August 17, 2018

Sellersburg couple says ‘the right spouse … will help you get to heaven’

Ron and Sandra Hartlieb of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis dance to a jazz band in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on Aug. 5 at a reception following the archdiocesan Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Ron and Sandra Hartlieb of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis dance to a jazz band in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on Aug. 5 at a reception following the archdiocesan Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

To marry at the age of 30 is not uncommon nowadays. But such has not always been the case.

When Betty Popp was in her late 20’s, her mother “used to tell people, ‘This is my daughter, Betty. She’s not married,’ ” says the member of St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg. “I got married when I was 30. Back then, that was old to be getting married. But I was just waiting for the right one,” she says, turning to her husband with a smile.

Their love story began fittingly enough at a wedding. Betty knew Merlin Popp by sight through mutual friends, but had never met him. That situation changed when the bride needed to speak with him and asked Betty to find him. (Related: Read more stories of long-time marriages)

“The first time I saw [Betty], I knew I wanted to marry her,” says Merlin.

Later, through a series of connections, he found out where Betty lived, and the two reconnected.

“I liked him,” Betty recalls. A friend’s father told her that Merlin “was a great guy and that a lot of women would like to be dating him. He was Catholic, he went to church. He wasn’t a stick in the mud, but he also wasn’t wild or crazy.”

In addition to knowing from the first moment that he wanted to marry her, Merlin also found Betty to be “a very attractive young lady. … Being a nurse, she ran around with a good crowd. She was a good Catholic girl, so I told myself, ‘I think I’ll marry her,’ ” he says with a grin.

And so, after two years of dating, Betty and Merlin were wed at the “old” ages of 30 and 33.

Two children and four grandchildren later, the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary at the archdiocesan Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass on Aug. 5 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

They take great pride and joy in the fact that their children sought Catholic spouses, are active in their faith and are sending their children to Catholic school.

“I like to think we played a role” in their children devoutly living their faith, says Betty.

“I grew up in a little Catholic town [in Kentucky],” she says. “I always told myself I was going to marry a Catholic man.

“We decided early on that we wanted to give our kids a Catholic education. It’s not that we had a whole lot of money—it was just important to us.

“When the kids were in school, we always tried to take part, and we’ve always been active in church,” she says.

The Popps pass along some advice to young couples who want to one day revel in their own 50th anniversary.

“There will be bumps in the road,” says Merlin. “Just realize that you can’t have your way all of the time. If you can’t compromise, you’ll have a rough way.”

Betty notes that couples shouldn’t “expect to agree on everything all the time, but you have to agree on the important things.”

One thing Betty and Merlin agree on is the impact each has had on the other.

“I really think Merlin is a good influence on me,” says Betty, followed by a vigorous nodding of the head and “vice versa” from Merlin.

“If you have the right spouse—and I do,” she continues with a loving look at her husband, “they will help you get to heaven.” †

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