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Couples renew 700 years of marriage

By: Country Meadows |

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.

Thomas and Mary Jane Burkhard share a kiss at a marriage vow renewal ceremony held at Country Meadows of South Hills.

Recently, 13 resident couples who live at Country Meadows of South Hills near Pittsburgh reaffirmed their love for one another at vow renewal ceremonies on campus. Combined, the couples have more than 700 years of marriage experience.

Thomas and Mary Jane Burkhard are married for more than 63 years. They shared a kiss as soon as they arrived at the alter. Wedding guests chuckled as officiant, the Rev. Howard West, told them, “You are supposed to wait for that, but that’s ok.”

Under an arch of floral garlands, the love birds pledged their commitment to each other, reciting the vow, “Years ago I pledged my love and commitment to you. I promise to love you, honor you, comfort and keep you. Today in the presence of God and our family and friends, I renew my vows to you, pledging my eternal love.”

Sporting beautiful floral corsages and boutonnieres, some of the brides and grooms became emotional as they gazed into each other’s eyes while renewing their promise.

Among the couples are Jim and Shirley Carver who married 14 years ago after meeting on campus. This is a second marriage for both, who each was married to their previous spouses for more than 40 years.

“Marriage was good the first time, and we got along great,” says Shirley Carver. “Now, Jim and I are best friends, and it’s good. He’s very kind, very caring and very nice. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”

Carver says it was love at first sight. “When I was first moving [into Country Meadows,] this fellow kept going up and down the hall asking me if I needed any help. This went on for months.” The couple married just months later.

Residents Donald and Margaret Woyicki celebrated their golden anniversary last July. Donald Woyicki chuckles as he recalls how the couple met. “We met in Shadyside in a bar because we didn’t have dating services 55 years ago.” As their two sons look on, Woyicki goes on to say that the couple has enjoyed 50 wonderful years together.

Patrick and Joyce Bedner will celebrate 56 years of wedded bliss this August. While the couple is unable to live in the same apartment on campus due to different individual needs, they make a point to spend time together nearly every day and are regularly seen on campus holding hands and enjoying an embrace.

Joyce Bedner looks forward to her husband’s daily visits. Despite living with Alzheimer’s disease, she never forgets how much she loves him. “We’ve been together for so long, and we always do things together,” she says.

“I remember when we got married, the vows were, ‘For better or worse until death do you part,’ and I take that seriously,” says Patrick Bedner. His wife echoes his sentiment, and says, “You do.”

Following the ceremony, the couples cut individual wedding cakes, spent time with friends and family and, of course, shared the secret to a long, happy marriage.

Scroll down to see additional photographs from the special day.

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