Alumni couples say “I do” all over again
One attendee who was eagerly anticipating the college’s recent Wedding Party with her husband was Bridget Krage O’Connor ’93, vice president of enrollment management and communications at St. Norbert. Afterwards she reflected on the experience of renewing her wedding vows at Old St. Joseph Church, in the company of 64 other alumni couples.
I always wondered what it would have been like if Jeff and I were married at St. Norbert. Both graduates of the class of 1993, we didn’t date while SNC students, so it never felt like quite the right place, until now.
Twelve years and 27 days after we were married in my hometown of Winona, Minn., we had our chance to exchange vows at Old St. Joe’s. It was a little different than I had once imagined since there were 64 other couples reciting the same words at the same time. In some ways, though, it was more romantic than the first time.
This time, we didn’t have the stress of planning the details. No worries about our relatives, guests, flowers, music or the timely arrival of our priest. This time we had professional wedding coordinators – the alumni and parent relations staff – who arranged every aspect of the day as part of the college’s first-ever Wedding Party.
The event allowed alumni married to one another to join in a communal renewal of vows. (College records show that more than 3,100 St. Norbert grads are married to one another.)
We began our celebration by watching the couples arrive at Old St. Joe’s. Some traveled hundreds of miles; some just walked down the block. Young and recently married pairs sat beside other couples who were celebrating more than 50 years of matrimony. We filed into our chairs, and whispered and waved to those of our era.
Whether in formals or shorts, the couples looked perfect for the occasion as Father Rowland De Peaux, alumni chaplain, and Father Jay Fostner, vice president of mission and heritage, began the service.
Jeff and I weren’t sure how they would arrange all of us for the exchange of vows but, following lovely readings (and what wedding would be complete without 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “… Love is patient, love is kind …”), they invited us to come to the center aisle, all 64 couples at once.
It was a bit congested, but the Norbertines gently arranged us so we filled the middle of the church. We must have looked a little awkward, so Father Jay set the mood, saying, “Now, I’m no expert, but this might be a good time to turn to one another, hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes!” We all giggled, did what the good priest suggested and recited our vows.
As I looked at Jeff, I could see the past 12 years on us. So many thoughts of our first home, our careers, having our son Patrick … it all ran through my mind. How wonderfully strange that we were here at this moment – at the very place where, along with our common group of friends, we would leave the library on Sunday nights for Mass.
The church looked different back then. The carpeting and benches have made way for exposed brick and wood floors. Like us, I think to myself as I recommit myself to the man I love, Old St. Joe’s continues to get better with time.
A reception followed
Wedding cake, flowers, a photographer and even a singing priest. There wasn’t a detail overlooked at the Wedding Party reception hosted by the office of alumni and parent relations in the Sensenbrenner Union Shield Room.
Some attendees like Brent ’92 and Joanne (Shimon) Weycker ’93, Dave ’90 and Ann (Nelson) Mancl ’90 doubly enjoyed the nostalgic event since they held their wedding receptions in the very same room some years earlier. Others relived the moments they shared with their sweeties at dances or during walks across campus. And all sat in awe as Father De Peaux serenaded the couples with a tune from “Camelot.”
Some special guests
*Richard ’88 and Elaine (Johnson) Janes ’92 celebrated their 22nd year of marriage on the very day they renewed their vows, and Paul ’91 and Amy (Koscik) Eberhardt ’91 marked their 17th anniversary. Frank ’56 and Jean (Nooyen) Tremel ’58 celebrated their 51st anniversary that weekend as well. They were married on June 6, 1959.
*Mike ’07 and Sarah Muenster-Blakley ’07 were the most recently married, having committed to one another Nov. 15, 2008.
*Don ’50 and Mary (Bradtke) Vandersteen ’52 held the record for the couple married the longest – 59 years. The Vandersteens were married on May 26, 1951. Mary, a freshman in fall 1948, had registered as a special student. The following fall she was accepted as the first full-time female student at the college three years prior to St. Norbert’s official acceptance of women as full-time students.
*Among the guests were John Hanley ’79 and his wife Faye (Schattner) Hanley ’80. John proudly bears the title of U.S. Army Brigadier General. He’s the youngest of 12 St. Norbert alumni who have earned the rank of general.
*Norm Jarock ’58, another military man, bears a unique distinction. He is the only St. Norbert grad to have appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (after being named to the Little All-America Football Team). Norm was the star of St. Norbert’s undefeated 1957 football squad. His wife, Clarice “Boots” Jarock ’58, was Homecoming queen that year and a member of the first wave of women to enter the college in the mid-1950s. The Jarocks were married on June 17, 1958, and their story was told in St. Norbert College Magazine’s Spring 2010 “Love” issue.
*Carol Bruess ’90, an expert in family communication, is committed to understanding the communication patterns of happily married couples. With her husband Brian Bruess ’90 at her side, Carol gladly signed copies of her book “What Happy Couples Do,” a compilation of lessons learned during her interpersonal and marriage communication research as associate professor of communication at St. Thomas University. Each couple left the Wedding Party with a copy of Bruess’ book. (Readers can enjoy an excerpt at http://www.whathappycouplesdo.com.)