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Published: Friday, 2/15/2008

Valentine's event honors 25 couples, 5 from area

COLUMBUS - Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland honored 25 married couples from across the state - including five from northwest Ohio - during a Valentine's Day event yesterday to honor the longevity of their unions and their volunteerism.

The commemoration, "Joined Hearts in Giving," was held at the governor's residence for couples who are at least 60 years old and married at least 40 years.

Participants were nominated by family members, friends, and area agencies on aging and were selected based on the length of marriages and their community service, said Traci Bell-Thomas, chief of communications for the Ohio Department of Aging.

The volunteers ranged in age from 64 to 89. The longest married were Waldemar and Lillian Wertz, of Cleveland, at 63 years.

Couples from northwest Ohio were Richard and Mardell Barrell, of Republic, married 57 years; Cliff and Joyce Biddinger, of Findlay, married 53 years; Ellis "Bud" and Joyce Helge, of Upper Sandusky, married 54 years, and Norm and Kay Rex, of Ada, married 51 years.

Also honored were Lester and Mary Ann Huth, of Tiffin, who were married 52 years. Mrs. Huth is deceased; Mr. Huth was unable to attend yesterday, Ms. Bell-Thomas said.

Former First Lady Hope Taft started the event in 1999, Ms. Bell-Thomas said.

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