By: Janet Soboleff Burke
Most people these days are either hesitant to ask, or perhaps not comfortable asking, how long you have been married. But me? I’m happy to tell you we just celebrated our 55th Wedding Anniversary in January 2018.
Ask me what the secret to a long marriage is. Well, it’s a bunch of things. First of all, it was luck that we met as he was from the other side of the USA and only in Alaska for his tour of duty with the U.S. Coast Guard. We had many dates while getting to know each other with each day bringing us closer to the possibility of marriage.
Then one day, we approached the late Fr. James Manske, Pastor of the Cathedral of the Nativity BVM, right here in Juneau. AK. He was happy to oblige and marry us.
There were a few bridges for us to cross before we could walk down the aisle. My father was Pastor of the Memorial Presbyterian Church! As Ted was Catholic and I was not, what was I to do? It turns out that I was willing to do whatever it took to marry Ted and we would work all of the details out together. This is where the word WE began to take its place in our lives.
Back “in the day”, mixed marriages could take place after a pre-cana training session held by the Pastor. I would have to raise our children in the Catholic faith…no problem…I was quite interested in becoming Catholic myself. What brought me to that point was the fact that Ted was so loyal to his church…even to the point of going to mass before he would pick me up every Sunday. What kind of religion would make a person be so loyal? Fr. Manske advised me to wait until we got to our new duty station before I converted as there would be more time to really get involved if that is what I wished. I made my confirmation as a Catholic the summer following our marriage.
The wedding ceremony was glorious, even though it rained that day. My father said to me after the ceremony, “If you wish to become a Catholic, be a good one.” A huge clap of thunder followed our reception. I believe that that was the real seal of approval by God for our marriage! Lightning and thunder were non-existent in Juneau. Our reception was held in the hall of my father’s church and well attended by both Cathedral parishioners and Memorial Presbyterian members.
As we moved on in our marriage, Ted’s career with the Coast Guard took us to many duty stations. We traveled to Massachusetts where our first two daughters were born. Then we moved back to Juneau for 4 years here, just long enough to welcome our son. Ted was then sent to school in San Diego for six months and the family was allowed to accompany him. While in San Diego, we welcomed a daughter to our family. From there, we drove across country back to Massachusetts for another tour of duty followed by a side trip to Hawaii for 4 ½ years. We also did a tour in New York on Governor’s Island, back to Massachusetts and then to Juneau for our final tour. All of these adventures made our marriage so interesting, fun and educational. As the children got older, it became evident that they may not have wanted to “move” again. We had to go and much of our time was spent absorbing the pain they felt as we tore them away from their friends. Those were sad times for them but we did our best to help them through the hurt and gain new friends as we moved from place to place. Often times we would hold family meetings that allowed each child to speak to the good of the order or tell all of us what was on their minds. We went from “why do we have to eat all this foreign food (we were living in Hawaii) and what happened to good old hot dogs and hamburgers” to “why can’t I go on the subway alone (we were in NY)”. All the problems were solved right then and there. We never made our decisions alone, we always talked the situation over together. This is what I believe to be a big undertaking within a marriage…always communicate with each other and be consistent in solving problems.
We love our children and found out quickly how much we had to work together to make things right for our family. We also found out that our love for each other had a special meaning when it came to making important decisions for our family. We raised our children to be good citizens, to help others, to take care of each other and to always stay together as a family. After all, God gave us these children and we still try to make better lives by always being there for them. We now have 9 grandchildren between the ages of 16-24. It is rewarding to us to see that they have their own families and that maybe we were good parents in raising our children as we watch them raise their families.
We finally retired in Juneau and decided to stay. Both of us are involved with the Cathedral’s different ministries and love what we do. You don’t have to be too old to hold hands when you go for a walk, take turns cooking, take turns using the vacuum, nurse each other back to health when there is sickness, take turns driving, do the grocery list and most of all love each other until death do us part.
Yes, we have been happily married for 55 years! We wouldn’t have it any other way. As we begin to age, we still have each other and how great is that!!