TWO churchgoers in Somerset who may be set to become the oldest newlyweds in the UK when they marry later this month have said that their faith brought them together and saved them from loneliness.
When Frank Bird, aged 88, noticed Muriel Kodritsch, 79, across the pews at All Saints’, Nynehead, in Wellington, last November, he knew she was special.
“Walking into the church and seeing her, she had a pretty face, and I noticed that when she was talking to people in the pews she was smiling, and when she laughed, she laughed heartily,” Mr Bird told the Church Times on Tuesday.
“When the service was over, we walked to our cars and had a chat.”
Three Sundays later, the pair were sitting together. “As I got to know her,” Mr Bird said, “I realised she had great courage.” Ms Kodritsch had recovered from surgery on her spine, he explained.
“She smiled, and didn’t let it trouble her. She had obviously got tremendous strength from a higher power. It struck me that she had fantastic courage, coupled with a sense of humour and laughter, and, as I got to know her, I fell in love with her.”
Ms Kodritsch, who has been attending the church for more than 30 years, said: “I am very flattered, obviously, and I was very surprised. It has all happened gradually: we took one step at a time, and we realised that we were both in love and very happy to be together. He is very easy to talk to, and I love him very much.”
Mr Bird proposed in May, while the couple were watching Pride and Prejudice on the TV. His armchair was close to hers, he said; so he was able to get down on one knee. It was no surprise that she said yes, because they had talked about the possibility of marriage before.
Ms Kodritsch was widowed in 2015, after 52 years of marriage. Mr Bird lost his wife in 2016, after 62 years of marriage. “We have both been lonely,” he said. “That is one of the great problems of old age. The church had brought us together: we were both Christians, we had a belief in Jesus, and we were good companions.”
The couple are due to marry on 25 August.
“It did not seem a good idea to wait at our age, but there was time for the banns to be read. Since then, we have been busy making arrangements. All the plans are in place, and we are looking forward to the wedding.”
The Vicar of All Saints’, the Revd Alan Ellacott, who has been preparing the couple and will take the service, said on Tuesday: “They both have a great sense of humour, and are well suited to each other. To begin with, they thought that getting married may affect their wills, and make things too complicated. I reassured them that, as they really loved each other, they should go for it.”
Ms Kodritsch is a former care worker and a trained lay worship assistant. She continues to take worship at a care home, and reads Bible stories to children at Nynehead under-fives pre-school. Her children were also choristers at the church.
“I am delighted that we are able to get married in the church that we met in; it is fabulous,” she said. “It is very much a family affair.” She will be given away by her son Kevin; her two granddaughters are bridesmaids; her two great-grandsons are pages; and her daughter is doing a reading.
Mr Bird, who worked in the oil industry, has chosen his son Steven to be his best man, and his three grandsons are the ushers. More than 100 guests are expected on the day.
“The families on both sides are happy for the couple,” Mr Ellacott said. “Their age certainly does not hold them back. Both have so much to offer, and I hope their example will give comfort to others in similar situations. Muriel said she is determined to walk down the aisle without her walking stick.”