Couples’ love shines strong this Valentine’s Day
This Valentine’s Day, we set out to find shining examples of people in our community who have made a lifetime commitment to loving one another — and have been successful at it.
Cecilio and Rita Garza, Bill and Sylvia Wurl, and Ron and Ginny Moen have been married a combined 181 years. The secret to a happy marriage, they tell us, is not found in a card, a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates. Rather, a happy marriage is about patience and acceptance of one another, in good times and in bad.
Cecilio & Rita Garza
Cecilio and Rita Garza will celebrate their 63rd anniversary on May 2. They met more than six decades ago while living in the countryside of Valle Hermoso, Tamulipas, Mexico. Cecilio worked as a field hand and was hired to work on a local ranch. When he came to work, he saw 17-year-old Rita Salas – and fell in love.
“I was really cute,” Cecilio laughs. “I went to work with her father. I saw her and it was love at first sight.”
After Cecilio courted Rita, the couple decided to run away together. He borrowed a friend’s horse one evening and rode it to Rita’s house, where she was waiting for her true love.
“I knew he was coming,” Rita said. “My parents were a little angry, but they got over it.”
The couple was married in a civil ceremony eight days later on May 2, 1953. Cecilio was not a rich man, and he didn’t know what the future would bring, but he was confident that as long as he worked they would survive, he said.
Eventually the couple crossed the Rio Grande into Edinburg, Texas, where Cecilio found work picking cotton and doing other agricultural work. The couple worked side by side at times, supporting their family of 11. (They have eight daughters and a son.)
Cecilio and Rita then made their way north, working and living for a short time in Oregon and Idaho. In 1963, they arrived in Quincy. Cecilio continued to work in the local orchards and fields, while Rita found a job at LambWeston. Eventually she left her job due to losing her eyesight. Through all the moves and the many children, the couple supported each other any way they could.
“They love and support each other,” said daughter Angie Padron. “They set good examples for the family, for us, for the children.”
Granddaughter Sonia Padron said her grandparents have encouraged everyone in the family to be better in life and to excel in school. She is inspired by the love they show each other, Sonia said.
“They have always been supportive of me,” Sonia said. “I am the oldest granddaughter and my son is the oldest great-grandchild. I have been able to send my son to college with the support I have from them.”
Cecilio said that he appreciates that his wife still feeds him. And Rita has no complaints – her husband has always treated her well, she said.
No one would have guessed back in 1953 that a 22-year-old young man on a horse and a 17-year-old girl would have created such a dynasty of love and family. Today the Garzas and their extended family include 25 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
It’s all because of a young man with love in his heart and a horse with swift legs.
“They are the perfect example of what a husband and wife should be,” Sonia said.
Bill & Sylvia Wurl
At home in Quincy, Bill and Sylvia Wurl enjoy working in their separate gardens on their 2 acres of property. Bill, a former shop foreman of the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District, is enjoying retirement with his wife of 59 years. Sylvia retired as a teacher’s aide at George Elementary School.
Sylvia was 17 years old when the couple met. As a teenager, she would go down to the irrigation canal to swim in the summer. There she would see Bill swimming as well. Although they spoke, Bill, who owned an auto service station, was a little shy about asking her out on a date.
“Bill had a really nice Chevrolet car,” Sylvia said. “One day he sent his friend to my house in his Chevrolet to invite me to Blue Lake because a bunch of people were going. I got there and Bill was there, too.”
The couple hit it off at the lake party, and, after dating for more than a year, they were married Dec. 21, 1957, at the old Presbyterian Church on H Street Northeast.
“When I went to put the engagement announcement in at the newspaper, we had been thinking about a spring wedding,” Bill said. “The editor of the paper looked at me and said, ‘It’s going to be a long, cold winter.’ We decided to get married sooner.”
Sylvia was the middle child in a family of 10, and Bill came from a family of seven. Sylvia believes that coming from big families helped make the couple more compatible. And family was always a priority to them. Married, they spent their weekends off camping with their children or traveling as a family.
Over the years, the Wurl family grew. The couple has three sons and a daughter, as well as eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
The secret to their long and successful relationship, Bill said, is their strong faith and shared values. The couple volunteers together, transporting people from their church and community to appointments.
“You have to put the Lord in your marriage,” Bill said. “It’s easier to say your vows than to live them.”
Another secret to their successful marriage is that they like to do a great many things together, Bill added.
“We have a lot of the same things in common,” he said. “We like to do gardening and we enjoy traveling.”
Sylvia believes the secret to a happy relationship is knowing that you can’t change the person you are with; spouses must accept each other for who they are, she said.
“In a lot of ways we are different,” Sylvia said. “You work around those differences and work through them. We can’t change who we are.”
Ron & Ginny Moen
Ron and Ginny Moen met more than six decades ago as teenagers living in Wisconsin.
“We eyed each other on the bus,” Ron said.
One day, Ginny, then 14, got off the bus and dropped either her glasses or gloves. (She couldn’t remember which, though Ron said it was her gloves.) Ron, then 16, took the opportunity to swoop in and pick up the gloves just so he could get to spend a moment with the pretty girl on the bus.
“I was more than happy to pick them up and look at her,” he said.
They saw each other regularly at church, and her parents and his parents were also friends. With their families’ blessings, the couple started dating. Ron graduated from high school and the couple began to make plans for their future.
“He went to college in town,” Ginny said. “He went to one year of seminary school and then we married. Then he went back to school for three more years.”
The couple was married at Atonement Lutheran Church on May 21, 1955. They moved to Minneapolis, where Bill was headed to Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary.
“The theological college had facilities for couples,” Ginny said. “We lived there together the last three years of his schooling.”
Throughout their 60-plus years of marriage, the couple has moved many times and to different states following Ron’s pastoral career. Before the Moens arrived in Quincy, Ron worked as an interim pastor in Wenatchee, Yakima, Cashmere and the Tri-Cities. In 1992, Ron became the interim pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Quincy. He retired four years later in 1996.
“The secret to a good relationship is being forgiving and being thankful for each other,” Ron said. “Ginny is a gentle person with a good sense of humor.”
The couple often exchanges cards on Valentine’s Day. In fact, Ginny has a collection of cards Ron has given her through the years.
Ron described their love as a gift.
“Marriage is an art form that none of us humans are perfectly adept at,” he said. “But we work at it day after day, year after year, and, by the grace of God, our marriage lasts and our love stays warm – a wonderful, beautiful gift from God.”
— By Tammara Green, QVPR contributor