Harriet Brown, 80, and Stanley Stark, 98, married Sunday in their home after dating for about 11 years.

Before Harriet Brown and Stanley Stark were married Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Richard Meier joked the Rockford couple hadn’t “exactly rushed into this.”

Stark is 98. Brown is 80.

Yes, Brown and Stark have been together for about 11 years and lived together the past three. But the two said they never saw much reason to make it official until recently.

“We thought there was no point in getting married,” Brown said.

But then one day this summer, Stark wondered if his girlfriend would get his Social Security checks if he died. To his surprise, the answer was yes — but only if they were married.

The couple met at Meier’s church, Alpine Lutheran, some 60 years ago. Stark’s wife, Avis, was the first person to greet Brown at the church.

At the time, they were both married — Stark to Avis and Brown to her husband, Arthur. But Avis died in 1990, and a year later Arthur passed, leaving the two of them widowed.

In 1996, Brown, still full of energy and bubbling with personality, needed a date for a dance. Looking around her church for a companion, she thought of Stark. From there, as they say, the rest is history.

“He’s a wonderful person,” said Brown, who will legally change her name to Stark. “People think he’s lucky, but I am so lucky.”

Even before they were married, the couple traveled to Hawaii, frequently went out for dinners and were considered pillars of their church (they still are). Three years ago, Stark had open-heart surgery and at his side was Brown, something Stark’s children said they are thankful for.

Since the surgery, Stark has moved in with Brown in her Rockford home. In that time, she has been “a great caretaker of my father,” said Steve Stark, one Stanley’s three sons.

Brown’s son, Curt Miller, said the couple are perfectly compatible.

“They get along well,” Miller said. “I have never seen them argue or say a cross word.”

At the ceremony, Stark’s sons and Brown’s two sons stood with the couple. Steve Stark described the wedding as “awesome.”

“Here’s how I look at it: How many sons get to give their father away?” Stark asked.

Staff writer Zack Creglow can be reached at 815-987-1376 or zcreglow@rrstar.com.

What she said
Dear Stanley,

I’m getting a lot of credit for what I do for you. But I want the world to know that our relationship is a two-way street.

For whatever I’ve done for you, I’ve been more than repaid with an abundance of your love, kindness and generosity. You even serve as my spiritual adviser!

I’ve been so happy and proud that you responded to my overtures over 10 years ago. We share a long history in our beloved Alpine church. We have the same values, love and respect for each other and each other’s families. You support my contest hobby by solving puzzles and writing entries; I look up words for your crossword puzzles, shop for just the right wire for your string art.

It’s been only three months since you startled me with what eventually proved to be your proposal of marriage. Actually, as far as proposals go, it wasn’t very romantic; you were standing up in the kitchen, certainly not on a bended knee. And you casually said, “I wonder if you would get my Social Security when I die.” Instantly I was aware that you had been thinking about this for some time, looking for ways to make my life easier if you couldn’t be here. I love you for that just as I love your intellect, your sense of humor and your creativity.

Stanley, it’s been great having you as my significant other for these past several years, and I look forward to many more as your loving wife.

What he said
Dear Harriet,
I love you for many reasons:
I can lean on your shoulder when I walk.
You hear for me.
You drive for me, especially when it’s dark.
You make me feel needed.
You take care of my medicine.
You take care of my every need.
You love my kids and treat them as your own.
You feed me well.
And so, dear Harriet, I pledge to you my undying love for the rest of my life.