By Paul R. Sebastian
On Nov. 6, we celebrated the 60th wedding anniversary of Bob and Mary Murphy, pillars of our parish since 1992. What a tremendous witness to the institution of marriage which is so fragile and devalued today! So many marriages can’t get past 10 years and they made it to 60! By word and example what can they teach us about marriage as God intended it to be and how to keep it going?
Bob and Mary are products of the “Great Generation” that grew up during the Great Depression and won the war that completely absorbed the country. Bob lied about his age (then 17) to serve in the United States Navy for four years toward the end of World War II. In 1949 Bob returned to the B.F. Goodrich Tire & Rubber Company to work on the assembly line during the night shift and as a student studying History at the University of Akron during the day.
In the early 1950s Bob was introduced to a pretty chemist by the name of Mary Bussan, who was working in the lab of his company’s competitor, Firestone next door. Akron was then the Rubber Capital of the World. Mary had graduated from Clarke College, a small all girls Catholic school in Dubuque, Iowa with majors in Math and Chemistry. Their friendship grew and Bob proposed. During the marriage preparation, Fr. Wenchester discovered that Bob was not Catholic and so invited him into the fold. Bob became a strong and devout Catholic and today never misses his daily rosary. They were finally married on November 6, 1954.
Bob and Mary did not have the unrealistic expectations that ruin so many marriages today right from the start…….i.e., illusions of a fairy tale marriage in which everything would be bliss and they would live happily ever after. When it doesn’t happen that way, there comes the breakup. Bob and Mary took their marriage vows seriously…….. “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.” They knew that their marriage would have ups and downs, joy and grief, triumphs and disappointments…….and so it was. Divorce was never an option. In fact it’s impossible when there’s firm resolve, true and complete mutual self-giving, and dying to self with God at the center.
Bob climbed up the corporate ladder within the sales force to the executive level as Coordinator of Private Brands, but at a great price. As many successful sales people under pressure, he fell into alcoholism while entertaining prospective customers on a daily basis, but Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and especially his wife Mary helped him through the recovery. In retirement Bob used that great victory over self to help others conquer their addictions. It was unflappable Mary who helped Bob keep his Irish temper in check; she kept the peace. When things got tough, they confronted it and tapped the graces of the sacrament of Matrimony.
Belonging to a Catholic charismatic prayer community also was a big help. They both have a solid faith and love that kept their marriage together. More than once in our many conversations in the past has Bob verbalized his gratitude to the support of his wife Mary over the years. Many a successful man attributes his success in life and even salvation to the loving support, encouragement, and prayers of his wife.
The fruits of their marriage were six children. Mary was a full time mother. They lived through the grief of losing baby Kathleen a day after birth, but God blessed their family with a religious vocation as Sister Mary became a dedicated missionary nun, giving her life to God and His people of Mexico. There’s also Coleen Smith, Maureen Kormanik, Patty Wallen, Kevin Murphy, and Bridget Cline. Like many other heartbroken parents of the best of families that did everything right, they are praying two of them back into the Church. Their family of eight continues to multiply; the extended family includes 16 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren that have come along with more to come.
Retirement in 1992 did not slow Bob down. Born in Vinton, he returned to his roots in Gallia County with Mary and became an alcoholism counselor for almost five years. During his spare time, he became a staunch fighter for the pro-life cause and was the grand knight (president) of the St. Louis Council of the Knights of Columbus. Mary was a CCD teacher and ran the Vacation Bible School for many years. She helped Bob with his pro-life work. Today Mary continues as a Eucharistic Minister and a member of the choir.
Although Bob could not be as active in his 80s, he’s still there hauling his grandkids to the Parish School of Religion and McDonalds too, for motivation. Bob (86) and Mary (83) also help their widowed daughter to raise the five grandkids who live next door. Having helped her parents raise her nine brothers and sisters plus her own six, that’s no big deal for Mary. For Bob with only one sibling, a lot of kids was an adjustment and over the years he became very good with them.
I asked them several questions to find out what kept their marriage ticking for 60 years. Their answers are summarized below.
Joys and Problems: There were many joys … the births, the baptisms, the weddings, etc. There were many problems to overcome as described above. Mary observed: “I don’t see obstacles. I just deal with them, riding with the bumps. That’s life.” Bob’s greatest joy is “being married to a lovely woman who had faith and trust in me, taught me how to be a Christian, and brought me to the Lord.”
Secrets in Keeping a Marriage Going for 60 Years: Mary simply says: “Put one foot in front of the other and keep going.” She doesn’t get upset and stays on course with a quiet determination and faith … a real gift. Bob believes the secret is in faith, trust, kindness, tolerance, and patience.
What made your marriage work? What kept it together? Mary credits it to prayer and faith: “Make choices along the way and trust in the Lord.” Clearly, prayer, faith, and trust in God form the foundation and the core of her great inner strength. Bob seconded that and added “trusting each other, mutual kindness, patience, and tolerance.”
Advice for Struggling Young Couples: Mary urges them to “talk things out; keep communications open; share your fears”. Bob reemphasizes: “keep the faith and develop tolerance, patience, and kindness.