Ralph and Mary Guerrero are like a rare gem, a shining example of a love story one might read about in fairy tales. Married for 64 years, the pair still look at each other like time has stopped and no one else is in the room. They are completely in love.
In celebration of World Marriage Day, the Guerreros and more than 60 other couples renewed their wedding vows at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Valentine’s Day. World Marriage Day, which has been celebrated for more than 40 years on the second Sunday in February, honors the beauty of loyalty, sacrifice and joy in the daily married lives of couples. World Marriage Day received the Apostolic Blessing of Pope John Paul II in 1993.
When asked why they decided to renew their vows, Ralph explained that it’s about “faith in God” — a faith dating back to his boyhood days as an altar server — and about love, especially in light of “too many bad things in this world.”
“We love each other so much,” he said.
During an interview with The Tidings outside the cathedral, where they both serve as Eucharistic ministers, the Guerreros spoke candidly about their love story.
“I met her at a buddy’s party. I saw her dancing. I said that is the girl,” recalled Ralph. Although Mary had a boyfriend at the time, he did not hesitate in pursuing her.
“The second dance I asked her to dance, I asked her if I could take her out and meet her parents,” he said.
Mary smiled wistfully recalling the first time Ralph met her parents.
“He fell in love with my parents first,” she said.
As a United States Marine stationed in San Diego, Ralph would commute to Downey on the weekends to spend time with Mary during their whirlwind courtship. They dated for only two months before tying the knot.
“I proposed on the second date at the drive-in. I said, ‘Will you marry me?’ She said maybe. I said as a Marine it is either yes or no,” said Ralph.
“I still said maybe,” Mary said with a twinkle in her eye and a girlish grin.
Mary believes their compatibility stems in part from their shared Catholic faith.
After the couple married on Nov. 25, 1951, they settled in Los Angeles and had six children right away. For a time he continued commuting between San Diego and Los Angeles to see his family.
While Mary stayed home to raise the children, Ralph eventually left the Marines to work with his mother, Aurora Guerrero, who founded Cielito Lindo, a food concession stand on Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles in 1934.
“My mother came up with the recipe for Cielito Lindo’s famous avocado chili sauce,” said Ralph.
Today, Cielito Lindo still sells taquitos and other Mexican food on Olvera Street.
Ralph also worked in the real estate field for 25 years to help support the family.
Ralph and Mary’s love and friendship has created a close-knit family, which has grown to include 24 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.
“All I have ever known in my adult life is seeing my father love my mother and my mother love my father. So, I thank God that I had their example to follow in my own marriage. They are truly an example for all of us,” said Gabriel Guerrero, who is their youngest child.
Ralph, who at 87 still has a quick wit and sharp mind, tells his daughters and granddaughters to “look for a man who works hard, doesn’t drink and doesn’t gamble” when looking for someone to marry.
When asked what makes for a strong marriage, Mary said, “Love and understanding — and a good husband. We agree on everything and plan everything together. We are very faithful.”
According to the Guerreros, faith and commitment have been essential to the success of their marriage. To young people contemplating marriage, they offer the following advice: “They must commit; they cannot take it for granted.”
“They have to give with their whole mind, body and soul. Marriage is not a game. It is something very serious that God wants for you. Marriage is until death do us part,” said Ralph.