By CINDY SENA-MARTINEZ
The largest faith-based marriage enrichment program in the world launched a national campaign last year to find the longest married couples throughout the United States.
Requests for nominations were broadcast over television, radio, newspapers and the Internet. On Feb. 7, 50 state winners of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) project were announced.
In Alaska, one of the state’s longest married couples, Ernie and Ruth Brooking, received the honor.
The Brookings are parishioners at St. Anthony Church in Anchorage. Married on Dec. 1, 1942 — more than 68 years ago — the Brookings’ recognition was accompanied by a congressional letter acknowledging their enduring union at a time when 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.
The congressional letter, was read aloud Feb. 13 to the Brookings by Deacon Dez Martinez at St. Benedict Church in Anchorage. It declared that the couple was “truly an inspiration” for “having remained together for so long.”
“It’s quite an honor — I’m about to cry,” Ernie Brookings said upon hearing the letter. “It’s been well worth it,” he added. “We have been blessed.”
The Alaska Worldwide Marriage Encounter team celebrated with the Brookings at a private family gathering in their home, with four generations of the family present.
Speaking via phone during the celebration, the Brookings’ daughter Pamela called her parents “a treasure.”
Sherry Tunilla who along with her husband Bill are part of the Alaska Worldwide Marriage Encounter leadership team.
She said the Brookings’ marriage is a gift to multiple generations.
“Their love for each other was as strong and as evident to me as it must have been on their wedding day,” Tunilla said. “What was even more beautiful was the love they pass down to their family. Clearly I could see this in the room with their family present.”
When asked about the secret to their longevity, the Brookings pointed to a couple simple principles.
“Couples should never go to bed angry,” Ernie Brookings said. His wife added that husbands and wives should “always be kind to each other.”
Additionally, they acknowledged the benefit of a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend they attended in Anchorage more than 30 years ago.
The Anchorage celebration of marriage continued during a local observance of the annual World Marriage Day on Feb. 20 at Holy Spirit Center in Anchorage. There, couples married 50 years or more received special recognition.
Two Alaskan couples in attendance were Robert and Shirley Piaskowski — currently celebrating 69 years of marriage — and Tony and Carol Blazka who have been married 50 years. Father Dan Hebert, director of Holy Spirit Center, celebrated Mass with the couples and led them in a renewal of their marriage vows.
He concluded his homily by turning to the young people who were present, stating that their call is to be “holy as our Heavenly Father is holy” and to see in these long married couples a witness to marriage being for a lifetime.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter has offered weekend retreats more than 40 years. The programs include evening and half-day programs that are presented in churches. Located in more than 90 countries, the organization is considered the largest pro-marriage organization in the world.
To learn more, go to wwme.org or contact the Alaska WWME Team Couple, James and Shaharriet Houchins, at (907) 644-8677. The next WWME Weekend in Anchorage is set for May 13-15.
We just celebrated 50 years of marriage in January, a far cry from 68 but it seems to me a that we have couples married longer than 68 years here in Florida. I guess the WWME project did not search long or far and wide for those couples who are wed over 50 years. We had a special Sunday Mass at our parish where those who are married over 50 years were honored. There were a large group of us but we never heard about this project. O well, God knows us and will honor our commitment to love and life when we get to Heaven!