Three Sussex generations renew marriage vows

It’s a three-generation cake-cutting ceremony for, from left, Millsboro-area residents John and Lou Ann Rieley (celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary), Edward and Lousie Dorey (70 years) and Stephen and Megan Stearn (10 years). (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

MILLSBORO – Louise and Edward Dorey didn’t have a reception on their wedding day.

That was 70 years ago.

On Sunday, Sept. 29, they got that reception as the elder third of a three-generation wedding anniversary/vow renewal celebration with their adopted daughter and her husband, John and Lou Ann Rieley, and Mr. and Ms. Rieley’s daughter and her husband, Megan and Stephen Stearn.

Combined, the three couples represent 120 years of marriage and love.

Interestingly, their vows were made 30 years apart:

• Mr. and Mrs. Stearn, Aug. 1, 2009 at her parents’ farm home in Millsboro;

• Mr. and Mrs. Rieley, Sept. 29, 1979 in the Zoar Church yard; and

• Mr. and Mrs. Dorey, Sept. 19, 1949 in Pittsville, Maryland.

Family — ranging from children, grandchildren to great-grandchildren — and friends were part of the festive celebration at the Millsboro Fire Hall.

Celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, John and LouA nn Rieley look on as Ms. Rieley’s parents, Edward and Louise Dorey swap cake in obserance of their 70th anniversary. The celebration Sunday, Sept. 29 also featured the 10-year anniversary of Mr. amd Ms. Rieley’s daughter, Megan and her husband Stephen Stearn.

Cliff McCall, who is married to Mr. and Ms. Rieley’s daughter Erin, summed it all up.

“Seventy years, 40 years, 10 years … under one roof today,” he said. “That’s amazing.”

Mr. and Ms. Dorey were 19 and 18, respectively, when they exchanged wedding vows. They have one other adopted child, 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. They have lived on the family property on Gravel Hill Road for nearly seven decades.

“Seventy years, it feels like we’ve been together a long time — and we thank you,” said Mr. Dorey. “We’ve been at the same place for 69 years.”

“You are all special in our lives, all these 70 years,” said Ms. Dorey, who pointed out that her maid of honor for the 1949 ceremony was part of the Sept. 29 celebration. “You are all special in your individual ways.”

“Mom-Mom, thank you for being a friend, through good times and bad,” said Ms. Stearn. “Thank you for always giving me wisdom even if I didn’t want to hear it. Pop-Pop, thank you for always willing to teach us and being there for us. Mom and Dad … thank you for teaching us to love, and love with your whole heart.”

Mr. Stearn thanked Megan’s grandparents, recalling that day 10 years ago when “you looked at that young man in your living room … only knowing your most special granddaughter for a month and half, and you allowed him to take her hand in marriage.”

Stephen and Megan Stern celebrated their 10th anniversary this year, 30 years after Megan’s parents, Lou Ann and John Rieley, and 60 years after Megan’s grandparents, Edward and Louise Dorey.

The Stearn family is in the process of building a new home on the family farm property.

Mr. Rieley called the marriage ceremony “a covenant ceremony.”

“In it, we are literally saying that I will exchange my weakness for your strength, and I will give you my strength to help with your weakness,” he said.

“We’re saying that I will be your ally. I will defend you. I will feed you I will serve you. I will provide … and I will love you and I will never change.”

Mr. and Ms. Rieley have 11 children, and they have fostered upward of 30 others over the years at their family farm homestead on Gravel Hill Road.

“I’ve had people that have put their arms around me and encouraged me, when a lot of other people looked at me and said, ‘You’re pregnant again?’” said Ms. Rieley. “I had people say, ‘Children are a blessing of the Lord. Keep on following God. It is the way that he has called you to follow.’”

“Thank you, Mom and Dad. I wrote my dad on his 60th birthday and it said, ‘I have seen the Father.’ I see my heavenly Father through that man right there,” Ms. Rieley said, referring to Mr. Dorey.

Seated at right, longtime Millsboro-area residents Edward and Louise Dorey renew wedding vows initially made 70 years. Their vow renewal Sept. 29 was part of a three-generation celebration, separated by 30-year spans.

“He gave his name when I didn’t have a name because I was adopted. I wasn’t born into it. He gave it to me because he loved me. He gave me the discipline of a father. He gave me an inheritance. He gave me land. He recognized the value of family and he has given all of my kids land so we could be together -—almost unheard of in this generation where people pick up and leave all over the place and are scattered. My dad made a provision for me and my children so that we could be together.”

“My mom, who couldn’t have children of her own, welcomed me. And I have learned how hard that is, to love somebody that is not your blood like they were your blood. She did it. She loved us,” said Ms. Rieley. “It’s been a wild ride. We have been blessed beyond anything we could have ever imagined.”

Lou Ann Rieley and John Rieley of Millsboro celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary Sept. 29 as part of a three-generation vow renewal celebration.

Togetherness has been a longstanding family mantra.

“We have a farm that my father-in-law was wise enough to purchase, and we inherited that; my husband did,” said Ms. Dorey. “And we are sharing it with our children and grandchildren.”

Edward and Louise first met at Carey’s Camp outside of Millsboro. That meeting led to marriage, now at seven decades.

And what do they believe are keys to their long and happy marriage?

“Lots of love and forgiveness and patience,” said Ms. Dorey.

“Always say ‘yes’ to your wife,” said Mr. Dorey. “And do not fuss; do not argue.”

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