She may have been the youngest of the Kuntz girls (by 15 months), but Virginia (Kuntz) Clawson was the first of the three sisters to walk down the aisle on a Saturday night in May 1963 at Tanoma United Methodist Church.
Eulene (Kuntz) Risinger followed in June, at Trinity United Methodist Church in Indiana, because the Tanoma church was too crowded at the first wedding.
And in August, Eulene’s twin sister, Marlene (Kuntz) Mikesell, walked down the aisle on a Friday night, so church on Sunday wouldn’t be such a hassle for guests.
Now the three couples are celebrating 50 years of marriage with a joint celebration Sunday, and their wedding dresses will be on display at Bethel Presbyterian Church on July 13.
“They (were) through college and I was working away, it just happened to be that way,” Virginia Clawson said. “My sisters were my attendants; it was just a family wedding for all of them. We (were) in their (weddings) and they were in ours and there was just enough space between them that it was just special for all three of us.”
The women were the three daughters of Earle and Florence Kuntz, of Tanoma. After graduating from high school, the older two attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study elementary education. Clawson started working as a clerk for the FBI in Washington, D.C., then moved back to Indiana County.
All three were members of the Senior Extension, a county group that was an extension of 4-H for graduated members. So were their respective spouses.
Both of the twins remembered the same IUP dance as the starting point of their relationships. Looking for dates, each had a mutual friend connect her with another member of the Senior Extension.
Eulene went with Russell Risinger. Marlene went with Robert Mikesell. The rest, as they say, is history.
Virginia also met her husband, George Clawson, through the Senior Extension.
By the summer of 1963 the twins had graduated from IUP and each spent one year teaching at area elementary schools. And all three girls were ready to marry their men.
“It was (a) very happy (time), I recall,” Eulene Risinger said. The family seamstress, she made her wedding gown and her twin sister’s gown, and the bridesmaids’ gowns for all three weddings.
“I wonder how I got that all done,” she said.
Marlene Mikesell said no one mentioned a double (or triple) wedding, but that weddings were simpler affairs then.
“I don’t know that any of us did a lot of planning for our wedding,” she said.
Virginia and George Clawson were married on May 18 in Tanoma United Methodist Church, with a simple reception at her parents’ farm.
“We had receptions with cake and ice cream, mints and nuts, nobody sat down to a full-course meal like we do today,” Clawson said. “It was a different age completely. (But) that was still a pretty nice-sized reception.”
It was rainy that evening, and the small Tanoma church was crowded, so Eulene and Russell Risinger moved their wedding to the Indiana church. She remembered going through invitations, crossing out the old location and writing in the new one. They were married June 15.
Marlene and Robert Mikesell were the last couple to marry that summer, on Aug. 9. After each of her sisters’ weddings, Mikesell had noticed how hard it was to get up and go to church the next morning, so they held their wedding on a Friday night instead.
Over the next 50 years they all stayed close, raising their families in Indiana County. Those first few years they gathered at the Kuntz home on Sunday evenings for dinner, babies and toddlers all underfoot.
The Clawsons, who run a dairy farm, live in Blairsville and raised two children, Dennis and Dena. (They now also have a grandson and a great-grandson.)
The Risingers live in Indiana and also have two children, Glenda and Randy, and six grandchildren. Eulene Risinger taught at Homer-Center Elementary School for 30 years.
Marlene Mikesell also taught for years, for the Marion Center School District, and they live in Marion Center. They have three children: Robert Jr., Julie and Brandi; and five grandchildren.
“My twin sister and I are very, very close and we talk daily to the other sister, too; we’re a very close-knit family,” Risinger said.
They count themselves blessed that health problems have not come between them and a half-century of marriage, she said, and she thinks that for all three couples their faith and healthy lifestyles have contributed.
“Well, basically we believe that wedding vows mean something, and you kind of have to work around your (faults),” Clawson said. “Mainly you take a vow and you’re going to need it. ... Life isn’t simple, everything takes work to make it through.”
Mikesell said that there never was an option other than to stay married.
“I think there just was no thought (of leaving the marriage). This was a vow we take,” she said. “It takes commitment on both parts and it’s not always 50-50. You have to give and take some.”
For young couples following behind them, Clawson stressed the importance of shared interests and values. Farming is important to both her and her husband, she said, and they’ve spent decades working together on the dairy farm.
“Just make sure you have the same interests and the same goals. Like I said, we were raised from farm families and we enjoyed being on the farm and watching the crops and stuff grow and the calves being born, (but) it’s hard work,” she said.
“Make sure you know your partner well before you get married,” Risinger advised. “And I guess look on the bright side of everything.”
The Clawsons, Risingers and Mikesells are celebrating their anniversaries jointly this weekend with an open house Sunday afternoon at Bethel Presbyterian Church, and the three wedding gowns will be displayed as part of a vintage gown collection at the church July 13.