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Sat, Oct. 19

Williams couple celebrates 50th Valentine's Day
Williams residents Connie and Bernie Hiemenz celebrate 50 years of marriage, respecting each other's wishes proves to be secret ingredient to a lasting relationship

Connie and Bernie Hiemenz reflect on 50 years of marriage at their home in Williams. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Connie and Bernie Hiemenz reflect on 50 years of marriage at their home in Williams. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams resident Connie Hiemenz can still remember the first time she saw her future husband Bernie, even though she was only five years old at the time.

Connie and her family were living in Big Falls, Minnesota when she heard that a new family had moved into their small town.

"I was playing with my dolls in the little shrubbery back there and I peeked between the bushes and saw his mother pulling him and his little brother in a wagon," she said. "That's the first time I saw him."

They didn't know it then, but the two would end up dating in middle school and high school and eventually getting married. The Hiemenzes celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

After their initial encounter, the two attended school together. Bernie first caught Connie's eye in middle school when the students put on a mock wedding and Bernie played the groom.

"That's the first time I thought, 'Wow he's really cute,'" she said.

Bernie started to notice Connie around that time too and asked her on a date while they were swimming in the river.

"I had been playing on the raft and I was hanging onto the edge of it and he popped out from underneath it and he asked me if I wanted to go to see a movie," she said.

Bernie had to ask Connie's father for permission, since she wasn't supposed to start dating until she was 16.

"It's kind of nerve wracking when you're 14," he said.

But Connie's father agreed to let her go on the date, and Bernie took her to see the movie "The Mouse That Roared."

The two continued to spend time together in high school, but drifted apart and eventually started dating other people. They started dating again when Connie was a junior in high school.

"I was going steady with another guy," she said. "I came out of the school and he was parked out there in a blue convertible and all he said was, 'Do you want a ride home?' The other guy was down the tubes."

Connie and Bernie got married on Jan. 16, 1965 when he was 18 and she was 17. They have two children, Aaron Hiemenz and Teresa Stelton. They also have two grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Lasting marriages run in the family. Connie's parents Cliff and Lou Treat will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary this year.

Now after celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary last month, Connie and Bernie shared some of their secrets to a lasting marriage.

"When we got married we made an agreement that she would make all the small decisions, the day to day, and I would make all of the large decisions," Bernie said. "And here it is 50 years later and we've never had to make a large decision yet."

Connie said the key is marrying the right person.

"I guess being married to Bernie is my secret," she said. "Just because of his broad mindedness and his acceptance. Like I went to college in my 30s with his encouragement. He started helping with housework even though he was working six days a week. He said, 'Whatever it takes for you to go to school.'"

They both agreed that respecting each other's space was also important.

"If she wants to do something or I want to do something, just respect your partner's wishes," Bernie said. "That's what makes it work."

Connie agreed.

"We do things a lot separately and we do things together, and both are fine with us," she said. "We just have to trust each other and compromise."

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