New Castle News

Closer Look

March 20, 2012

Contest crowns Union husband, wife as state’s longest-wed couple

NEW CASTLE — Martha Shannon admits she wasn’t certain her husband, Paul, was “the one” when they first met.

“I wanted to be sure we were compatible,” Martha, 95, recalled about the initial introduction that took place at a Grange party in 1936.

But, love blossomed and, after a few years of dating, the couple married on Nov. 23, 1939.

Now, 72 years later, the Union Township residents have been honored as Pennsylvania’s longest married couple by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

“Worldwide Marriage Encounter’s mission is to proclaim the value of marriage and one way to do that is to promote long-married couples,” explained Bill Kreke, an area leader with WWME.

Kreke and his wife, Heather, presented the Shannons with a certificate acknowledging their long-lasting love earlier this month.

The statewide contest was part of a nationwide project, Kreke explained, with the faith-based marriage enrichment program seeking nominations via churches nationwide. A winning couple was honored in each of the 50 states, while the longest-married couple in the country, based solely on contest entries, was Wilbur and Theresa Faiss of Las Vegas who’ve been wed 78 years.

“You have to make up your mind that you’re going to make it last,” Martha Shannon said of her philosophy of marriage. “You don’t go running home after your first scrap.

“You have to remember it takes two to make a marriage work. It can’t just be one of you doing all the work,” she continued.

“And,” she added, “you make sure you always put the kids first.”

Doing so was a large task for the Shannons who raised 10 children. Now, Martha and her 91-year-old husband enjoy spending time with their 23 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren while awaiting number 24’s birth in June.

It was one of their daughters, Barbara Shannon, a nurse in Erie, who nominated her parents for the WWME award.

Although delighted over being named the state’s longest-wed, Martha said she was disappointed a few days after receiving the honor to learn of a Philadelphia-area couple who had been married 78 years.

However, because the award was based on couples entered in the contest rather than any formal search, the Shannons still hold WWME’s title.

“They must have gotten married right out of high school,” Martha said, adding with a slight chuckle, “I had some things I wanted to do first.”

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