A Rock Island love story

The approaching royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be a media bonanza. And given recent news of radiation leaks, budget cuts, and wars in Africa, a love story is welcome relief.

But we invite those who will be around in the year 2083 to make a mental note. Check back with the royal couple at that time and see how their lifelong love story compares with that of Lawrence and Betty VanDeKerckhove of St. Pius X Parish, Rock Island.

The wedding of Lawrence VanDeKerckhove and Betty Warkins didn’t make news outside family and friends when they tied the knot at the former little St. Paul’s Church in Rock Island on July 20, 1938.

On March 25 of this year — 72 years, eight months, and five days after he married the love of his life — Lawrence died at age 96, with Betty at his side.

Just two days later, Betty, 93, also died. A Mass of Christian Burial for both took place at St. Pius X Church on March 31.

To those who knew and loved them, it almost seemed meant to be. “They did everything together,” said daughter Sharon Corken of Orion, one of the VanDeKerckhove’s four children — all of which attended Alleman High School. Sharon told The Catholic Post how Lawrence and Betty, who met at a dance in Davenport, continued dancing throughout their married lives. They prayed together. They both enjoyed bowling. Lawrence was an honorary life member of Allouez Council 658 Knights of Columbus. Betty was in the council’s auxiliary. They opened their home to all, and said “no” to none.

“It was amazing how much in love they were,” their daughter continued, noting her parents could usually be seen holding hands or embracing. She told of the “silent signal” Lawrence and Betty developed: three squeezes of the other’s hand, or three taps on a knee, told the other “I love you.”

“They did that all their lives,” said Sharon, including near the end when Betty passed her husband’s bedside and reached out and tapped his foot three times.

In the coming days we’ll learn just about everything there is to know about Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton. Our advice? Enjoy the royal wedding, but if you are blessed to know a couple like Lawrence and Betty VanDeKerckhove — heroes in the sacred vocation of marriage — take the time to get to know their lifelong love stories. Honor them, thank God for their witness of God’s eternal and deep love for us, and model their virtues and habits, including an occasional triple hand squeeze.

May their Lenten journey lead them to Easter glory: together. — Thomas J. Dermody

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