A Local Couple Celebrates Their 50th Year Together with a Vow Renewal Ceremony

Married in Puerto Rico, this couple built a life in two places.

Jesus and Onely Maldonado celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in early 2016. Their kids, particularly eldest daughter Diana, arranged a vow-renewal ceremony with Father Tim Kitzke at St. Casimir Church, followed by a reception. All the couple had to do was show up.

They were originally married in a small Catholic church in Puerto Rico in 1966. Shortly after, they moved to Milwaukee, to a house on Holton Street. In 1975, they returned to Puerto Rico to settle into what had been Jesus’ parents’ house. The first week they were back, Hurricane Eloise swept in terrible rains and flooding, and Onely thought, “This is too much.” Still, they stayed on until 1989, when they migrated back to Milwaukee, where each of them took on two jobs. They raised four kids, putting three of them through college. In 1998, Hurricane Georges destroyed Jesus’ family’s home, but they kept going back once a year to visit their extended families and some farmland they own, hilly terrain covered with banana, orange, coconut, plantain and avocado trees. They say Hurricane Maria last year devastated Onely’s hometown. The two now live on North Weil Street, where they keep photos of their wedding in Puerto Rico.

Onely’s advice for younger couples is simple. “If things don’t go like you’re expecting, don’t give up. Don’t say, ‘It’s not working, we should get divorced.’ Keep trying,” she says.

“It’s not like we don’t argue,” Onely says. “We do. But it’s not big. We don’t storm out and say, ‘I’m never coming back.’ We’re Catholic, and we practice our religion. We have faith.” 

‘Re-Tying the Knot’ appears in Milwaukee Weddings 2018.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.