Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), the original faith based marriage enrichment program in the United States, announced today the national winners of the 2013 Longest Married Couple Project are John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, CT.  They have been married 80 years as of Nov. 25, 2012.

Hundreds of nominations were received for this year’s project. The winners from individual states will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

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“It is truly an honor and a privilege to recognize John and Ann Betar for their commitment to marriage,” said Ron and Judy Pekny, the United States Ecclesial Team for WWME. “We are looking forward to personally recognizing them on Feb. 9th in their hometown of Fairfield,” they added. The Peknys serve with Fr. Rocky Grimard, as the U.S. leadership for the marriage enrichment movement.  Fr. Grimard will also be at the presentation.

The Betars were married Nov. 25, 1932. They lived across the street from each other and John used to drive Ann to school in his Ford Roadster.  Ann was supposed to marry someone else in a marriage pre-arranged by her father, but the two eloped and went off to Harrison, NY to get married.  John has been quoted as saying, “some people said it would never last.  We showed them.”

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The Connecticut couple achieved the honor of being the Longest Married Couple based on nominations submitted to Worldwide Marriage Encounter beginning in October of last year.  The nomination project ended on January 10th.

The Peknys pointed out that the project is based on nominations received from October 15th the previous year to January 10th of the current year.  “We realize there could be couples married longer, but we did not receive their nominations from friends or family during the nominating period,” they said.

Worldwide Marriage Encounter created the project to highlight marriage in America and to show young couples that marriage really can go the distance. “What an inspiration Mr. & Mrs. Betar are to all of us. They made a commitment to each other 80 plus years ago and they have kept that commitment over these many years. They truly are a sign of hope to us all,” the Peknys said.

The national winners have five children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. The presentation of gifts and acknowledgments to the Betars will be made on Feb. 9th at their granddaughter’s home in Fairfield.

State winners from across the country will be presented certificates of achievement and other recognitions by Worldwide Marriage Encounter couples during Valentine’s week.

Worldwide Marriage Encounter has been offering weekend experiences for over 44 years and is considered the original faith-based marriage enrichment program. The programs are continually updated to keep abreast of changes in society, and WWME now offers evening and half-day programs that are presented at parishes and other church facilities. The weekend program, traditionally presented as an overnight experience at a hotel or retreat center, can also be presented at facilities where the couples return to their homes in the evenings. WWME has a presence in almost 100 countries, which makes it the largest pro-marriage movement in the world. In North America, the WWME programs are presented in English, Spanish, French, and Korean languages.