HARTFORD – Stanley and Helen Chmielewski of New Britain never go to bed without saying "I love you" and "God bless you." Helen says it’s a daily ritual they have shared for more than 70 years.
On Oct. 16, they will celebrate their 72nd anniversary by renewing their vows with hundreds of other couples at a Mass celebrated at 2 p.m. by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell at St. Joseph Cathedral.
Helen, who is 90, remembers meeting Stanley at a dance in 1938 when she was 17 (he was nine years older). They danced all night, and afterward, he asked if he could drive her home.
"I said, ‘Sure, but if you drive me home, you have to drive my two sisters home and my girlfriends,’" said Helen. "It was cramped on the ride home, but I could never be alone with a boy without one of my sisters," she added.
The rest, as they say, is history. They went steady, and a year later they were married at Holy Cross Church in New Britain, the same parish where they worship today. Helen says the mutual respect she and her husband have for one another has been the "secret" to their relationship. That, along with a strong Catholic upbringing, prepared them to raise their two sons and get through the trials and tribulations that can come with marriage.
Richard and Linda Crane will commemorate their 50th anniversary at the Mass. According to Linda, compromise is key to a successful marriage, "and, of course, picking the right guy." She and her husband met when she was in high school and he was in college, and they dated for seven years before they got married. They have just returned from a trip to Bermuda, where they revisited their honeymoon spot. Before the trip, their three daughters threw them a special anniversary party with family and friends.
"It was very nice to hear our daughter say that we were an inspiration to her and her family," said Linda.
Father Robert F. Tucker, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Litchfield, told them about the anniversary Mass, and they thought renewing their vows after 50 years of marriage was a good idea.
"God has been very good to us," she said.
The Mass is open to all married couples who are celebrating an anniversary as well as their families and friends.
Parish secretaries are taking registration information by phone. Information is available from the archdiocesan Family Life Office at (203) 230-2460.
Registration forms will be available at the Cathedral in the vestibule before the Mass.