NEWBERG, Ore. — A common faith, thinking as a team, being
flexible and arguing candidly but respectfully describe some of the keys to a strong
marriage for Claude and Yvette Arrington, named Oregon's longest married couple
by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
"We've had a super life," said Claude, 95.
"We've always had God at the top and we let him
decide," added Yvette, 93.
The couple was married May 23, 1942, at St. Elizabeth Church in
Van Nuys, Calif. Claude, who was raised Baptist, became Catholic before the
wedding and says his faith provided a foundation for a good, long marriage.
He was born in Los Angeles, and Yvette was born in a small town
near Winnipeg, Manitoba. By 1940, they were both at Van Nuys High School. They
met there and married soon after graduating when it became clear Claude should
join the Navy.
During his 20-month tour, the couple only corresponded with
Yvette, home with a baby girl, did odd jobs while Claude sent
home what money he could. The household got by but without much to spare.
Claude's ship headed to Hiroshima just after the atomic bomb was
dropped. He and his shipmates were about to go ashore into the contaminated
zone when orders came to leave the region. The vessel then picked up emaciated
prisoners of war and survived a typhoon before returning to the United States.
The couple had four children — three girls and a boy. Today, they
have eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three
They said they agreed on how to raise a family before they
"We did a lot of talking to find out our likes and dislikes,
religion and everything else," Yvette told the Catholic
Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.
To help make ends meet for the growing family, Yvette opened a
home child care and eventually worked for the local school district. Claude
became a mail carrier, but cleaned schools in the evenings and at a restaurant
on weekends. He delivered the Los Angeles Times early in the morning, including
to the home of Liberace, the piano star.
On weekends, a relative would come watch the children while
Claude and Yvette went on a date and in later years, they took longer trips.
They have been to every state, Belgium and Canada, and have been on a few
Through it all, they have kept the lines of communication open.
"You have to talk to each other," Yvette said. "If
he doesn't like something, he tells me. If I don't like something, I tell
The couple came to Oregon 11 years ago to be near their daughter
who drives them to St. Peter's Church for Mass each weekend. Yvette belongs to
the Catholic Daughters and has a deep devotion to Mary. "Our Lady has been
very good to us," she said.
Across the country in Nebraska, two couples — one married for
more than 70 years and the other, more than 60 years — can tell similar stories
of faith and perseverance that have seen them through life's challenges.
William and Evelyn Schulte, members of St. Wenceslaus Parish in
Dodge, Neb., relied on their faith during wartime separation, the death of a
son, health issues and other challenges.
The Schultes were married Feb. 12, 1946, at Sacred Heart Church
in Olean, Neb. But before that, William was away for four years during World
War II, including two years in the Pacific theater.
"I thought the war would never end," Evelyn told the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha.
"But we just trusted in the Lord and we went on."
Faith also was a source of strength for William who said he only
missed Mass twice while he was in the service "and those were for
legitimate reasons," he said.
Frequent letters also sustained the couple during the war, many
of which Evelyn saved.
"The servicemen really appreciate mail and always liked
hearing from home," she said. "That meant so much to them. You always
felt for them because they were sacrificing a lot."
Separation because military service also was a challenge for
Richard and Barbara McMahon, members of St. Patrick Parish in Gretna, Neb., who
have been married more than 60 years.
As they planned their wedding, Richard's assignment in the Air
Force was going to prevent him from coming home for their wedding date, so
Barbara's sister, Jane, who was planning her own wedding, invited them to share
a double wedding with her.
The couples were married Aug. 18, 1956, at St. Joseph Church in
And they've shared their anniversary celebrations every year
since. "We usually have a dinner out," Barbara said, "and we had
a big celebration for our 50th anniversary with an open house."
The Schultes and McMahons shared similar stories of long,
productive careers, hard work and child rearing, with faith always at the center.
After the war, William Schulte had a 30-year career as a mail
carrier while Evelyn was busy at home raising their four sons and one daughter.
They now have nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Over the years, William and Evelyn have often volunteered in
their parish, William serving at weekday Masses, Evelyn bringing Communion to
residents of the local nursing home.
And she remains active in their parish, leading the rosary every
other Saturday evening.
Like most married couples, the Schultes experienced the joys and
struggles of marriage and family life, regularly turning to the Lord in prayer,
The McMahons, who raised one daughter and five sons, also
experienced the loss of a child and share a similar commitment to faith and
"We've always had a strong faith ever since we were
young," said Barbara. "I don't know what people would do without it.
We pray every day for the strength to meet the challenges."
Following four years in the Air Force, Richard McMahon worked 30
years for Union Pacific, and Barbara, once their children were raised, spent 27
years managing temporary employment agencies. They have 13 grandchildren and 12
As the Schultes reflected on more than 70 years together, William
said: "Marriage is just like a beautiful bouquet of roses, beautiful
flowers but some stickers. You just overlook them and you work together."
"There are always problems in life and we've had a lot of
things you don't expect, but you just go with it and you pray a lot," Evelyn
Langlois is editor of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of
the Archdiocese of Portland. Contributing to this story was Mike May, senior
writer at the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.