Marriage of Ligonier Township couple called longest in Pennsylvania
Alton and Elsie Lehman's entwined hands spoke louder than words as they smiled for photos at a surprise party where a faith-based organization named them the Pennsylvania winners of its “longest-married couple” competition.
The Lehmans celebrated 76 years as husband and wife on Sept. 8.
“We hold each other's hands so we don't get in trouble,” Alton, 99, said of himself and his 94-year-old wife.
Worldwide Marriage Encounters representatives Dick and Diane Baumbach said this was their group's fourth year of seeking nominations for the award, which recognizes couples across the nation.
“We got hundreds of nominations,” said Dick Baumbach. Nearly a dozen came from Pennsylvania.
They noted that the project is based only on submissions, and that individual states may have couples who have been married longer but were not nominated.
On Wednesday, the Lehmans took in stride the applause, the camera flashes, the roses, the Valentine's Day chocolates and balloons.
Rick and Evie West, regional representatives of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, presented the couple with a certificate.
“You indeed are a rock for your family and your entire community,” said Rick West.
The Lehmans, former Johnstown-area residents, share a room at the Bethlen Home in Ligonier Township.
Framed photos and collages tell their love story through birthday parties, holidays and reunions of their ever-expanding family.
Children Karen Lehman, Kathy Trabert, Judy McClurkin, Jess Lehman and Mark Lehman attended the party. The couple's sixth child, David Lehman, is deceased.
It took a few siblings ticking names off on their fingers to count the branches of their family tree: 20 grandchildren; 45 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild, with two on the way.
Alton held a black-and-white photo of the couple's 1937 wedding and recalled the first time he saw the former Elsie Costlow.
“Her family moved in across the street. I mowed the grass and caught a glimpse of her,” he said.
Asked the couple's secret to a long and happy marriage, Alton smiled at his wife. “Just be true to each other,” he said.
“They are amazing parents. They brought us up with strong values, taught us right from wrong. They gave us a strong work ethic,” said daughter Judy McClurkin.
Their parents also stressed service to others, and shared their strong Catholic faith with their children.
McClurkin said her father drew cartoons of his children when they were young.
“He would zero in on our personalities so perfectly,” she said.
Elsie has a “touch” of dementia, McClurkin said, but she lights up when babies come to visit.
Her mother still has a sweet tooth.
“I asked her recently if she was hungry for anything. Mom smiled and said, so cute, ‘lemon meringue pie.' So we had a lemon meringue pie party,” McClurkin said.
For their 50th anniversary, Karen Lehman wrote of her parents' “wonderful role models of fidelity and love.”
She recalled fishing trips, where sometimes the best catch was “words of advice and care” and “being together to share all our important life moments.”
Michelle Parrish nominated her grandparents for the Longest Married Couple Project.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Prison becomes detox center for growing number of inmates with addictions
- Westmoreland County Fair doubles as meet-and-greet for candidates
- Children honor late Ligonier Township officer at Westmoreland Fair
- Man gets probation for sex with teen girl in New Kensington
- Prison sentence extended for New Kensington man
- Excela Health has plan in works for orthopedic medical mall in Hempfield
- Confederate memorabilia gets favorable attention at Westmoreland Fair
- Mt. Pleasant Area board votes to establish $3.5M line of credit
- ‘Perfect’ skies draw big crowds to Westmoreland Fair