By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Ed and Gertrude Maxwell have achieved a feat few couples can claim today. They have been married for 73 years.
The couple met while they were both students at Central High School in the late 1930s.
“It was nice meeting him and getting to know his family,” Gertrude Maxwell said, recalling the long-ago encounter during an interview at her home near Shawnee Park.
The couple — who are parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church — celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary Sept. 19.
The Maxwells were one of 136 couples who renewed their vows at the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass Nov. 1 at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth Street.
The liturgy, which was celebrated by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, honored couples celebrating 30, 40, 50 and 60-plus years of marriage in 2015.
The Mass is sponsored by the archdiocese’s Family Ministries Office, one of the 100 or so services and agencies supported by the Catholic Services Appeal.
The Maxwells were married in 1942, and like many young married couples of the day they experienced the hardships brought about by World War II. Ed Maxwell joined an engineer general service regiment, an African American part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and served his country for three years.
Those were hard times, recalled Gertrude Maxwell, who worked for 15 years at Philip Morris. “You just have to hang in there — no matter what.”
And that outlook may be the secret to 73 years of happy marriage.
“Sometimes what he says you have to go along with. And, sometimes what I say he has to go along with,” she said with a chuckle.
Ed Maxwell, who retired from L&N Railroad following a 36 1/2 year career, agreed. He said that if he were to offer advice to other married couples he would say: “Be sincere.”
“Don’t take anything for granted. There is no secret. Just be honest,” he said.
The couple also agree their faith life is important. Ed Maxwell, 93, joined the Catholic Church shortly after he returned from service in World War II. Gertrude, 90, who was educated by the Sisters of Loretto at St. Monica School in Bardstown, Ky., continues to attend daily Mass at nearby Christ the King Church and only recently scaled back her activities at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“With God by my side, I can really know what to do no matter what,” she said.
Their common love of the Lord was something the Maxwells shared with their five children: Elizabeth Hockam (who is deceased); Sarah Ann, who is now Sister of the Blessed Sacrament Amedee Maxwell; Joyce Chenault; Edward Maxwell Jr. and Jacqueline Reed.
The couple led the St. Vincent de Paul outreach ministry at their parish for many years. Ed Maxwell is a Knight of St. Peter Claver and Gertrude Maxwell is a member of the ladies auxiliary. They have also been involved in bingo, served on the parish council and sung in the choir.
More importantly, the two serve as a witness to their faith and inspiration to other married couples, said Father John Judie, pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes.
“They have been members of the parish since its founding and they have been a very steady example and inspiration for the rest of the parish community,” he said. “They are both very well known to be prayerful people.”
Father Judie also spoke of their welcoming and hospitable natures. Each time he hosts priests from Africa as part of his Father John Judie Ministries, the Maxwells invite the visiting priest to dinner in their home.
“That’s just an automatic thing. They wouldn’t miss an opportunity to do that,” he said.
Sister Amedee Maxwell, who has been a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament for 52 years, said the faith of her parents “gave me great hope to turn to God in times of need.”
“They taught me to live in justice and righteousness and to have an open mind and an open heart to others.
“They never saw a difference in anyone. That really touched me. … They taught me to recognize God’s goodness in all people,” she said.
During his homily, Archbishop Kurtz referred to the second reading, which was from the first letter of John, noting that it says, “we should love one another and that God is love.”
“It is with real people that we show our love. You, in your married love, have been heroic witnesses,” he said to all of the couples celebrating anniversaries. “We need your example to shine forth even today for our church and our society.”