Ralph and Dorothy Kohler got married in Tekamah, Nebraska, in 1935. He was 18 years old, and she was 17. He is now 104 and she is 103. They’re still together and recently celebrated their 86th wedding anniversary on September 16 at their home in Indio, California.
That makes them America’s oldest living married couple.
They almost didn’t make it to the altar. Their first attempt to get hitched was unsuccessful, as a court official who believed they were too young, denied them a marriage license. They simply went elsewhere, exchanged vows, and the rest, as they say, is history.
How have they stayed together all these years?
“Togetherness,” Ralph told KESQ in Thousand Palms, California.
Ralph credits a willingness by each of them to compromise. For example, he loved clay target shooting, while she loved ballroom dancing. So, each took up the other’s hobby so they could participate together. That led to numerous awards for the couple from competitions all over the United States in both trapshooting as well as dancing.
Did they ever fight?
“A sharp word once in a while, maybe, but it didn’t last,” Ralph said.
The Kohlers were recognized by Congress in 2020 as America’s longest living married couple. Their family tree includes three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
The couple have been flooded with cards, gifts and well-wishes from their community.
The Kohlers don’t have long to go to break a Guinness world record for marriage longevity. Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher of New Bern, North Carolina, at the time of Herbert’s death in 2011, had been married for 86 years, 290 days.
The Bible speaks in several places as to what it takes for a successful marriage. Ephesians 5:22-33 (ESV) is worth quoting in this regard:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Ralph and Dorothy’s long-lasting love and successful 86 years together is proof that Scripture’s call to submission and respect in a marriage bears much fruit.
Photo: KESQ/The Kohlers