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MARRIAGE : Renewing Vows : Couples, some married more than 50 years, renew wedding vows in ceremonies in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

February 14, 1991|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

1939: When Rita and Lee Berry were married, the popular song was "Moonlight Serenade." Folks marveled at fluorescent lights and laughed at the marital problems of radio's Blondie and Dagwood. Back then, Franklin Roosevelt was President. Gasoline cost 19 cents a gallon, and Batman and Robin--the comic strip--made its debut.

1964: Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton--the first time. The Beatles appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show," and Lee and Rita's children were dancing the Watusi and Frug.

Society had changed, but Lee and Rita's commitment remained constant. On their 25th anniversary they renewed their wedding vows in a private church ceremony with their minister.

1989: Lee and Rita's children gave them a 50th anniversary party. Dick Clark retired as host of American Bandstand. Yogi Berra retired from baseball, and Batman--the movie--debuted.

Most things change. But one thing--make that two things--seem to be forever: Batman and the Berrys' devotion to one another.

As with many older couples, the Berry's have periodically repeated their wedding vows to honor and renew their relationship.

Last August the Ventura couple were one of 16 couples who participated in the annual Blessing of the Marriage Ceremony sponsored by the Ventura Parks and Recreation Department at the Ventura County Fair.

Last month Rita, 70, and her husband, 75, celebrated their 52nd anniversary. "It was a Friday the 13th, same as our wedding day," Rita said. "Back then my mother had a fit. She said, 'You'll either have very good luck or very bad luck,' " Rita said.

After three sons, eight grandchildren and a third great-grandchild on the way, they feel safe in saying they had good luck and a very good marriage.

They say "give and take" is the secret, and both said, "You have to be friends before you're lovers."

Whether you choose your anniversary, a congregate religious service for Valentine's Day, or another occasion, vow renewal is an important example for your grown children.

Stephanie Goldie of Oxnard and her three siblings honored their parents with a 50th wedding ceremony in Westlake two months ago. The four grandchildren, ages 11 to 16, held the canopy for Martin and GiGi Brown while Rabbi Gary Johnson officiated.

Goldie's sister, Pat Schutzer, said the experience was profoundly meaningful for her. "As an adult child, I feel so fortunate to have my parents, and for my children to see such stability and love."

According to Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, "to grow old in married love is a blessing." These words were spoken Saturday at one of three World Marriage Day vow renewal masses that were held last Friday to Sunday in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

During his bilingual homily at St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church in Thousand Oaks, Ziemann thanked the proud couples married more than 50 years for their example of "faithfulness, commitment, and love." But, he added, "fidelity is more than just living together in monogamy as friends." Ziemann stressed self-disclosure, communication and compromise.

"We make a statement to our culture by nurturing a loving marriage," Ziemann said. "The renewal ceremony is encouraging to younger couples. It's a lovely, hopeful celebration that shows sustaining a good marriage can be done."

RENEWAL RITES

* Couples married 40 years or longer can repeat their vows in August at the eighth annual Blessing of Marriage ceremony at the Ventura County Fair. A minister, certificate, cake, flowers and a photograph will be provided. Family members are welcome. To register call (805) 648-2829.

* Every year before Valentines's Day, the Santa Barbara Regional Office of the Pastoral Region invites couples from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties who have been married 25 years or longer to repeat their wedding vows during a special mass. A reception follows. For details call (805) 682-0442.

* World Wide Encounter sponsors 44-hour Marriage Encounter weekend meetings as a communication tool to enrich healthy marriages. This is not public sharing or counseling and couples will spend most of the weekend privately. Groups are available in different faith expressions. For referrals in Ventura County call (805) 486-3668.

* It's not too late to surprise your sweetheart with a singing Valentine today. The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America is accepting orders all day to perform in the Oxnard, Ventura, Camarillo and Ojai areas. A quartet will deliver a card, give a fresh flower to your belle or beau, and sing three songs. Cost: $30. Call (805) 659-4048.

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