Longtime couples share marriage stories, advice
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"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
-- I Corinthians 13:4-7
Written by the apostle Paul almost 2,000 years ago, this definition of love can be a tall order, but some local couples have held fast to its principles. Four sets of longtime lovers from the South Hills celebrate Valentine's Day today with some advice on how to make love endure.
The Lenarts, a golden anniversary
Edward Lenart and Toni Guerrieri met in 1960 at Gimbels department store, Downtown, where he was a management trainee and she was a copywriter for the advertising department.
The two began spending their lunch hour together; on sunny days, they would dine in Mellon Square Park. A few years later, they wed -- on Jan. 19, 1963 -- at St. Anne Catholic Church in Castle Shannon and honeymooned at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
To celebrate their recent 50th wedding anniversary, the couple, who live in Brentwood, returned to the landmark hotel, which honored the price they had paid for a room in 1963 -- $19.95 a night.
The Lenarts, who were joined by their two children, three grandchildren and other family members, also received a nuptial blessing during Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
"You know the old adage, go big or stay home," Mr. Lenart said. "Well, we went big."
Going "big" is nothing new for Mr. Lenart, who comes from a family of seven children. He is the fifth of his siblings to reach 50 years of marriage.
Their secret to a long and happy marriage, he said, is to stay focused, not take things too seriously and work as a team.
"Sometimes you run in different directions, but you always come back to the same spot," he noted.
Disagreements are inevitable, and there are challenges every day, but that's the beauty of life, Mr. Lenart said.
"Nobody said it's going to be easy or every day is going to be wonderful and spectacular," Mrs. Lenart added.
The couple also attributed their happiness to their faith. They have been parishioners at St. Sylvester's in Brentwood for more than 30 years.
"Till death do you part," Mr. Lenart added.
Mr. Lenart is retired form Kimberly-Clark Corp.; she worked for the Brentwood School District.
The Lowes, married 58 years
Reid Lowe and Shirley Hoffman met in 1948 during their junior year at Clairton High School, where they both played in the marching band.
"I invited him to a party and that's how he got trapped," she recalled with a laugh.
They were temporarily apart while he attended the University of Nebraska and she attended Slippery Rock University. But they kept in touch and were married on Aug. 13, 1954, during his senior year.
Mr. Lowe said they have enjoyed good health and have been fortunate not to have experienced any serious problems throughout their marriage, which he attributed to living within their means.
The couple, who live in Venetia, said over the years they saved money to take trips with their two children to places such as Florida, Hawaii, and Scotland.
The Lowes have been active members of Peters Creek Presbyterian Church in Venetia for more then a half-century and said their faith is an important part of their marriage.
"I think everybody could walk away from a marriage at least once a week if they allow themselves," Mrs. Lowe noted. "But you have to take the good and the bad and blend it."
The Lowes described their love as stable, which is a trait they said runs through multiple generations of their families.
Mrs. Lowe said it's important to give more than you expect to receive.
"You get by giving," she said.
Mr. Lowe is a retired lawyer; Mrs. Lowe is a retired teacher who worked for Clairton, Elizabeth Forward and Peters Township schools.
The Clendenins, married 65 years
Self-described high school sweethearts, Dan Clendenin was a senior and Elizabeth Bevirt a junior when they met in Granite City, Ill. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed for a year in Japan. Before he left, he said, he gave his girlfriend "free reign" to enjoy her senior year.
She recalled that she did. She was elected homecoming queen of her class and dated a few young men but said her heart was tied to Dan's. The two wrote letters every day in which he addressed her as "Dearest Brown Eyes."
When Mr. Clendenin returned from the military, the two were married on July 17, 1948. They live in Bethel Park and have four sons, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Mr. Clendenin describes their marriage as a combination of give and take and said respect for each other was always important. Both agreed that attending church and making God a part of their lives played major roles in keeping them together.
"We've made church and Jesus Christ the center of our marriage," Mrs. Clendenin said.
He said that is why they were able to get over the "rough spots" over the years.
The couple have been active members of John McMillan Presbyterian Church in Bethel Park for more than 40 years.
Mr. Clendenin founded Dan H. Clendenin Inc., which manufactures iron and steel products. Mrs. Clendenin took care of finances for their company.
The McGibbenys, 68 years and counting
Reid McGibbeny was riding a trolley from California, Pa., to his home in Baldwin Township when, as he tells it, his life was interrupted by a "very pretty young lady" who stepped on board.
"When I saw her walking back to get a seat, I thought, 'I gotta meet that gal,' " he recalled.
He moved to a seat near Dorothy Bromwich and before long asked for her phone number.
"He made a big impression," she recalled. "Neither one of us ever dated another person again."
Ten months later, they were married on Aug. 14, 1944, in Charleroi Episcopal Church with Mr. McGibbeny's brother as officiating minister.
The couple moved to Crafton and 15 months later had twins. They now live in Bethel Park.
Mrs. McGibbeny said her husband was a big help during those early years and did the laundry, which was in the basement of their third-floor apartment, changed diapers and helped with late-night feedings.
And, she said, her husband has been there for her during the 19 surgeries she has undergone.
"We've had some trials and it was only faith that got us through those things," Mrs. McGibbeny said. "You had to support each other and have faith that everything was going to work out."
Her advice for young couples includes patience, communication, learning to say you're sorry, having a sense of humor and never going to bed without saying "I love you."
Mr. McGibbeny said that he treats his wife the way he wants to be treated and they have learned to make "molehills out of mountains."
"If you have a problem, don't dwell on it and make it grow ... work together and reduce it," he said.
Mr. McGibbeny taught industrial arts for Crafton School District and later was an insurance broker; Mrs. McGibbeny is a homemaker.
Mr. McGibbeny is 94 and Mrs. McGibbeny is 88, but they still are making beautiful music together, performing at their church, John McMillan Presbyterian in Bethel Park, where he sings and she accompanies him on piano.
In the true spirit of Valentine's Day, Mr. McGibbeny said the best years of his long marriage are "all of them."
First Published February 14, 2013 11:19 am