MYRTLE BEACH—St. Andrew Church was filled with as many stories as there were couples — about 350 of them.
A handful were newlyweds, but most had been married for over 55 years, according to Kathy Schmugge, assistant director of the family life office.
The comment was made that there was so much love in the room, it was a wonder the walls could hold it all.
Regardless of how long or short the union, every couple at the 13th annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration held Feb. 10 renewed their vows and was honored by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.
There was Bill and Sue Smith, who celebrated their 40th anniversary on the day of the service.
And John and Jayne Walker, who were toasted for having one of the longest marriages at 68 years, and held up as an inspiration to the rest.
The Walkers carried the gifts to the altar with William and Maria Aldridge, who were recognized among the newlyweds of the congregation.
The Aldridges have been married one year in the church, but were actually married in Bogota, Colombia, 26 years ago. Mrs. Aldridge said approval for a church ceremony there would have taken years, so they opted for a civil service.
It wasn’t until they moved to Myrtle Beach and started attending St. Andrew that they decided to marry in the church.
“God put Father Jim [Le-Blanc] in front of us and he opened our eyes,” she said.
Father LeBlanc guided Mr. Aldridge through RCIA and welcomed him into the church last year.
Now, whenever Mrs. Aldridge tells the story of her wedding day in the church, her voice chokes with tears, recalling the emotion of receiving the Eucharist after so many years of not being able to.
“It’s been a very positive and wonderful and beautiful experience to participate in the church again,” she said.
As for Mr. Aldridge, he said it’s been an amazing transformation for him.
“Our whole lives have changed after being married in the church,” he said. “We’re a lot closer. We attend more functions. Everything has centered for us.”
Thomas and Susan Boehlert can relate to that.
The couple, who attend St. Michael during their three months as snowbirds in the South, were both married previously under different faiths.
Mrs. Boehlert said their marriage 2 1/2 years ago in the Catholic Church is “the real one.”
Their advice to anyone who wants to hear it is to keep a sense of humor, and do things together, but keep your own interests, too.
They have attended the anniversary celebration for three years now and said it is rewarding to see the longevity of the other couples.
One of the longtime couples is Bob and Ethel Hirsch, who are the state winners of the Longest Married Couple Project sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
The Hirschs said they were nominated by a friend.
Parishioners at St. Andrew Church, they have been married for 66 years and have 10 children, 20 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.
Their voices are filled with happiness as they talk simultaneously and chuckle at each other.
“You have to have a good sense of humor and a strong love,” Mr. Hirsch said.
“And be able to forgive and forget,” Mrs. Hirsch added.
The couple’s grown daughter died in recent years, and they said it is one of the toughest things anyone can go through, no matter what the age of the child.
Mrs. Hirsch said everyone deals with emotions differently, so it’s important to talk about it and stay connected
“The core requirement is the strong love you have for one another,” Mr. Hirsch said. “Children are a product of that love, so it’s important to put your spouse first.”
View more photos on our slideshow here.