100 years of marriage, counseling still required

When Orval Kitsmiller popped the question, Martha Conway said yes.

"He wouldn't get down on his knees," she remembered.

"I was afraid I couldn't get back up," he explained.

It's the second marriage for each of them at age 89. Marriage experience is something this couple has in abundance at five decades each.

"And both of our spouses have been deceased for a long, long time," Conway said.

In that time marriage license laws changed. When filling out matrimonial paperwork, Kitsmiller discovered a $40 application fee tacked on to the cost of a marriage license, but not for everyone.

"The money is no problem. The principle is involved," Kitsmiller said.

House Bill 378 waives the fee if a couple logs six hours of premarital counseling -a class about communication, finances and parenting.

And this couple - each married for fifty years before, each widowed, not divorces - believes their 100 years of combined experience is enough to teach that course themselves.

"She couldn't believe anyone could be that stupid as to write a bill requiring counseling," he said.

Kitsmiller wrote letters to politicians and the county with no real reply until he "Raised His Voice" to 11Alive asking for one thing - to change the law!

"Write an exemption to this counseling," he said.

Representative Wendell Willard is one of the legislators who signed the original bill.

"The intent behind the bill i think we all agree is a good purpose," he said.

The State Rep hadn't thought of couples like Kitsmiller and Conway.

"With fifty years of marriage they probably have faced most everything from their first marriage that could be coming up," he said.

We asked if he would take up the issue again at the State House.

"Perhaps we can build in something that says any body who has been married fifty years or reaches age 90 they may be excused from it," Willard said.

That's exactly what Kitsmiller hoped to hear as we presented him with his red shirt for speaking out and joining the "Raise Your Voice" team.

"I appreciate the company for thinking enough of us to answer our request and take action on that," he said.

As for his red shirt? Well… he plans to give that to his fiancé.

We found a therapist who offered free marriage counseling at the couple's home. Kitsmiller declined that offer on principle.

He plans to work with Representative Willard to adjust the law for the elderly.

Orval and Martha set a wedding date for September.


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