A Meadville couple has been named the 2018 Missouri winner in Longest Married Couple Project, sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Lenos and Wilma Meneely have been married for 73 years, having exchanged vows on Dec. 25, 1944.

A Meadville couple has been named the 2018 Missouri winner in Longest Married Couple Project, sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Lenos and Wilma Meneely have been married for 73 years, having exchanged vows on Dec. 25, 1944. Organization representatives visited the couple last weekend to present them with a certificate. Worldwide Marriage Encounter is a faith-based marriage enrichment program. Couples are nominated for the award by family members or friends. Rebecca Meneely nominated her parents. Of all the Missouri couples whose names were submitted in the contest, the Meneelys had been married the longest. The 2018 longest married couple in the United States, based on the nominations submitted, is Mota and Avanelle Young from Bowling Green, Ky. They have been married for more than 81 years. The Meneelys were married in 1944 during World War II. Lenos grew up south of Meadville and Wilma grew up south of Wheeling; and they were both active church goers. The Meadville church and Wheeling church shared a preacher so they would often host parties together, which is where Lenos and Wilma met. “I went to the parties because I always wanted to see her,” Lenos stated in a Constitution-Tribune article published three years ago. However, Wilma was taken by Lenos's friend, Max, at the time. According to Lenos, when he and his friends wanted to start dating Wheeling girls, Max told him he wanted to date "the prettiest girl in Wheeling." "That's why he started dating Wilma," Lenos said. However, Lenos eventually got his chance. Wilma said one Sunday night she saw Lenos at church. Wilma's cousin told her she thought Lenos wanted to ask her out, but to Wilma's surprise, he left that night without doing so. However, the following Saturday, Wilma was surprised by a phone call from Lenos in which he asked her on a date. He asked her to go to church and a movie with him the next day. Lenos was 20 and Wilma was 18 at the time. "She wasn't sure about me at first but I was pretty persuasive," Lenos said. Wilma said, "I remember he was nice looking and a nice boy. I think we just kind of always thought we would get married after we started dating." Lenos said he knew he wanted to marry Wilma because "She wasn't just lovely and beautiful, she was talented too... I thought we must have been created for each other." Lenos and Wilma were married in Wilma's parents' home Christmas afternoon. Lenos wanted his younger brother, Howard, to stand up with him at his wedding. However, Howard was leaving for the military Christmas night so in order for Howard to be a part of the wedding, they had to wed on Christmas Day. Wilma said it was a small wedding with only immediate family in attendance. "After the wedding my mother cooked a nice dinner for everyone," she said. Wilma's parents are the late Buel and Edna Littrell and Lenos's parents are the late George and Bess Meneely. At the time they married, Wilma was working in Kansas City as a secretary for Trans World Airlines and Lenos was a farmer. When the Meneelys moved into their first home together they had no electricity, running water or bathroom which Wilma was not used to. "There were no electric lines where we lived... but all that was fixed in about three years," Lenos said. Wilma recalls having to use kerosene lamps for light in the evening. "It was an adjustment," she said. The Meneelys have lived on the same farmland throughout their marriage. Wilma said they have always worked hard on their farm, sometimes working 18 hour days in the heat of the summer. Wilma also recalls farming being done with horses for the first couple years of their marriage. The Meneelys have four children together: Sharon, Rebecca, Randy, and Wiley. Wilma's advice to a long, happy marriage is to "Keep loving each other. If troubles arrive, you just have to forgive." "If we had problems, we solved them. We didn't run away from them," Lenos added.