Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 14, 1956

A little over a month ago in December 2013, my beautiful Mother, Emma Jean Burris Lensing, joined my Father in Heaven/on the other side, whatever your beliefs.  Today would have been their 58th wedding anniversary and that is all I have been able to think about today.  So in honor of them and their 54 year marriage I am posting a little bit of information about that beautiful day... .

Fifty eight years ago, January 14, 1956, my parents Thomas Andrew Lensing and Emma Jean Burris stood before God, family and friends and were married, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, until death do they part.  The wedding took place at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 9:00 a.m.   My Dad's older brother, Father Michael Lensing, OSB, officiated.  Mom wore a simple but elegant white satin tea-length dress with long sleeves and a fitted waist.  She wore a shoulder length veil with a satin crown, beautiful drop pearl earrings and white pumps. The tea-length dress was designed, as etiquette required at the time, for a morning wedding.  Here is a photograph of of Mom in the dress with Dad and the church altar in the background.

The story of the dress is that Mom had it made by the same dress maker as a friend of hers from where she was working at the time.  Mom worked at Jack East Insurance and her friend Stella was getting married right before her and she recommended her dress maker.  As you can tell by the photo, Mother looked absolutely radiant.  I have the lovingly-boxed dress, slip and veil sitting on a shelf in my closet.  Nice family heirloom I hope to pass on to one of my nieces someday.   Her co-workers at Jack East gave her a lovely bridal shower at Riverdale Country Club in Little Rock where Rebsamen Golf Course is now located.

The wedding was a beautiful event, held at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.   The Church was established in 1885 but the church they were married in and still stands today was built and dedicated in 1901.  Its architectural style is Gothic and still stands as one of the most beautiful churches in the State. 

As beautiful as the church was, the wedding itself was a little complicated by  very strict Catholic Church doctrine and  rules of the day.  Back then, only Roman Catholics could participate in Roman Catholic weddings and the lives of my Dad and his family were very much run by church rules.  He couldn't even marry her in the faith unless she became Catholic, which she did.   She was born and raised in the First Baptist Church in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, but became a Roman Catholic for love.  The witnesses, singers, musicians, even photographers all had to be Catholic.  So did the ushers, but Dad's brother, my Uncle Jim Lensing, threw his weight around and there was one concession made:  my mother's brother, Bill Burris, got to be an usher.   So the only two non-Catholics in the ceremony were the bride's brother Bill and her daddy, George Burris, Jr., who gave the bride away. 

There were only two attendants standing up for Mom and Dad.  Dad's cousin Gilbert "Chick" Lensing and his wife Evelyn were groomsman and bridesmaid.   Mom could not ask her best friend or even her sister because they were not Catholic, but my parents were very appreciative of Chick and Evelyn for taking part.  Her best friend was also married to a professional photographer and he offered to photograph the wedding as a gift, but nope, he was not Catholic.  

The music, however,  was one of the unforgettable parts of the ceremony according to Mom.  She asked Charlie Olletta, who happened to be Catholic and who she also knew from work, to sing at the wedding.  He brought his own organ/piano player as well, who also happened to be Catholic, so luckily this worked out.   One of the highlights of his repertoire was singing "Panis Angelicus".   Mom always mentioned how beautiful he sang this song when she talked about how wonderful the music was at her wedding, and the song was so revered my sister had it sung at her wedding 30 years later.

Although it was cold, it was a beautiful day and everyone was happy.  Grandfather and Grandmother Burris were both there to see their beautiful daughter get married, as well as Mom's youngest sister and brother attended.  All of Dad's 3 sister's and 5 brothers were there, as well as my Grandmother Anna Lensing. 

Following the wedding, they held a breakfast at Granoff's Restaurant on Main Street in downtown Little Rock.

For their Honeymoon, they went to New Orleans, LA, with a few stops at some horse race tracks along the way.  (Horse racing in the Lensing family is another story for another time).  

        Jean Burris arriving at the church, so happy and full of hope for the future.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Lensing at Granoff's Restaurant in Little Rock for the wedding breakfast following the ceremony.  Mom told me she had French toast that morning.  Knowing Dad, he had bacon and eggs with plenty of ketchup.


                  Jean's parents, George and Louise Burris of Arkadelphia, AR

Tom's Mother, Anna Heim Lensing (Gram as we called her) and his brother Father Michael Lensing, OSB, who officiated.