Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 14, 2000
Still happy after 73 years
Leduc's Bendoritises are longest-married couple in archdiocese
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
It was for better or for worse.
An immigrant from Lithuania, he made a new life for his family in the barren farmlands of Alberta. He worked for $5 a week on other people's farms so he could buy a farm of his own.
In sickness and in health.
She had a stroke a decade ago and lived at home where he cared for her, bathing, feeding, cleaning. When she moved into a nursing home three years ago, he would walk the mile or get a ride to visit her everyday.
"In my time when you get married, you never think about divorce," said Joseph Bendoritis, 96.
Bendoritis and his wife Annie, 97, were married Nov. 17, 1926 and are in their 74th year of marriage. They are the winners of Worldwide Marriage Encounter's search for the longest-married couple in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Their names were submitted by Mary Litwin of St. Michael's Parish. The Bendoritises will be acknowledged as part of World Marriage Day Feb. 13.
Their marriage, raising their six children, the hard work in those first years in Canada, the ups and downs of life, are all taken in stride.
Long before the bestselling book came out, the Bendoritises lived a life of not sweating the small stuff. Joseph accepted the hard times with the simple view, "That's the way it is."
"You have a simple life, you work hard and you don't think too much," he said.
The Bendoritises know there are not many years ahead for them. "That's the way it is," Joseph said. "You can't stop it. You have to grow old."
They had little money when they came to Canada. "I worked and slowly I bought land and another piece of land."
Eventually those small purchases of land turned into a farm in Glen Park, which is now run by his son Gus. The farm hosts an annual family gathering that includes 17 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren, with another on the way.
The acceptance of what cannot be changed has kept the Bendoritises happy and together all these years.
"There's nothing to be sad about," Joseph said. "What is there to be sad about it? Why do you want to be sad? What can you do about it if you're sad?"
"Yes, we argued a lot, but that's the way it is," he continued. "You argue and then you finish."
Daughter Leona Fix added, "They argued, but they knew how to argue. They knew when to stop."
The Bendoritises are known at their parish, St. Michael's, as the friendly smiling couple who sit in the front pew.
"They're so down to earth," Litwin said. "They always seem like such a cheerful couple."
Long marriages are becoming the trend in the Bendoritis family. Eldest daughter Angela Pearson has been married for 50 years. Her younger siblings have been married almost 40 years.
"It's making everything in life simple," Pearson said of what makes a lasting marriage.
"It's about communication and trusting in God," said Fix.
Joseph and Annie's strong faith has been key in their marriage.
During their days as young farmers, the couple and their children walked four miles to Sunday Mass. Joseph laughs at how many families with two cars find it difficult making it to church on Sundays.
Even after his wife had her stroke and her speech was slurred, he sat with her and prayed the rosary, something he still does everyday.
"We believe in God," he said. "That's the most important thing in our lives."
There was no romance or love at first sight when Joseph Bendoritis first laid eyes on his future bride. He was out with his sister watching cattle in a pasture when he saw Annie Rodzevicius.
"He said he liked the way she herded the cows," said Fix.
"You know how it is when you're young," laughed Joseph. "There's nothing at first, but we get to know each other and then we thought it was a good thing to do to get married."
With the threat of war in Lithuania, Joseph came to Canada leaving behind his daughter and pregnant wife. He worked on farms and on the railroad before sending for his family two years later.
The winters were harsh and so was life. Money was scarce and the family had to work hard to learn the language and adapt to their new home. But there were always plenty of vegetables on the table courtesy of the garden tended by Annie Bendoritis. She continued her gardening until the time of her stroke.
"Mom kept him healthy with all the vegetables from the garden," Fix said. "Dad always likes to eat pie, but mom always had vegetables for him."
A lasting marriage like the Bendoritises' is an indication of dedication and commitment, said Eileen Hoven, a Marriage Encounter representative who initiated the search for the longest married couple.
"It's nice for us to start recognizing people like (the Bendoritises) who have long marriages," she said. "I believe that those of us who are married have to start telling people of the vocation of marriage. That's what God wants. God wants us to be happily married."