7 siblings celebrate lasting marriages

Ernie and Barbara Bramer were one of 112 couples who renewed their wedding vows during the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville Oct. 23. The couple recently celebrated 60 years of marriage. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Ernie and Barbara Bramer were one of 112 couples who renewed their wedding vows during the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville Oct. 23. The couple recently celebrated 60 years of marriage. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Add up the number of years that Ernie Bramer and his six siblings have been married and you get a staggering 369 years. The seven brothers and sisters credit their mother’s example, their faith and a lot of perseverance for their successful and long marriages.

Bramer, 80, and his wife Barbara, 79, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary June 16. They were among 112 couples who renewed their marriage vows at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual Wedding Anniversary Mass Oct. 23 at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth Street.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz celebrated the liturgy, which honored couples celebrating 30, 40, 50 and 60-plus years of marriage in 2016. Archbishop Kurtz began his homily by reading the first sentence of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia: The Joy of Love.”

“ ‘The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the church,’ ” he read.

He went on to tell the couples, “The joy you experience every day of your married life is the joy of Jesus Christ, ‘the joy of the church.’ ” He thanked the long-married couples for offering their “witness” of “fidelity.”

“God’s grace,” he said, has helped them remain faithful through the “ups and downs” of marriage.

Bramer and his brother and five sisters seem to agree that the “ups and downs” of a marriage can be overcome with the right amount of love, communication, trust, respect and faith.

Bramer and his wife, Barbara, who are members of St. Aloysius Church in Shepherdsville, Ky., joked that they “had to love” each other, because they made a living at the printing shop they owned and were always together.

Barbara Bramer said she remembers hearing years ago that when something breaks it should be fixed, not thrown away.

“It’s the same with marriage,” she said during an interview after the Mass. “When something breaks in a marriage you try to fix it.”

Carolyn Painter, who is Ernie Bramer’s younger sister, agrees that a willingness to do some work was key to making her 52-year marriage last. Besides having love and respect for each other, she and her husband Jim Painter are always willing to “talk out” their “differences,” she said.

Painter, who also attends St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville, said their Catholic faith, was also key to the health and success of her marriage.

Sherry Bramer — who has been married to Ernie Bramer’s brother Robert for 57 years — agrees.

“If we didn’t have our faith we wouldn’t have anything,” she said. “When things get bad that’s all you have to hold on to.”

Over the years Sherry and Robert Bramer held steadfast to that faith which, they said, has seen them through everything, including the deaths of two of their children. St. Athanasius Church, where they’ve belonged for 55 years, has been a big part of their lives, said Sherry Bramer. Over the years they’ve donated their time to serve the parish in anyway they could, she said.

Linda Connolly, a Bramer sister who lives in Kansas, said she agreed that faith has played “immensely” into the success of her 50-year long marriage to her husband Edward. Eighteen months after they were married and when their first child was three months old, her husband went off to serve in Vietnam. During that time, there was “a lot of dependence on the Lord,” she said. “He’s a third partner in our marriage.”

Shirley Hanna, who is the eldest of the Bramer siblings, said her husband Richard served in the Vietnam war, as well. Her husband spent 38 years in the military.

“We were separated many times,” she said. Many factors, including “perseverance, dedication and love” played a role in keeping her 64-year marriage together, she said. Having her husband go off to war put things into perspective for them, she said. “We knew what we wanted. We had our differences, but were always determined to solve them.” The couple are members of St. Athanasius Church.

Like her other siblings, Rita Denhard, too, has lived through much in her 51-year marriage. Her husband Jim Denhard said it’s their ability to “cry together and laugh together” that has kept them going strong even after the death of their 35-year-old son in 2004.

“Through hardships we draw our strength from each other,” he said.

Over the years their love has only grown stronger, Denhard said, noting, “After 55 years we still hold hands. We’re pretty close.”

The siblings agree that their mother’s example of devotion to her Catholic faith and to her family laid the foundation for their success as married people.

Their mother, Georgia Bramer, became a widow in 1949, when their father Ernest died of a heart attack at age 36. At the time, the seven children ranged in age from 13-years-old to six months.

“She had such strength,” said Connolly, recalling how she used to help her mother iron clothes to make a living. “She was a role model.”

Connolly said she believes that learning to work together with her family to overcome their circumstances “laid the foundation for our marriage. I have no doubt about that.”

Angela Yount, who was an infant when her father died, also credits their mother for the success of her 36-year marriage to her husband Bill.

“My faith, communication and a determination to work things out” contributed to the longevity of her marriage, said Yount.

All those factors were important ones growing up, she said. Yount said her mother never got a driver’s license, so they walked to her jobs, cleaning houses and doing laundry.

She recalls her mother praying the rosary nightly, the family walking to St. Rita Church to attend Mass and visiting their father’s grave in St. Michael Cemetery. Their mother’s outlook on life “affected the way you look at life and how you live your life,” said Yount.

Though she attends Mass regularly at St. Athanasius with her siblings, she said she’s still a member of St. Rita Church, where she has so many memories of her family.

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