Happily married couples offer nuggets of wisdom

MURRELLS INLET—In 1949, Harry Noisette and Althea Johnson stood in the former St. Peter Church in downtown Charleston and pledged their love to each other at their wedding. 

Seventy years later, Mr. and Mrs. Noisette stood up again on Feb. 10 at the annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration in St. Michael Church and renewed their vows. Now 93 and 91, the couple look just as much in love with each other as they were on that first day together. 

At 70 years, the Noisettes represented the longest marriage among about 200 couples who attended the event, which included a Mass and a reception. The celebration is sponsored by the Office of Family Life. 

The liturgy was celebrated by Father David Nerbun, vicar for family life. Father Nerbun blessed the couples, led them in renewing their vows and offered a homily that stressed the importance of marriage as a Christian witness in today’s culture. 

Father Nerbun challenged each one to find true joy in their marriages, and to make an effort to bring joy to their spouses and other family members. 

“As married couples, you have something important to do for the Church,” he said. “You can encourage the youth about the need for the sacrament of matrimony and the great fruit it brings.” 

Father Nerbun carried on the annual tradition of asking how many couples had been married a certain number of years. Dozens of couples in attendance had been married more than 50 years, and a few had been married for 60. The Noisettes, however, won the day with their seven decades together. 

They have been together so long that Mr. Noisette doesn’t remember exactly how they met, but the two Charleston natives well remember their wedding day. Through the years, there was a lot of hard work. He served in the U.S. Navy, then worked for the American Tobacoo Company and then the U.S. Post Office. Mrs. Noisette worked for the Marion Square Child Welfare Association. She also played piano at several venues around Charleston, and today still plays for residents at the Bishop Gadsden Retirement  Facility. 

They have four children, one grandchild and three great-grandchildren, and now attend Sacred Heart Church in Charleston. 

When asked the secret to their success, they offered simple answers that reflect a faith in God and love for each other. 

“To be happy in marriage, be true to each other, treat each other fairly and treat other people fairly,” Mrs. Noisette said. “And never, ever go to sleep with a grudge. You must be sure to love each other and forgive each other.” 

Other couples with long marriages offered similar advice and stories of many years spent together sharing love, faith and family through good times and bad. 

Bob and Geraldine Greenwalt, who attend St. Michael Church, have been together for 56 years. They met in high school in Pennsylvania and tied the knot in 1963. Mr. Greenwalt landed a job in the glass industry that eventually led to six moves around the country. The couple had six children and now have 12 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren. 

Mrs. Greenwalt said communication is the most crucial thing in a good marriage. 

“You have to have respect for each other and you have to talk to each other,” she said. 

Mr. Greenwalt said all of the traveling and moving the couple did forced them to rely on each other because they were so far from family and friends, and it strengthened their relationship. 

Hank and Judy Salerno have been together for 51 years. They live in New Jersey but are in Murrells Inlet as “snowbirds,” visitors for the winter. Mr. Salerno said patience is the secret to a long marriage, and Mrs. Salerno said it is very important for couples to always take time out to be together. 

“Always have a date night, always have time together,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have. Even a cup of coffee together at a Dunkin Donuts — what matters is you are spending time with each other.”

Miscellany/Keith Jacobs: Charlie Conklin leans in to kiss his wife Flo at the 19th annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration, held Feb. 10 at St. Michael Church in Murrells Inlet.