DECATUR — Lois Mae Ruwe wore a beautiful white lace pant outfit for her wedding. Sherry Wiant dressed in white satin for the occasion. Four other brides also put on their best Monday afternoon, just to marry their husbands all over again.
Six couples living at Primrose Retirement Community celebrated their marriages by renewing their vows in a special ceremony. Their time together totaled more than 300 years of marriage.
Ruwe and her husband Wilbur were married the first time nearly 75 years ago. They spent their lives working together on their Beason farm until they moved to Primrose last year.
The couple has been looking forward to Monday's ceremony. Days before, Wilbur Ruwe often jokingly asked his daughters, Cathy Anderson and Carol Goebel, if they were going to be the flower girls.
The two helped their parents get ready. “They were so excited, they didn’t eat lunch,” Anderson said.
“They wanted to continue the celebration and go out for dinner,” Goebel said.
Retired United Methodist pastor Sally Hamon officiated. “You did not know where life would take you,” she said during the ceremony. “You didn’t know what growing old together would look like.”
She reminded the couples of their vows, to honor each other is sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. “And here you are today,” Hamon said. “God is smiling.”
The patio seated about 30 guests, including residents, staff and family. During the reception, the couples cut into their own small bridal cakes made especially for them by the Primrose dietician.
The couples and their guests celebrated in the traditional style with cake, champagne, punch and a dance to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley.
“This is something we don’t see very often,” said Katelyn Smith, sales director at Primrose, 1145 W. Arbor Dr. “To celebrate with them on this joyous occasion is amazing.”
Rollan Gongwer and his wife Carol will be celebrating 59 years together in November. The couple was happy to have a party now. “We thought it would be nice,” Carol said. “And a lot of fun.”
They have four children along with several foster children. Although their family was unable to attend the service, the Gongwers and the other couples were happy to celebrate their many years together with the staff and residents.
“This is wonderful to have a party like this with these folks and relive those happy moments,” said Kay Van Matre, whose mother, Evelyn Traxler, renewed vows with her husband, Junior. The couple was one of the newlyweds, having been married 18 years.
Other couples included Dorothy and Darrell Damery, who have been married 33 years, and Jean McBride and her husband, Dale, who were married on Thanksgiving in 1951.
Phil and Sherry Wiant, married 63 years, recently moved back to Decatur from Florida, just in time to renew their vows. After the ceremony, the couple reminisced about their first wedding.
“(The officiant) said I could kiss the bride, and the first thing she said was ‘Don’t you step on my dress’,” Phil Wiant remembered. “And it’s been going on for 63 years.”
Primrose Life Enrichment Coordinator Lori Terrell and the staff created the celebration to honor all marriages, not just the ones still together. Several residents whose spouses have passed away were also recognized on a large board filled with wedding and anniversary pictures. “They still have life and a reason to celebrate,” Terrell said. “Today it is time to celebrate love and reminisce on a pivotal moment of their life.”
A few of the brides and grooms relayed pieces of advice and experiences after so many years of marriage.
“Share with one another,” Carol Gongwer said.
“Just say ‘Yes, dear’,” said Wilbur Ruwe.