Their eyes met, yet no words were necessary.
Roy Kliebert looks lovingly at his wife Marie outside of the home where they’ve lived for 59 years. The couple has been married 65 years and will be honored at the Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass and celebration at St. George Church in Baton Rouge on Feb. 10. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator
Not after 65 years of marriage, not after raising five children, not after helping one of their children successfully fight the disease of addiction and certainly not after successfully answering every challenge that could potentially derail a relationship.
They already knew what the other was thinking, what was in their hearts.
“I love this woman more every day; I’ve never loved her more than I do today,” Roy Kliebert said, emotion pouring through his every word, a glint of a tear trying to form in his 87-year-old eyes.
Roy and Marie Kliebert, longtime parishioners at St. Joseph Church in Paulina, are one of several couples scheduled to be honored during the annual 25th, 50th, 65th and over Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass and celebration hosted by the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the Diocese of Baton Rouge on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. at St. George Church in Baton Rouge.
As is often the case, at least in an era before online dating sites dictated one’s social life, the Klieberts met through a mutual friend. For Roy, the seeds of love were planted almost immediately and nurtured for the next year.
The couple met in 1951 when Roy, a Korean War veteran, was home on leave. On a Saturday night, several of his friends were going to a restaurant/dance hall in Metairie, and Roy, admittedly, “couldn’t find a date. All of the girls I knew either had been married or were spoken for.”
So he turned to a friend, who said he “knew a girl” that might be interested. Little did anyone know the introduction would last a lifetime.
Roy was smitten and immediately asked Marie to a movie the following night. It was while the couple was watching “Moulin Rouge” at a theatre in Reserve that Roy told himself, “I’m going to marry this lady.”
“I felt the love, I felt the power of love,” Roy recalled with a smile, those memories seemingly as fresh as they were 66 years ago.
Later that night he even went home and told his mother he found the “girl I’m gong to marry.”
By Christmas, Roy had given Marie a cedar chest, which in those times was tantamount to announcing one’s engagement. In April, Roy asked Marie’s father, a staunch Catholic who made annual retreats to Manresa Retreat House in nearby Convent, for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
“He said fine but first I had to make a retreat to Manresa,” said Roy, who by his own admission, was not particularly religious as a young man.
On Aug. 1, 1945, the couple was married, one year after dancing the night away on their first date.
The couple would have five children – three sons and twin daughters – which Marie calls her “full house. Three kings and two queens.” Life was not always easy, especially as Roy commuted to New Orleans to manage rental property for his uncle’s real estate firm. And he would later open a drive-in restaurant that he would keep for 13 years before selling it to his daughter.
Perhaps the most challenging time of their marriage came during the teen years of their children, which included a son struggling with drug addiction. Those lessons learned guided Marie and Roy to founding the first Al-Anon group in Lutcher and they remained active for several years assisting and even counseling other families facing similar circumstances.
“Yes, it was tough times, but we drew closer and closer in our relationship,” Marie said, adding that in 1979 the couple began attending daily Mass at St. Joseph, a practice they continue today. “We needed to be together.
“I think in our religion we began to understand the power of a higher power, as we call it in Al-Anon.”
Marie and Roy have been active at St. Joseph throughout their marriage. Roy has served a combined 40 years on the parish council and is still a member.
Marie was the first woman to be elected as chairperson during her time on the council. They were also involved in other ministries, including Roy teaching high school religion classes at his home.
He also started a Men in the Sacred Heart group at St. Joseph and is a Fourth Knight in the Knights of Columbus.
During the past several years, Roy has endured several health setbacks, but even then their love has strengthened. While in the hospital, including a recent stay, Marie stayed by her husband’s side, not even leaving at night.
“My life was my family, my home, my husband,” she said. “I always knew my vocation was family.”
So what is the secret to nurturing and maintaining a strong marriage, especially during difficulties most couples never endure? They both agree couples must present a unified front, especially involving parental issues.
Spending as much time as possible as a family is also important. The Kliebert family always ate breakfast and dinner together during the week, and that included lunch on the weekends. </span id=”26″>
And no TV or phone calls were allowed during that family time.
Most important, they agreed, is God has to be at the center of the family.
“I think for me as a lady, Mary played a big, important role in my life,” Marie said.” I know what a broken heart is; I know what Mary went through. She was a big factor for me when I was really crying for help.”
“Without God, we would not have survived,” Roy said.