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Couple celebrate 76 years of marriage, approach world record

Camille Doty

By Camille Doty
Nov. 20, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.

Alvin Koenning, left, talks to his wife, Nola, about what they had for breakfast after waking up from an afternoon nap in their room at Twin Pines Nursing Home Saturday, Nov. 19. The Koenning's have lived at Twin Pines Nursing Home for five years and will be celebrating their 76 wedding anniversary Nov. 26.

Alvin Koenning was born months after the Titanic sank.

His wife, Nola (Mutschler) Koenning, came to this world the same year Ford's one millionth car rolled off the assembly line.

This doting couple have made history in their own right, as they approach their 76th wedding anniversary on Saturday. The Guinness Book of Records lists a North Carolina couple as having the world's current longest marriage - 86 years.

The hands on the clock may have changed, but the adoration the Koennings have for each other is timeless. When asked what they love most about the other, both said, "Everything."

Mrs. Koenning suffers from macular degeneration, a chronic eye disease that causes vision loss. Her husband has lost most of his hearing. That doesn't stop them from sharing precious moments. Mr. Koenning reads the paper to his wife every day.

For the past five years, they have shared a room at Twin Pines Nursing and Rehab in Victoria. Both wanted to maintain their independence as long as they could.

The 99-year-old veteran tells clever jokes, and his spouse, three years his junior, has equally witty responses.

Years ago, Mr. Koenning set his eyes on his future wife at a dance.

"She was crazy about me," he said with laughter.

"He was the oldest person there," his wife responded.

On their wedding day, they had $50 between them. The bride made her own dress, and the groom rented a suit from a local tailor. They were married at St. John's Lutheran Church in Westhoff, where they are still members to this day.

Three quarters of a century later, they've acquired personal and professional success. He owned Koenning Bros. Feed Store and raised cattle for many years. His wife was a homemaker in Westhoff.

They have one son, Darwin Koenning, and one daughter, Shirlene K. Crawford, four grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one step-great-grandchild.

This family has kept memorabilia and photos of the German-American couple. Mrs. Koenning still has a part of her wedding dress. Their children had a block of wood engraved from their honeymoon suite, the home of the groom.

The couple had oceans between them during Mr. Koenning's time of service in World War II. He was stationed in the Philippines and Japan between 1942 and 1945. During his stint, he earned $45 a month.

"It was hell," he said. It was tough for him navigating through the trenches because his enemies could be secretly looming.

Meanwhile, his hometown sweetheart would write him letters, which he still has. She took a train from San Antonio to California, while her husband was on leave just to see him. Mrs. Koenning landed a job sorting vegetables on her visit.

Mr. Koenning was active in the American Legion for many years, and his supportive wife was a part of the American Legion Auxiliary.

Crawford described her parents as faithful and supportive. She said her mother kept the house tidy and her family's bellies full. Some of Crawford's favorite dishes were roast and cowboy stew.

Mrs. Koenning passed on these skills to her only daughter.

"She taught me everything I needed to know to take care of myself," Crawford said.

Fifty-seven-year-old Crawford said she has fond memories of her family at the beach and visits from Santa Claus outside their window. During the holidays, there would be a silver illuminating tree that changed colors.

"That was the style back then," she said with a smile.

Crawford also said her parents were loving, fair and frugal. Her father saved money and bought all his cars in cash.

Once the Koenning children became of age, they had to live on their own. Their parents were from the school of tough love, even after they made mistakes.

"You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learn from it," they said.

Darwin Koenning said his parents taught him the importance of honesty.

"You had to tell them the truth, whether it worked in your favor or not," he said.

Although the Koennings didn't have a high school education, they stressed its value to their offspring.

Both children graduated from Cuero High School and went on to have successful careers. Crawford is a learning facilitator with Victoria Independent School District. Her brother retired from DuPont as an instrument and electrical supervisor, after 42 1/2 years.

The 63-year-old Koenning said he also learned the value of matrimony from his parents. He's been married for 45 years.

"Marriage is about give and take," he said. "You're not always right."

Mr. and Mrs. Koenning, affectionately called "Momo" and "Popo" by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, celebrate every anniversary with cake. They both like sweets.

Their family had celebrations for their golden and diamond anniversaries. In one photo, they locked arms during the toast, as if they were newlyweds.



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