A Love Story to Remember

There is love in the air today as people all over are celebrating Valentine’s Day in whatever way works for them. My sons are loving all the sugar they are receiving from their valentine’s at school and I’m loving being with their “sugar daddy” on this special day. :)

Project Everlasting – Capturing Our Love Stories

The story and focus on this week’s Project GratOtude unfolded beautifully. I knew that I wanted to highlight the work of two bachelors who traveled across the country in search of America’s greatest marriages. Jason Miller and Mat Boggs interviewed marriage masters, those married 40+ years, on what it takes to really have an everlasting marriage. They called their project, Project Everlasting.

Their book and documentary dvd has had a profound impact on my life. With marriage being one of my passions and callings in life, I came across their work a few years ago. I read the book, watched the dvd and couldn’t wait to share it with others.

Our Love Story Captured

A year ago I was asked to give a presentation about love at Valentine’s Day. One of the things that authors Miller and Boggs suggest that couples do is to write and record your love story. So I thought this would be the perfect time to do this for John and I. I would record our love story, along with using it to share with others about the importance of loving our partners. It wasn’t quite the valentine’s gift John was expecting, but it did bring us amazing gifts soon after.

A month or two passed and Project Everlasting announced their first national love story contest. They wanted couples to submit their love stories. I was so excited and already prepared with our love story. We submitted our story and was selected as one of three finalists. They would determine the winners by the number of votes couples would receive for their story.

John and I shared our story with our friends and family. One of the greatest gifts was hearing from them how our love has touched their lives in some way. We had no idea until then that our love story was impacting others. Because of the generosity of our family and friends, John and I were selected as the first winners of the Project Everlasting love story competition!

If you would like to see our story (click here) and a recorded interview with us and authors Jason and Matt, go here.

We had a chance this fall to go to Jason Miller’s beautiful home on Orcas Island in Washington to celebrate “our love story getaway”. It was an incredible trip that we are so grateful for. But most of all, we are grateful for Jason and Mat’s work that inspired us to capture our love story that is now part of our legacy that we can share with our sons and their future families. Click here for their free newsletter, videos and other wonderful marriage resources.

Honoring Walter & Helen’s Love Story

Here is a special Project Everlasting love story that is so inspiring and real that would be a wonderful example for Jason’s and Mat’s book. Walter and Helen Ehrnreiter, married for 7 decades, recently died together in a fire near in their home in Ham Lake, MN on Feb. 11, 2011. Their story made the news around the Twin Cities this weekend and I’m honored to be one more person sharing their story.

I never met this elderly couple even though I just recently found out that they belonged to our same parish, Church of Saint Paul, and they are the grandparents of a good friend of mine, Annie Bullert.

Today, on Valentine’s Day, their “love story” touches my heart deeply.

As reported in the Star Tribune:

After seven decades together, Walter and Helen Ehrnreiter had become so intertwined that they seemed to function as a single entity. “They were a perfect team,” said Maryann Egan, a church friend of the couple. “She was the legs, and he was the mind. She was healthy, but was starting to lose touch with words; he was sharp, but was having trouble getting around. They were exact opposites, which made them the perfect couple for each other.” “They died the way they lived — together,” said Dave Egan, who, like his wife, knew them as fellow members of the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake.

What came to me is the power of being so connected, so intertwined for 70+ years, that they truly achieved God’s plan for our married lives, oneness. What a wonderful reminder for me on what a perfect married team entails – being the “exact opposites” and yet using each other’s strengths to “function as a single entity.” When I first read their story at church this morning on my way to adoration, I thought this would be a good example of a couple for me to share with my marriage work. Little did I know that I would be inspired to share it today, with you.

When my friend Annie emailed me more information about them and realized it was her grandparents, I knew in my heart that Valentine’s was the perfect day to share it. I’ve asked Annie to share with us more about her grandparents and how they lived out their love.

One aspect I gather about their marriage is that their faith was central.

Annie’s father, Ron Howes, wrote:

A fireman that I’d talked to the night before saw me and walked across the highway towards me. He reached in his pocket and took something out, saying “When we were removing your father-in-law’s body, we saw he was holding this, and I thought you would want to have it:” The fireman handed me a rosary. Composure is hard to maintain at a moment like that.

The Pioneer Press article described Helen as “deeply religious, often reading from her Bible to pass the time.”

Annie shared how her grandparents taught her what matters most – commitment, relationships and loyalty.

My grandparents taught me many things like simplicity, focus on family, friends, and faith.  My grandfather taught me about persistence and not giving up.  He was a life long learner.  My grandmother lived to be with Wally and my grandfather lived to take care of her.  You would still catch them snuggled up on the couch sleeping, with the TV still on or giving each other a peck on the cheek.  Grandpa, especially lived his own life with activities and friends – the extrovert of the two for sure, while grandma was content at home. They both had great senses of humor and would jab each other, in a sweet way.

What a wonderful example of living our commitment and faith, right until the end. And as God’s plan for our marriages – this oneness can be achieved when we seek agape, or unconditional love in Him – we will be intertwined forever like Walter and Helen being a single entity of love!

Janae Bower is an inspirational speaker, award-winning author and training consultant. She founded Finding IT, a company that specializes in personal and professional development getting to the heart of what matters most. She started Project GratOtude, a movement to increase gratitude in people’s lives.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Paulette Kostick February 15, 2011 at 1:30 am

Walter & Helen were truly a gift to anyone who had the privilege to meet them. They were Christ’s light in the world and a beautiful example of life-giving love through the sacrament of their marriage. Walter frequently would ride his bike over to watch the Soderville baseball games. This is where I would talk to him and just experience the joy he would share. When he found out we had 8 children, he giggled and said, “There is nothing better than sharing your life with the right person. I guess you found the right man.” They always seemed to be filled with joy and many times would just hold each others’ hands and look at each other. They will be missed here on earth, but the pure joy they are experiencing together before the Throne of God helps ease the pain of our earthly loss. May they rest in peace.


admin February 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Hi Paulette,

Thank you for sharing this about Walter and Helen. It’s beautiful and shows like you said how they lived out the sacrament of marriage! I appreciate you taking the time to write this and we’ll share your thoughts with their family as well.



Julie Wylie February 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Annie’s grandparents sound amazing. Thanks for sharing their story on your beautiful site, Janae. Now, they are angels.


Julie Berntson February 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm

As a member of Walter and Helen’s parish I saw them often. Helen and Walter sat just in front or behind us at Mass. Through the years I watched with admoration their commitment to our Catholic faith and their commitment to each other. I would also like to mention the women who faithfully brought them to Mass each week. Her patience, care and respect for Walter and Helen was truely a service of love. I will keep Helen and Walter in my prayers and hope that I can live my life with such faith and commitment and love.


admin February 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Thank you, Julie for sharing your reflections on such a wonderful example of their commitment to faith and family!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: