Diocesan couples married longest share the secrets to their success

Response to Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment program was better than expected

By Dan McWilliams

When Marian Christiana recently set out to find the longest-married couples in each parish of the diocese, she discovered a wealth of advice to newlyweds from husbands and wives who were celebrating anniversaries of 55, 60, 65 years, and more.

The Diocese of Knoxville’s coordinator of the Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office said she was “really pleased with the response” for her first such effort.

“We started it as a combination of working with Marriage Encounter to try and find the longest-married couple in the state,” she said. “I thought, we need to uphold marriage in our own diocese along with what Marriage Encounter’s initiative is for, so that’s when I started asking the parishes and wanted to recognize them.”

Mrs. Christiana learned that the longest-married couple in the state was right in her own diocese: Tony and Dorothy Kliemann of Immaculate Conception Parish in Knoxville. The Kliemanns were married June 27, 1942, more than 73 years ago.

When asked what advice she has for young married couples, Mrs. Kliemann quipped, “Do you want me to tell you the truth, or do you want me to lie?”

The truth followed.

“Well, the wife has to give in a lot,” she said, adding that “to listen to each other first thing” was important. “Listen to each other and compromise.”

Charles and Sylvia Dupre of Delano are the longest-married couple at St. Mary Parish in Athens. Their wedding was May 15, 1953. Mr. Dupre’s advice to newlyweds is to “have a lot of patience and try to understand each other’s feelings” and to “have a lot in common and try to enjoy the same things.”

The Dupres told Mrs. Christiana: “Remember that there’s always a way around anything.”

“It’s true,” Mr. Dupre said.

Twenty-two parishes responded with their longest-married couple. Each couple is mentioned, often with one of their tips for a happy marriage, on the Marriage Preparation website at dioknox.org/marriage-preparation-and-enrichment.

Longest-married couples in each parish included Joseph Eric and Barbara Ann LeBlanc of Holy Family in Seymour (married Dec. 24, 1949), Emery and Mildred Faulkner of Holy Trinity in Jefferson City (July 30, 1948), Don and Pat Lerch of St. Albert the Great in Knoxville (July 1, 1949), Guy and Billie LaBorde of St. Francis of Assisi in Fairfield Glade (July 1, 1948), and Wilfred and Edith Klimas of St. John Neumann in Farragut (Feb. 12, 1949).

In her search across the diocese, Mrs. Christiana discovered a tie in one parish for the longest-married couple. Betty and Harold Farmer along with Richard John and Mary Hetzel Spady of St. Mary Parish in Johnson City were married June 9, 1951.

“The most fun thing that happened was up at St. Mary’s,” Mrs. Christiana said. “We had two winners from that parish. They were married the exact same day in the exact same year.”

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

In asking couples for advice to newlyweds, Mrs. Christiana first heard, “‘Oh, I don’t know what I’d say,’” she said, “and then they’d go off and tell me all kinds of stuff.”

She said her effort to find the longest-married couple in each parish “was just a really fun project.”

“They were so happy to be recognized because it is such an accomplishment,” she said. “We did not get one negative response about anything or even a lukewarm response—we got nothing but ‘this is great.’ They really appreciated it. It was just really an uplifting initiative.”

Bishop Richard F. Stika agreed.

“The longest-married couple search goes to show you,” he said, “that even in this day and age, when so many marriages seem to end in divorce after only a few years, that through love and friendship and a willingness to work through difficulties, that marriage can be real and life-giving.”

Secrets to a long marriage from those married the longest

■ All Saints: Ed & Joan Heiner (July 4, 1953), “Never go bed unhappy with each other, and always have love for each other.”

■ Holy Cross: Harry & Belva Cundy (Sept. 13, 1952), “Never go to bed angry.”

■ Holy Family: Joseph Eric & Barbara Ann Le Blanc (Dec. 24, 1949), “Always forgive and remember to ask forgiveness.”

■ Holy Ghost: Stanley H. & Ellen Clancy Pickering (July 14, 1951), “Always be kind to one another.”

■ Holy Trinity: Emery & Mildred Faulkner (July 30, 1948), “It is a two-sided affair, be patient with one another.”

■ Immaculate Conception: Anthony & Dorothy Kliemann (June 27, 1942), “Learn to compromise.”

■ Our Lady of Lourdes: Clayton & Josephine Watkins (Nov. 29, 1958), “Listen to one another.”

■ Shepherd of the Valley: Richard Larry Taylor & Dianne E. (Ladner) Taylor (July 7, 1962), “Forgive the other person no matter what the offense.”

■ St. Albert the Great: Don & Pat Lerch (July 1, 1949), “Stay close to God and keep a sense of humor.”

■ St. Dominic: James & Ruth Stalvey (Oct. 14, 1950).

■ St. Francis of Assisi Fairfield Glade: Guy & Billie LaBorde (July 1, 1948).

■ St. John Neumann: Wilfred & Edith Klimas (Feb. 12, 1949), “Hang in there.”

■ St. John XXIII: John William Prados & Lynn Baird Prados (Sept. 2, 1951), “Look for positive role models, don’t expect perfection, more important to be happy than to be right, if you have to compromise be ready to go more than half way.”

■ St. Joseph, Norris: Don & Susan Forbes (Jan. 26, 1958), “Patience and kindness.”

■ St. Mary Athens: Charles & Sylvia Dupre (May 15, 1953), “Remember that there is always a way around anything.”

■ St. Mary Johnson City: Betty & Harold Farmer (June 9, 1951) and Richard John & Mary Hetzel Spady (June 9, 1951), “Never go to bed unhappy, clear the air.”

■ St. Mary Oak Ridge: George & Mary Hoegler (Jan. 22, 1955).

■ St. Stephen: Hector Charles & Cynthia Turcotte Laplante (Jan. 29, 1955), “Faith in God and a strong love for each other.”

■ St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Edward & Betty McHugh (Jan. 7, 1950), “Sometimes I needed to bite my tongue.”

■ St. Therese Clinton: Donald & Ruth Zenner (Aug. 1, 1953), “Trust each other, be honest with each other, and love one another.”

■ St. Thomas the Apostle: Eugene & Jeanne Kray (June 9, 1951), “Do a lot of hugging and compromising.” ■

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