CALEDONIA — If experience is at all helpful in marriage, Willis Heimerl and Donna Barnes are off to a good start. How about a combined century of successful marital history?
The bride and groom took their vows Saturday at St. Monica’s Senior Living, 3920 N. Green Bay Road. That’s where the couple, both 84, live, met and start their second marriages together.
Heimerl was a dairy farmer near Yorkville Elementary School and was married to his late wife, who died in 2009, “48 years and seven months.”
He insisted, “We never had a fight in 48 years and seven months.”
Barnes was married even longer: 55 years, bringing the new couple’s combined marital past to 103 years.
Here’s how they met, according to Heimerl, who explains his last name is pronounced, “Hi, Merl.”
“She was teaching me how to play Wii bowling. And I found out she had a farm background.”
Heimerl, who does more of the talking, said, “I was looking for somebody compatible. ... I looked at a lot of other girls, too.”
His “proposal” was nothing if not practical: “I says, ‘It sure costs a lot of money to live here. Why don’t we rent a place with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and live together?’ ”
“That’s how he proposed?” a visitor asked Barnes.
“I just took it for granted,” she replied with a grin, then added, “Yeah, I made him (propose).”
On Saturday, just before the wedding, Barnes waited, attired in a royal blue dress and light-blue wrist corsage. When it came time to walk to the altar, her sons John and Frank each took one of her arms and walked her there, leaving her walker behind.
Both Donna’s and Heimerl’s children were a little defensive of the memories of their departed parents and a little reluctant at first to bless this union.
“At first we all had mixed emotions,” John Barnes of Rochester said. “Dad passed away about 12 years ago.
“But, seeing how happy she and Willis were, we’re all for it; we all think it’s great.”
Heimerl said his two children, both daughters, were also a little resistant at first. But Saturday, his daughter Sharon Fleiss of Burlington said, “He has been extremely lonely ... and this has made him very happy.”