50th wedding anniversaries

(Pablo Robles/Tribune Staff Photographer)

The couples who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries at Monte Vista Resort in Mesa gathered for a group photo during a dinner last weekend.

There’s not much Stan and Jane Wise do without their best friends Tom and Mary Carpenter.

They went to school together, shop together, eat together, vacation together and they even live near each other – in two different states.

So, it’s no surprise the Wises and Carpenters are celebrating their golden anniversaries together either. They’ll be doing it on a trip to a Hawaii timeshare and will split the cost.

“We’ve found that we can travel together,” Jane Wise said. “You can have good friends, but that doesn’t mean you can travel with them.”

While the Hawaii aloha is still a few months away, the two couples didn’t have to go far to participate in their first 50th celebration on Jan. 12. The Monte Vista Resort in Mesa, where the two couples live half the year, were among 15 who simultaneously celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries – with another couple marking 60 years of marriage.

Billed as “750 years of love, commitment and fun,” the anniversary bash drew about 200 people after Nancy Ehrhart, the community’s activities director, gave it a big promotional push.

“It was considerably bigger than it’s been in the past,” Ehrhart said. “The last five or six years it’s really dwindled off. Not a lot of people stay married for that many years anymore, which makes (this year) a more notable milestone.”

Residents who attended paid $8 to hear popular local musician Harry Matthews play genres ranging from modern jazz to classic rock. It was a laid-back event void of any formal attire.

One couple even showed up in shorts.

“You can always tell who is from Canada by who is wearing shorts,” Ehrhart joked.

As part of the celebration, the couples talked about how they met and what kept them together for so long.

“The variety of stories was really heartwarming and inspirational to me,” said Archie Roberts, who married his wife Elaine on June 7, 1969. “There were several common threads that went through those stories. Among them was the willingness to compromise, to listen and to nourish your marriage along the way.”

Five of the couples honored at the event – Bob and Marianne Baker, Johan and Gracia Brinkman, Ed and Rose Patenaude, Orlan and Faye Dowdeswell and Jerry and Linda Kosbab – had already celebrated their golden anniversary in the second half of 2018.

Three of the couples – Jack and Connie Woods, Rick and Marti Bjorndahl and the Robertses – were married in the spring 1969 before the first moon landing.

Dennis and Jane Fischer and the Carpenters were married a day apart in August 1969 – just as the world was finding out about the gruesome murders committed by Charles Manson’s family in southern California.

Jim and Monika Thulien and Tom and Judy Lucas tied the knot the same weekend that Woodstock defined peace and love in a muddy field in upstate New York.

Gary and Bev Ohm said their vows in September 1969, when one of the most popular songs in the world – “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies – had a sweet ring to it.

And not to be forgotten, Les and Carolyn Fetters were on hand to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their Jan. 10, 1959, wedding.

Most seemed to agree that compromise, flexibility and listening are key components to a long-lasting marriage.

“You make a commitment to another person, and you work hard to make a marriage work,” Elaine Roberts said. “It’s a give and take in any relationship. We’ve had 50 years to work it out.”

It was the “take” part that might have brought the Wises together. The couple met in a classroom at Bowling Green State University, where they were both studying to become teachers. Stan sat behind Jane and they struck up a friendship over their studies.

“For this class, you had to have several books -- men’s health and physical education books,” Jane recounted. “There were questions on the exam from them. So, I borrowed his.”

Stan interrupted, “And then she sold it!”

In defense, Jane replied, “I didn’t see him after that because he graduated.”

But then Jane revealed the real motive for selling the book.

“He said his reason for asking me out the following November was he wanted to get his money back,” Jane joked.

The couple ultimately went out on their first date in early November 1968, got engaged by the next April and were married Aug. 23, 1969.

The Wises have been coming to Arizona for the last 17 years. Stan, now 72, taught 41 years at the high school and university levels, and even spent some time coaching football. Jane, 71, taught elementary and middle school science for more than 30 years.

Jane met Mary Carpenter as sorority sisters for the Kappa Delta chapter at Bowling Green.

The Carpenters, like the Wises, met in a classroom, but it was at an Ohio high school not college. And it was alphabetizing more than anything that brought them together. Mary, who was then named Mary Caldwell, sat right in front of Tom in one of their classes their junior year.

“It was back in the old days when they seated you in class in alphabetical order,” Mary, now 70, remembered. “We dated a few times during our junior year, then we got back together when we were sophomores in college.”

The two eventually married 13 days before the Wises in August 1969. Unfortunately, the Carpenters weren’t able to attend Stan and Jane’s wedding because they were still on their honeymoon.

The Carpenters and Wises spend about five months together in Mesa each year, starting in late April.

This summer their extended families are planning a massive getaway on the island of Kauai to renew their wedding vows after five decades.

About 40 people in all will be making the trek from Ohio, where the Wises and Carpenters will be most of this summer.

 “We have some special music we are going to do and then we are going to a luau afterward,” Jane said. “Stan has a cousin who lives on Kauai, and she’s going to do the wedding cake.”

The couples first traveled together on a five-day cruise in the Caribbean for their 25th anniversaries. They’ve since seen the world together, traveling to places such as Scotland, Ireland, Aruba, Alaska and Napa Valley, among others.

“It’s great to have good travel companions,” Tom Carpenter said. “We’ve traveled pretty far and broad.

Archie Roberts met his future wife Elaine in a small town in Alberta, Canada. They met at a school dance when Archie was 18 and Elaine was a year younger.

“The teenagers in adjoining towns all know each other,” said Elaine, now 70. “He asked me to dance, and we danced the rest of the evening. After that we went out pretty steadily.”

Neither one can remember what song they first danced to, but Archie does remember a song that reminds him of courting his future wife – “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

“It wasn’t our song, but it was just the song of the day,” Archie said.

Added Elaine: “Archie remembers the events of his life through music.”

The couple worked in construction and real estate and even owned their own construction company for a time in the 1980s.

The couple spent years living in a motorhome, traveling throughout the western part of North America.

“We always seemed to end up in the Phoenix (area),” Elaine said.

The couple eventually bought a home in the Monte Vista Resort in 2006 because they loved how healthy and active the community’s residents appeared.

“There are more things to do there than there’s time to do it,” Archie said.

To help stay active now, Archie leads the community’s pickleball program and its tournament.

After all the early celebrations for the 50th anniversary, it’s led some of the couples to wonder how they will celebrate the actual day.

“That’s a good question,” Jane Wise said. “We’ll probably be partied out by then.”

After giving it some more thought, she said, “Maybe we’ll get together with the Carpenters.”

After 50 years, seems like some things never change.

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