Eternal Valentines: Two couples share how God brought them together

North Texas Catholic
(Feb 14, 2024) Local

Rick and Mary Hutchings sit together inside Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls. (NTC/Bertha Salazar)

On Valentine’s Day, we remember that marriage is a symbol of God’s love for His people, where two come together to love one another in an inseparable bond.

In this tale of two marriages, the couples witnessed God’s many blessings in both good and difficult times.


Conversion of heart

Rick and Mary Hutchings have been members of Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls for 59 years. The couple will celebrate 60 years of marriage this year.

When they met, Mary worked at a local hospital and was a member of the women’s city basketball team. Her coach, a member of the U.S. Air Force, took the team to practice at the Sheppard Air Force Base gym.

“As our team was leaving practice one evening, a carload of airmen followed us when we stopped at a drive-in restaurant,” Mary said.

Before long, Mary and Rick met and found themselves in deep conversation. Their relationship took off.

“I found out quickly Rick was special,” Mary said.

“Mary had a nice family life, which I did not,” Rick added. “She was sure what she wanted in a husband and family. I didn’t have that growing up but knew that was what I wanted too.”

Mary was raised Catholic. Rick said he knew the Church was a big part of her life, but when they first met, he didn’t care much for it.

“Because of her faith, I joined the Catholic Church, which is something I have never regretted. You have to have faith in God to get through [hardships],” he said.

The Hutchings intertwined hands. (NTC/Bertha Salazar)

Mary said Rick was baptized on base in February before they married in April. They met with her parish priest in Megargel as well as with the priest at Sheppard Air Force Base for some pre-marriage counseling.

“It was brief and scary, but helpful,” Mary described. “We were only 20 years old.”

They were married at Mary’s childhood parish, St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Megargel, on April 18, 1964.

Rick and Mary now have 3 children, 7 adult grandchildren, and one adult granddaughter-in-law. Two of their granddaughters are planning weddings this year.

“We tried our best to always attend Mass as a family before the children left home,” Mary shared. “It made the life we had structured, and the obligation helped our prayer life. Mass was always important, even on vacations.”

She believes it is important to have a strong faith in marriage that you demonstrate in your daily life.

“Your children will go by your example, and keeping the close togetherness, even doing menial tasks, especially in later years, is very important,” she advised. “God has blessed us with a love stronger than in the beginning, and our church and faith have played an important role.”

Rick recalled, too, that his faith in God played a big role in the 20 years he worked at the Sheppard Air Force Base as a flight line mechanic on the night shift and on the flight line.

“There was a lot of pressure in that job. I prayed for the Lord to get me out,” he shared. “He did, and I then went to work for Sacred Heart [Parish] for almost 15 years as their business manager.”

Both Mary and Rick agree that they do not think a marriage without God can last.

“Faith and love will get you through [challenges and obstacles] — it isn't always smooth sailing. Learn to care about each other. Put the other first, and keep a partnership, giving grace whenever necessary. Listen to each other and show your love every day. And always forgive each other,” Mary said. “Jesus gave us a wonderful example.”


Ted and Vicki Neeb stand together outside St. Mary Parish in Windthorst. (NTC/Bertha Salazar)

Together in the Church

Ted and Vicki Neeb were married on June 8, 1974, at St. Mary’s Parish in Windthorst, where they both attended Mass as they grew up. They continue to attend together today.

Ted said that as they dated, he was attracted to Vicki’s very kind and caring personality.

“We shared the same life dreams, became best friends, fell in love, and both wanted a family together in the future,” Ted said. “She was definitely the soul mate I was praying to meet and became my everything.”

Vicki said she was impressed by how kind and loving Ted was.

“Family was very important to him and still is to this day. I always noticed him holding his little sister in church and thought, ‘What a great big brother he is,’” she said.

The Neebs have four children and 10 grandchildren.

Ted attributes putting his love for his wife and his family first as a reason the couple has stayed married for a long time.

“Anytime we went on vacation, we took our children and then grandchildren along,” Ted shared.

Ted and Vicki Neeb hold hands. (NTC/Bertha Salazar)

He advised new parents: “Don’t just try to get away from your kids all the time when you are on vacation. Take them with you and make memories. They grow up and leave the nest soon enough.”

Vicki said moving to New Mexico for Tim’s job just a year into their marriage helped them grow closer as a couple.

“During our time there, we just had the two of us and our newborn son, Scott, so we became everything to each other — family, partner, best friend, supporter, etc. It really strengthened our marriage,” she said.

Vicki also added that support from God, their parents, and families helped them make it through their tough, early years.

“Marriage is a sacrament that is just as important as the other sacraments. Loving and caring for your spouse is truly a blessing that will return its favors a hundredfold. Never take each other for granted,” Ted said.

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