A strong Catholic faith life, the willingness to sacrifice for one another and hard work are among the secrets to a successful marriage, according to New Jersey’s longest married couple.
Giacomo and Antonia Di Rienzo, who will be married for 73 years as of June 12, were recognized as having the longest marriage in the state as part of a nationwide survey by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. The couple are longtime residents of Burlington, where they are also faithful parishioners of St. Katharine Drexel Parish.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Catholic program designed to enrich marriage by fostering communication between husbands and wives, conducted a search to find the longest married couple in each state. Upon receiving 312 nominations from all 50 states, Worldwide Marriage Encounter announced the winning couples in a Feb. 7 press release.
“Worldwide Marriage Encounter undertook the project to highlight marriage in America and to show young couples that marriage really can go the distance,” the release stated.
The Di Rienzos first met at a dance hall in 1934 when Giacomo asked a friend, “Who is the girl over there sitting on the platform boxes?”
Their first dance led to a four-year courtship, and the couple was married on June 12, 1938. Ten years later they bought a house in Burlington, which they have called home ever since.
Though Giacomo will celebrate his 97th birthday this year while Antonia celebrates her 94th, the couple still remains quite active. Having met at a dance, they still go dancing twice a month, attend daily Mass as often as possible and Antonia participates in weekly Rosary prayer groups.
When asked how they managed a successful marriage for so long, Giacomo replied, “You have ups and downs, good days and bad days. Days I say it’s black and she says it’s white but you have to be compatible.”
“Compromise and sacrifice” are also key, Antonia added.
The Di Rienzos were also blessed in their marriage with four children; Mary Gloria, Jacqueline Murphy, Nicholas and James. Mary Gloria was killed in an automobile accident in 1998, while Jacqueline Murphy and Nicholas still reside in Burlington and James lives in Oregon. The couple also have seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Mary Filipponi, Antonia’s sister, noted that faith is an important part of the Di Rienzos’ long-lasting marriage.
“Religion holds our family together,” she said. “Our religion is based on the Ten Commandments. If you fulfill the Ten Commandments, you’ll have a good life.”
Over the years Giacomo and Antonia have tried to do just that. The couple has been involved in many different organizations within their Church. Giacomo was grand knight of the Knights of Columbus and a member for more than 31 years while Antonia was a member of the Altar Rosary Society, just to name two examples.
Giacomo served in World War II and both of his sons served in the Vietnam War. He is very proud of his family’s service to God and country.
On a national scale, only 11 states were found by Worldwide Marriage Encounter to have couples married longer than the Di Rienzos. The honors for longest marriage in the county went to Marshall and Winnie Kuykendall of Lordsburg, N.M., who marked their astounding 82nd anniversary on Feb. 14. Three states also boasted couples whose marriages totaled 80 years and counting.