bishop Guglielmone congratulated her on the couple’s many years together.
Mrs. Darr, a native of Bluffton, said she was working as a secretary in Savannah when she met her future husband, who was serving with the Army Air Corps during World War II.
They were married in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah and then lived for many years in Ohio before moving back to South Carolina for retirement. The couple has five children, 10 grandchildren and several great-grands.
“We have a lot to be thankful for because we’ve been through all these years and we’re still together,” Mrs. Darr said. “He has been a wonderful husband.”
She said the key to a long marriage is a willingness to compromise and work through problems together.
“Keep faithful to your vows and always be thankful for each other,” she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Boyle said the keys to their long marriage were the joy of raising a big family — they have eight children — and a determination to stay busy.
“Being active and always having something to do has kept us going,” he said. “We’ve just loved each other all through the years and had a wonderful life.”
During the Mass, the couples had a chance to renew their vows to each other and receive a blessing from Bishop Guglielmone.
For Ann Reid Stevens of Trenton, the day was a chance to honor her late husband Alvin Harold Stevens, who died in 2014. Stevens stood proudly to represent the 55 years she spent with her beloved spouse.
“I could feel him here with me today,” she said. “I wanted to honor how long we had together. I feel like those who lost spouses need God’s extra protection and guidance, and I got that blessing today.”
Photos by Christina Lee Knauss