Union Democrat staff

Getting married on Valentine's Day may seem like an act of pure romance, but that's not necessarily the case for Max and Janet Lemon.

Today, the Sonora couple celebrates their wedding anniversary of 56 years on the holiday of love, Valentine's Day.

Max and Janet were married Feb. 14, 1957, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This year will mark their 50th year in Sonora, where each is widely known for their work at local high schools.

Max taught chemistry at Sonora High School for 38 years, and more recently is known by area teens for his substitute teaching days, full of jokes.

Janet also worked for many years as a secretary at Dario Cassina High School. They both taught students who were behind in required units and were in danger of not graduating.

Since retirement, the couple has continued their aid to local education: Max, with his substitute teaching, and Janet, tutoring on request and volunteering to mentor students for senior projects.

When asked why they chose Valentine's Day to get married, the answer was surprisingly practical.

Janet had just finished college that winter, and finally had time to plan for a wedding.

Max would have married her sooner, but Janet's father said she couldn't get married until she graduated college.

Given their success in marriage, Max can take some pride in saying that he talked her out of continuing her graduate work at Brigham Young University to instead get married and start a family.

The Lemons have nine children and 40 grandchildren. They hold a family reunion every few years at Pinecrest Lake, which most family members attend, many coming from out of state.

The Lemons' 56 years of matrimony is an exception to American trends of marriage and divorce.

United States divorce rates are slightly above 50 percent, with the length of the average marriage ending in divorce being eight years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

So what is their secret to a long lasting marriage?

"People will have problems," Max said. "You either resolve them or compound them."

With a sense of humor that has made him legend among past and present students, he added,"If there are two people who agree 100 percent, one of them is unnecessary."

Commitment is also important, added Janet. She added that this is a decision people must make before marriage, and "stick with it."

As for getting hitched on Valentine's Day, the Lemons may have started a trend.

Their second daughter, Annette, also decided to get married on Cupid's day in 1987 - exactly 30 years after her parents did.

People volunteering, achieving, performing, enjoying the outdoors -- making the most of Sierra Nevada life. Have an idea? Call 770-7153 or email editor@uniondemocrat.com.