Couples say commitment, kisses are keys to lasting marriages - Catholic Courier
Walter and Irene Mace of Canandaigua will celebrate 75 years of marriage in October. Walter and Irene Mace of Canandaigua will celebrate 75 years of marriage in October. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Couples say commitment, kisses are keys to lasting marriages

Walter Mace and Irene Wyffles met in 1944. He was back home in Canandaigua on leave from the Navy, and she was at a restaurant with a friend who knew Mace.

“He wanted to know if we wanted a ride home. He took her home first, then he said, ‘Do you want to go home, or do you want to get lost?’” she recalled, noting that she chose the latter option.

The rest is history. The two dated for six or seven months before getting engaged, and they were married Oct. 12, 1946, at St. Mary Church in Canandaigua.

“We’re just as much in love now as we were in the beginning,” Irene Mace recently told the Catholic Courier.

The Maces will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary this fall, and are among those included in the Catholic Courier’s listing of couples celebrating 25, 50 or more years of marriage this year (see pages 10-12). Long-married couples also were honored Aug. 29 during the Diocese of Rochester’s annual Mass of Recognition of the Sacrament of Matrimony at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester.

George and Grace Supple, who were married Aug. 29, 1953, were among the couples who planned to participate in the Mass. The liturgy’s date was especially meaningful for them, they said, since it fell on their 68th wedding anniversary. The Supples, who have five children, 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, said they’ve been blessed with a good life together, but that’s not to say they haven’t experienced their share of hardships. The Supples, who reside at St. Ann’s Community at Chapel Oaks and belong to St. Kateri Parish in Irondequoit, met in a sociology lecture at Syracuse University in the early 1950s. While attempting to look away from a professor with a distracting nervous tic, George Supple’s gaze fell upon “this beautiful blond in the back of the room.” After the lecture, Grace approached him to find out what he’d been looking at, and she let him take her out for a Coke.

They honeymooned in Key West, Fla., because that’s where the U.S. Navy sent George Supple, who’d graduated from Syracuse University in 1951, for three months of training in anti-submarine warfare the week after the wedding. Grace Supple spent two weeks in Florida with her new husband before heading back to Syracuse to finish her nursing degree. After finishing his training, George Supple flew to England to resume his service on a destroyer.

The newlyweds couldn’t live together until January 1954, when they moved into an apartment in Norfolk, Va. George Supple’s destroyer went out on training exercises for a week at a time, and he felt blessed to return home just in time to be present for the birth of the couple’s first child in 1954.

He wasn’t quite so lucky the next time, however. In 1955 his destroyer was taking part in exercises off the northern coast of Spain when he received a telegram from the commanding officer of the naval hospital in Portsmouth, Va., congratulating him on the birth of his son.

Those days were challenging, but the couple got through it, Grace Supple said.

Walter and Irene Mace faced similar challenges early in their marriage. Shortly after the birth of their first daughter, Walter Mace was called back to active duty during the Korean War. He called the 18 months he was away from his young family “the roughest part of our married life.”

Through it all, both the Maces and the Supples committed to never going to bed angry. Sharing a kiss before bed is powerful, Walter Mace said.

“It breaks the ice. And if you don’t break the ice, you’re sunk,” he said. “Every couple will have times when there will be tension. … A kiss can silently go a long way.”

Communication is key if a marriage is to succeed, noted Patricia Defendorf, who has been married to Deacon Ray Defendorf for 54 years. Commitment is equally important, her husband added.

“You have to decide that this is going to be permanent, deciding that the ‘D’ word — divorce — is not going to come into your relationship, because you are totally committed to this, for better or for worse,” said Deacon Defendorf, who met his future wife while both were students participating in the newly formed Newman Club at Monroe Community College.

The two dated for a while but drifted apart, and then found each other several years later at a conference the Rochester City School District held for new teachers.

They were married July 4, 1967, at Sacred Heart Cathedral. They spent the next two months living out of a tent in Orleans County while Deacon Defendorf completed an internship in theater arts at SUNY Brockport and Patricia Defendorf taught at a nearby women’s correctional facility.

The Defendorfs are partners and have supported each other in their careers, their ministries and the raising of their family of three children and 11 foster children. They currently belong to Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia Parish, which has worship sites in Addison, Bradford and Campbell in the Southern Tier.

“We’ve had a really blessed life,” Deacon Defendorf said.

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