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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Century Memorial Chapel commemorates matrimonial bliss


Above / 158 couples renewed their vows at Naper Settlement’s Century Memorial Chapel during the 50th Anniversary celebration on July 14, 2019. Cheers! (Photo Courtesy Abbey Bobzin for Naper Settlement)

UPDATE, July 14, 2019 / In honor of the Naperville Heritage Society’s 50th anniversary, Naper Settlement celebrated 158 couples married in Century Memorial Chapel over the years on Sunday afternoon.

The celebration commemorated the building that started it all. In 1969, a group of volunteers banded together to rescue a local gem, St. John’s Episcopal Church, from demolition. Through grassroots fundraising, the group, now known as the Naperville Heritage Society, saved and relocated the building to the grounds surrounding the museum as the Martin Mitchell Mansion. More buildings followed suit, creating the museum Naper Settlement. The church became Century Memorial Chapel, and thousands of couples have been wed there in the last fifty years.

The couples, joined by their families, participated in a group vow renewal, commemorative photo experience, refreshments, and more. The ceremony was led by longtime museum partner Rent-A-Rev Jim Rehnberg, who originally wed many of the couples in attendance. Their love stories and wedding photos will become permanent artifacts in the museum’s more than 80,000-piece collection.

Peter Yonker and his wife, Nancy, were introduced by Sally Pendecost, Naperville Heritage Society Board Member, during festivities on July 14. (Scroll down to see photo from July 15, 1972.)

The longest married couple attending the festivities, Peter and Nancy Yonker (married in 1972), are the son and daughter-in-law of Peg Yonker, a founding member of the Naperville Heritage Society. 

Original Post by Abbey Bobzin in the Centerfold of the July 2019 Issue of PN

Love is in the air this month as Naper Settlement commemorates decades of love with a special celebration in honor of the Naperville Heritage Society’s 50th anniversary.

The museum is hosting a 50th Anniversary Wedding Celebration on July 14, held outside the iconic Century Memorial Chapel (formerly St. John’s Episcopal Church). The church’s slated demolition in 1969 rallied a group of determined volunteers together to rescue it, saving the building and relocating it to what is now Naper Settlement. Since its rescue, the chapel has wed thousands of couples.

Naper Settlement put out the call for couples in April, curious to see what the response would be. At the end of their submission process in June, the museum received an overwhelmingly positive response, with more than 400 couples now living across 22 states expressing interest in the celebration. The earliest wedding dates back to 1972, two years after the chapel’s relocation.

“The outpour of interest and support for this celebration has been immense,” said Brittany Tepper, senior marketing team leader. “It’s been incredibly heartwarming to learn about these couples as they submit their love stories, photos, and more. I’ve heard stories of couples who were married when the chapel had no air-conditioning; of how their parents and grandparents were also married here. We’ve been able to serve as the start of a new chapter for thousands of people.”

The event welcomes couples married in the chapel over the last five decades for a celebration that includes a commemorative photo experience, music, refreshments, and a group vow renewal.

The event will mimic a casual wedding reception, with opportunities for the couples to tour the grounds and visit the chapel where they were married. Wedding photos submitted by the couples will be on display inside the chapel, while a social media photo experience invites guests to take and share photos that will be placed in the museum’s collection.

The group vow renewal will be led by Rent-a-Rev Jim Rehnberg, a longstanding partner of the Settlement who has wed hundreds of couples himself in the Chapel over 30 years.

“It really hits home that the museum is making a positive impact in the community, bringing people together and creating lasting memories. We’re honored to be a part of their story and to celebrate them in this special way,” added Tepper.

Nancy & Peter Yonker 7/15/1972
Mary Anne & David Borkowski 9/7/1986
Nancy Robak & Steve Meitz 10/9/1993
Alyssa & Matthew Arata 8/20/2005
Lauren & Mike Wileman 4/28/2012

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Naper Settlement
Naper Settlementhttp://www.napersettlement.org/
Naper Settlement is a nationally accredited, award-winning outdoor museum set on 12 magnificent acres in the heart of Naperville, where history comes to play and community comes to connect. The Naperville Heritage Society is the administrator of Naper Settlement. With a commitment to the community and a focus to the future, the mission of the Naperville Heritage Society is to collect, document, preserve and support the history of Naperville, Illinois, past and present. For more information, visit napersettlement.com or call (630) 420-6010.

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