By Barb Arland-Fye
BURLINGTON — They met at a roller skating rink in Iowa City; she was 16 and he was 21. They dated nearly four years before getting married June 25, 1940, at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City. The momentous occasion wasn’t a milestone just for Marj and Herman Wellman, but for the priest who witnessed their marriage. It was the first time Father Francis Lollich had presided at a nuptial Mass, Marj said.
Seventy years later, she and Herman celebrated their 70th anniversary, a blessing they never anticipated they’d live to see. But they never doubted they’d remain married the rest of their lives.
“You have to have the faith and the love and just stick together and go through things together instead of one going one way and one going the other,” Marj told The Catholic Messenger.
Members of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and parents of six children, one who is deceased, the Wellmans have lived in the same house since 1952.
They moved to Burlington to operate an ice cream store, which they converted into a short-order restaurant. Herman later worked for General Electric and Marj for Younkers department store before retiring in 1982.
After retirement, they enjoyed traveling, but now they’re homebodies. Herman “just isn’t able to get out and do too much anymore. But we thoroughly enjoyed the cruises and the things we did together,” Marj said.
The unexpected death of their daughter Barbara Rosenbury, about four years ago, was a tremendous loss for the Wellmans. But faith and their love for each other helped them get through the pain. “We knew there was nothing we could do about it. You learn to accept it and pray and hope for the best,” Marj said.
She thinks couples considering marriage today may not be equipped for the give and take it requires. “You’ve got to take the good with bad. And you always run into obstacles. You just have to work through them and trust in the Lord and things will come out OK.”
Their Catholic faith has been an important part of their marriage adds Marj, who converted to Catholicism before she and Herman married. As a couple, they say the rosary quite often, and during Lent, “We say it every day.”
Sharing the same faith, attending the same church and passing on that religious faith to their children – Gerald, Patricia, Deborah, Laura, Doreen and the late Barbara — has been beneficial to the marriage and the family, Marj believes.
“They were very good parents; they set good examples for us,” daughter Doreen Pope says. “They were somebody we could always talk to and who would listen to us.”