Many do not recognize the miracles in marriage until later years, Bishop Peter notes at annual Anniversary Mass. Daniel and Carmelyn Johnson, married 70 years, say faith, loyalty and humor all key to a happy marriage.
The following story appeared in the November 5 Idaho Catholic Register.
Daniel and Carmelyn Johnson, above, met at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise in the spring of 1951, at a Bingo night for the Cabrini Club, the Cathedral’s young adult group. They married after dating for six months. “I wouldn’t advise everybody to get married that quick, but it seems like it worked well for us,” Carmelyn said. (ICR photo/Emily Woodham)
By Emily Woodham
Daniel and Carmelyn Johnson met in the spring of 1951 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise. She was 20, and he was 27. After dating for only six months, they married on October 24, 1951, and have never regretted it.
“Faith, a sense of humor, and loyalty,” are the keys to a happy, long marriage, Carmelyn says. “Those seem like trite words, but they are important. And values. You need a good sense of values,” she added.
The two were to have been honored as the longest married couple – 70 years – at the recent Oct. 16 Anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Peter Christensen at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist for 32 couples who are observing milestone anniversaries.
However, Daniel became ill the day before the Mass and the two regret that they were not able to attend.
During his homily at the Mass, Bishop Peter preached about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Many at the wedding probably did not recognize the miracles that were part of the wedding: Jesus’ presence and his ability to take what was lacking and produce it in great quantity, just as His presence in our lives can be one that provides grace overflowing. Couples may not fully comprehend that Jesus is present at their wedding, as he was at Cana, and that he works miracles in their lives, the Bishop said, adding that Jesus was able to take what was lacking – good wine – and create it in more than generous amounts.
Couples who have been married longer begin to see the miracles of Jesus in their own lives, he said. “How many times when the joy of life seems to be running out, those times when you have called upon the Lord for help, does He turn that which was lacking into a powerful moment of grace where his gifts are made evident?”
“Jesus is willing to enter into the glorious and the ordinary moments of our lives, if invited,” the Bishop said. “Not all of his engagements are recognized at the time, but, in time, they are revealed.”
That has been true for Daniel and Carmelyn Johnson whose love has grown through often challenging times. Both say they got through difficult times by leaning on their faith and each other. They began their relationship as friends, and their friendship has continued to be close. “We love doing a lot of things together,” Daniel said.
Both Daniel and Carmelyn are cradle Catholics, with strong roots in the faith. Daniel was born in Nebraska. He was 12 when his family came to Idaho in 1936 during the Great Depression. He joined the Knights of Columbus when he was in high school in Emmett and has been a faithful member for so long that he no longer needs to pay dues.
After graduating, he joined the Army Air Force to serve during World War II. He was stationed in Colorado and Arizona as an aerial gunnery instructor for the B-17 bomber.
After his military service ended, he settled in Boise, to go into the grocery business with his older brother, when neighborhood grocers were still the norm. He opened the Hyde Park Market in the late 1940s. “Hyde Park was the end of the trolley line in Boise at the time,” Daniel said.
Carmelyn was born in Boise and baptized at the Cathedral, at the time the only parish in the city. Her mother was one of the first women to graduate from Stanford University in California, and she handed down her love of education to Carmelyn and her brothers. Carmelyn began her studies at the University of Idaho after graduating from St. Teresa’s School, the precursor to Bishop Kelly High School.
She took time off from her college studies to travel to Europe with her mother and brothers.
“My dad was a pharmacist and owned a drug store in Boise, so he couldn’t go with us,” she said. Her father had served in the Army as a medic on the battlefields in France during World War I, she said, which led to his interest in medicine and pharmacy.
After her travels, Carmelyn transferred to Boise State to finish her degree. When she met Daniel, she had started teaching 3rd grade at Lowell Elementary School in Boise.
The pair met at a Bingo game for the Cabrini Club, an organization for young adults at the Cathedral. The club had socials and did service projects together. “It was a wonderful group,” Daniel said. “Two ladies would play the piano sometimes, and we had a lot of fun dancing.”
They married at the Cathedral and took a week-long honeymoon to the Grand Canyon. Carmelyn taught for another year after their wedding, but then stopped when they started having children.
“It was a simpler time back then. It was just known that the man worked and provided for the family, and the women stayed home and took care of the children,” she said. “Women now seem to be able to do everything. They take care of their children and work.”
Daniel and Carmelyn had four children within six years. St. Mary’s Parish, founded in 1937 to accommodate the growth in Boise, became their parish home because the diocese made it mandatory for families to go to the church within their parish boundaries. All of their children went to St. Mary’s School and then to Bishop Kelly High School. Their youngest daughter was their only child who graduated from public high school.
“She was known as ‘one of the Johnsons,’ and she was tired of being known as the little sister. So we told her she could go to Capitol High School for her last two years,” Carmelyn said.
Over time, Daniel opened another grocery store on 3rd and Main in Boise. He eventually left the grocery business and became a regional salesman for a candy company. He then went into commercial real estate until he retired.
After their children were older, Carmelyn did some substitute teaching. She also volunteered at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
When they moved to north Boise, they helped with the start of St. Mark’s Parish. After another move, they became parishioners of Sacred Heart. Through all the years, they never gave up their faith.
All of their children went on to college. The Johnsons have seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, most of whom live in the Boise area.
In the midst of their family duties, the Johnsons made time to go out together and to spend time with friends. They enjoyed the movies and going to phil-harmonic performances. They belonged to a dinner club with friends. After Daniel retired, he joined Carmelyn in her bridge club. Playing bridge became one of their favorite pastimes.
“It was easier back then,” Carmelyn said. “It was simpler to get a job and own a business. People made do with only one car. They spent money with-in their means.”
The Johnsons noted that families are much busier today than they were 70 years ago, especially with more extracurricular activities for children. They also said that people were more willing to cooperate and get along with another in the past. They have noticed that more people are critical of others if they disagree in political or religious views, instead of looking for common ground and learning from one another.
Daniel and Carmelyn Johnson were married at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise on October 24, 1951. (Photo courtesy Daniel and Carmelyn Johnson)
The Johnsons emphasize that good marriages need faith, loyalty and a sense of humor.
“Some people complain about their spouses all the time, but I have no complaints,” Carmelyn said.
“I have one complaint,” Daniel said. “Those 70 years went by too fast.”
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