Marriage Enrichment: The secret to wedded bliss

Diocese’s longest-married couples share thoughts on matrimonial longevity

By Marian Christiana

Tony and Dorothy Kliemann of Immaculate Conception Parish in Knoxville were married June 27, 1942.

It is February and love is in the air!

February is the month that is dedicated to valentines, candy, flowers and special dates. Although those expressions of love are wonderful, they are not the foundation of lasting love. In the last few months I have been giving a great deal of thought to just exactly what is it that makes love last.

In my December column I mentioned that my office was looking for the couple in each parish who have been married the longest. The diocese wants to celebrate long-lasting love, love that has survived through the joys and challenges of married life, and wants to acknowledge all those couples who have said yes to their marriage vows day after day and year after year.

We want to celebrate the couples who give the rest of us hope that love can indeed last a lifetime; those couples who live out their sacramental marriage on a daily basis and bear witness to us all. Identifying the longest-married couple in each parish allowed me to locate the longest-married couple in our diocese.

I am happy to report that many parishes submitted the names and wedding dates of their longest-married couple. Immaculate Conception’s couple, however, was the runaway winner. Anthony (Tony) and Dorothy Kliemann have been married 73.5 years.

Yes, that is correct. On June 27, 2016, the Kliemanns will celebrate their 74th wedding anniversary. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dorothy about their marriage and want to share a bit about their story with you.

Tony and Dorothy met through Dorothy’s best friend in their home town of Dearborn, Mich. Dorothy’s friend happened to be Tony’s cousin. Tony and Dorothy knew each other for about two years but only seriously dated for one year. They were married on June 27, 1942, and moved in with her parents. Dorothy was pregnant with their third child when Tony was sent overseas during World War II. After Tony’s return they went on to have five more children. Seven children matured into adulthood.

The Kliemanns lived in Michigan until they retired to Florida, where they enjoyed making new friends and vacationing on cruise ships. Dorothy highly recommends taking a cruise for the ultimate vacation, especially for women. She said the food and entertainment are terrific and you don’t even have to turn down your own bed. They lived in Florida for 20 years before moving to Knoxville to be near two of their children. They have been in Knoxville for 18 years.

Dorothy and I talked about her family and how much she enjoyed opportunities when they could all be together. I asked her if she could share one piece of advice with newlywed couples what would it be? Dorothy immediately said, “learn to compromise.” She said that you both can’t be “right.” One definition of the word compromise is “to learn how to solve problems with solutions that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties.”

After being married for almost 74 years, I think Dorothy knows what she is talking about and all married couples can benefit from her advice. Learning to compromise is definitely one way to make love last a lifetime.

Some of the other women and men who were designated as the “Longest-Married Couple” for their parishes had their own advice to share. Ed and Joan Heiner from All Saints Parish and Harry and Belva Cundy from Holy Cross Parish agreed that you should never go to bed unhappy with each other.

Joseph and Barbara LeBlanc from Holy Family Parish emphasized the need to ask forgiveness and to forgive each other. Edward and Betty McHugh, who have been married 66 years and are the honorees from St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish, said that it was important to sometimes bite your tongue and show restraint.

The advice shared by these wise couples shows that long-lasting love takes effort. Love is not passive; love definitely is an action verb. On Sunday, Feb. 14, the “Longest-Married Couples” will be recognized in their home parishes. The diocese has sent a gift, along with a letter from Bishop Stika, to each couple as a way to thank them for their marital witness.

I encourage you to visit the Marriage Preparation and Enrichment section on the Diocese of Knoxville website [ preparation-and-enrichment/] to see a complete list of our “Longest-Married Couple” parish recipients. What a wonderful testament they all are to the beauty of married love!

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” – George Eliot

Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.

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