Jean and Don Parquet are Oregon’s longest-married couple as identified in a Worldwide Marriage Encounter search. They were wed in October, 1943. (Courtesy Worldwide Marriage Encounter)
Jean and Don Parquet are Oregon’s longest-married couple as identified in a Worldwide Marriage Encounter search. They were wed in October, 1943. (Courtesy Worldwide Marriage Encounter)
Worldwide Marriage Encounter asked Americans to nominate the longest-married couples they know. The hope is to recognize these veterans of matrimony and hold up the sacrament of marriage as vital to society’s success.

Each state had a winning couple. Oregon’s is Donald and Clara Jeanette Parquet, members of St. James Parish in McMinnville who have been married for 75 years.

Don self-nominated when he read about the 2018 Oregon winners in the Catholic Sentinel and said to himself, “We've been married longer than that.”

Don and Jean — the moniker she goes by — were married in Freeport, Illinois, on Oct. 23, 1943. As Don tells it, he was a country boy, and Jean had come to Freeport from Omaha to stay with an aunt. He considered her “a good-looking city gal.”

On their first meeting, Don was busy nursing a small rabbit and Jean fell for the tenderness and kindness she saw in that moment.

“We just seemed to hit it off right from the start,” he says, saying the two have had years of fun and development as people.

Sometimes, hard times bring the most growth. The most challenging moment of the marriage came early, when it became clear Don was in a dead end job in Illinois. The family lived in a basement and was down to $300. He left much of the cash for Jean and the kids but took some to catch a train to Los Angeles, where he got a room in a “fleabag hotel” and landed a position with twice the pay and a better future. He sent for Jean and the kids and they began a life that eventually led to Oregon. Don retired as manager of a hydraulic engineering team that designed and made backhoes.

The pair now live in an assisted living facility, and Jean is facing health challenges. They have five children and, as Don says, a “whole slew” of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their 75th anniversary last year prompted some reflection.

“Each of you has to think more of the other person than you do of yourself,” Don advises, getting a nod of assent from Jean.

Asked about how to handle the inevitable conflicts, he says, “Learn when to keep your mouth shut.”

Don and Jean say the Catholic faith helped with marriage.

“You learn to treat other people as more than just objects for pleasure,” Don says. “You think of them as God’s creatures and you need to act responsibly toward them.”

The national winners of the longest wed contest are D.W. and Willie Williams of Charlotte, North Carolina, married 81 years.