Column: Catholic couple honored for 80-plus years of marriage

Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.
Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.

by Deacon Tony Zimmerman

One of the images associated with the recent Olympics is the medal ceremony.

The winners stand on a platform, with the winner of the gold standing on the highest step. The national anthem for the gold medal winner is played and chants of joy, such as “USA, USA,” are heard.

During the Olympic competition, another event was being held across the country known as World Marriage Day. World Marriage Day honors husband and wife as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society. It salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily life.

Part of the World Marriage Day celebration is the “Longest Married Couple Project.” Prior to World Marriage Day, couples across the country are nominated by family or friends in recognition of their many years of faithful marriage. A winner is chosen for the nation, as well as for each state. The winning couple for the state of Kansas are members of our archdiocese. They are Dale and Alice Rockey.

Dale and Alice grew up and met in the small town of Hemingford, Neb. They were married on Dec. 29, 1933, and recently celebrated 80 years of marriage. Dale and Alice have five sons, 15 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. While spending most of their married life in Nebraska, they moved to Olathe in 2004 to be closer to their children.

My wife Barbara and I had the honor of presenting the award to Dale and Alice on Valentine’s Day weekend.

I asked the usual question: “What’s the secret to being married 80 years?” Alice replied with a smile, “I always let him have my way.” There was laughter at the comment. I can see that a sense of humor and enjoying each other’s presence has been a big part of their lives.

They shared the practice they have of telling each other every day, “I love you.” The importance of family and their Catholic faith was also part of the fuel that has propelled them through 80 years of joyful marriage.

As we sat with them – surrounded by family – Dale shared a photo album recently created with children and grandchildren during their celebration of the 80th year around the time of Christmas.

As I looked at them, and saw the joy on their faces and that of the family present as we presented their award, I was reminded of part of a meditation that was written some years ago for married couples: “This is our beloved couple. This is the sacrament of matrimony. Look and see the joy that is found in the vocation of Christian marriage.”

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