Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series on the former Immaculate Conception Church.
Given the condition of the old Immaculate Conception Church today, it may be hard to imagine its beauty and spiritual ambiance.
But 60 years ago it was vibrant and gorgeous: The perfect place for Gene and Bev Pierceall to tie the knot and say, "I do."
And for the six decades since that special day at Immaculate Conception, the couple has thrived and lived life together as one.
"It was a beautiful church," Bev said.
"That church meant a great deal to me because I had grown up there and went to school," Gene added. "Everything in my life at that time revolved around that church. My grandparents had been married there in 1898."
Gene and Bev worked together at a local drug store. As it turned out Gene was dating Bev's sister, but she later moved on to Washington, D.C.
"It was never a serious thing," Gene remembered.
Bev and Gene hung around town in the same group of friends and both families knew each other so it wasn't a surprise when they became a steady couple. They went everywhere together with their friends, which is why the first date is a little foggy to remember. However the proposal is a cute, tear jerker that never gets old when it's told.
"He was very old school about it. I have to mention this because it shocked me. None of my sisters had had that grand thing happen," Bev said. "My dad was a yardman at the North Missouri Lumber Company at the time and we lived right next to that lumber company. He went to the lumber company and asked my dad if it was all right if he married his daughter. My father was floored, but so pleased that he thought to come ask him. And of course he said yes."
Gene and Bev were out at a restaurant and it was just as they were finishing their dinner when Gene had a question to ask. He said he was more than likely nervous at the time.
"It took me totally by surprise, I have to admit that. But I didn't hesitate," Bev said. "It's an unusual feeling, I don't know if I can describe it except to say I was thrilled that he had asked me, but I was surprised."
They were wed Aug. 9, 1952 and in the decades to come there were five boys, ups and downs and many, many memories.
"We all know that there are problems that crop up along the way, and difficulties, but we've managed to survive," Bev said.
One of the most difficult times came when their son Christopher passed shortly after birth. Turns out he had a heart defect and didn't live to the next day. He was born and baptized on Halloween 1965 and was laid to rest the next day — All Saints Day.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's one of the most difficult things you can do. That was long ago. They buried the child the next day and I was still in the hospital," Bev remembered. "You were kept in the hospital for a week at least with a delivery. A lot of it was probably easier for us because we had the four boys and we were a family. I think it would be much more difficult if that had been a first or second child. I know people who have had that experience and it's really rough."
"We know we got a saint in heaven," Gene added.
What still amazes Gene and Bev is the connection their four boys, Craig, Steve, Tim and Pat, had to their lost baby brother who was named Christopher Thomas.
"The amazing thing is, Craig and Steve, remember this happening, but Tim and Pat, the younger ones, are not clear on it. They are so aware of it," Bev said. "We had an old car of Gene's mother that had been passed around all of the boys and Tim was the last one to have it when he was in college. When he sold it for $100 he took the $100 to a monument company. The baby (Christopher) had been buried on his grandparents' lot and there was no name on the stone or anything, there was a little plaque there. Tim had his name engraved on that stone. And he named his son after him. He named him Thomas. They've always been very, very conscious of this other brother."
Raising four boys certainly had its difficulty at times, as did many other regular life situations, but through it all Gene and Bev continue to go through it together. That's the best way to go about it they said.
"You can't have division when it comes to a decision you make. We've had some really rough times with one or all four (of the boys) at one time or another. If we had had any division, it would have affected our marriage, it would have affected our family and everything. Somehow we didn't let it happen," Bev said.
"We knew we had to move on," Gene said.
There are three main things a marriage needs to go strong, they say.
"I think from the beginning we knew it would be based — and this always sounds a little trite to me, because people say this all the time — but you base it on faith to start with, a good, strong faith, on family. And I'm here to tell you, you cannot survive without friends. You have to have those three things."