The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Couple marks 71 years of marriage

posted by jmcgee

It’s a little late for Valentine’s Day, but this has to be a love story for the ages:

His hand brushed hers ever so lightly, and in that moment, Charlie Wellen’s life changed.

“A big jolt of electricity went through me,” he says. “Wow! I’ll never forget that. And it’s been that good ever since.”

Her name was Barbara, a comely brunette with a quick wit. She lived with her folks two doors down from his family in the tiny town of Phillipsburg, N.J. — P-burg for short. They courted for about a year, then had a Catholic wedding ceremony.

On Thursday, the Seffner couple celebrated 71 years as husband and wife.

“The priest told us, ‘It’s gonna cost you $15. If you don’t have it, don’t come back.’ Luckily, we did,” Charlie says.
They’ll be among 383 couples celebrating nearly 20,000 years of marriage Feb. 28 at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. Of all the spouses renewing their vows, the Wellens are the longest wed.

He’s 91, she’s 92. When they dated, he thought she was just four months older. But on their wedding day, her father clarified that. “Barbara, you’re off a year. You’re actually a year and four months older than this fella.”

“Boy, that was a surprise,” she says. “But there were 11 of us kids. It was easy to get confused.”

Back in 1939, it was a big deal to marry an older woman. Charlie didn’t mind one bit. He was 20 with an eight-grade education. She was 21, a high school graduate.

They both agree: It has been a wonderful journey. They raised four boys, who have given them 14 grandchildren. They’ve lost count on the great-grandchildren.

“Somewhere between 32 and 37,” Charlie says.

“No, that can’t be,” Barbara says.

“Whatever it is, it’s a lot,” he concludes.

Like a lot of married couples, they finish each other’s sentences. Unlike most, they never fight.


“We’ve never had one. I’m not bragging, that’s just the truth,” Barbara says. “We get along so good together. He’s for me and I’m for him.”

Isn’t that a great way to live?

Check out the link for more on this incredibly long — and loving — marriage.

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