Fifty years ago, on August 21, 1965, Ann Hitchen and Joe Lingenfelter joined their hands and their lives as they embarked on an adventure called marriage. Joe was about to begin his second year of seminary and would be ordained as a UCC pastor in 1967. Those first two years Ann worked as a secretary at Franklin and Marshal College.
Fifty years, two sons and 3 parsonages later, they have embarked on a new adventure known as retirement, and on July 25, 2015, they invited their family and friends to join them at the Carriage Corner Restaurant in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, for a buffet dinner to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
To begin the evening, Joe and Ann welcomed their guests and introduced each one, a daunting task to my way of thinking, but obviously their memories are much better than mine because the introductions were flawless. They were also highly entertaining, as table by table, a room full of strangers learned where, when, and how the lives of each of the others intersected with Joe and Ann’s life. In a very short time, everyone felt warmly welcomed as part of Joe and Ann’s extended family. Strangers no more!
My husband (Joe’s brother, Bob) had suggested that I try to record this event in pictures, giving me an excuse to circulate the room during the evening, introducing myself and asking people to pose for the camera. I can’t say that I reached everyone, but I tried, and every single person I approached was willing to pose. Here are the pictures of those extraordinary people:
…and here are the table groups captured on my memory card.
Time to cut the cake
After everyone had enjoyed their fill from the excellent buffet, it was time to cut the cake, but first…a surprise. Joe and Ann had thoughtfully arranged for a special cake for Joe’s brother Bob, whose birthday just happened to fall on July 25th. It became a double surprise for the hostess carrying the cake when Bob “clapped” the candles out as the group sang “Happy Birthday.”
Then came the ceremonial cutting of the anniversary cake!
Time to Reminisce
Every special occasion, and this was a very special one, calls for some equally special words of reminiscence, recognition, and humor. On this evening, those words were capably delivered by Andrew, Mark, and Joe. Probably everyone in the room resonated with many of the anecdotes that were shared. Some brought tears, many evoked smiles, and a few caused audible giggles and even a guffaw or two. For me it was the highlight of an evening that was filled with happy moments, and I am probably not the only person present who felt that way. Here are a few memories shared by Andrew and Mark:
Andrew spoke first.
I was glad to be given a chance to speak today because after spending my entire childhood wishing my father would give shorter sermons, I finally have a chance to turn the tables on him….As I was writing this speech, Mary and I had a laugh about the first time our parents met, just a few days before our wedding. We laughed because we were worried they wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Truth be told, you will not find two guys named Joe that are more capable of having a conversation with anyone, and less capable of ending one….
Abandoning (my first idea for writing this speech), I took some advice from the Internet that said to find a quote or some writing that you like, and then talk about how it makes you think of the happy couple. After some searching, I came across a homily written by someone I truly admire, that I’d like to share with you today….I’m not going to read the whole thing, but I will read the last paragraph. In a marriage relationship, what must be maintained is this…a total and ongoing commitment to the one you love….“In a marriage relationship there is no maintenance schedule to check, no rule that says after so many hours or miles of operation you must perform a given procedure. No tolerances to measure to see if wear and tear is in the normal range. What must be maintained is this—a total and ongoing commitment to the one you love to reassure them that they are more important to you than anything else in the world.” The author of this homily was my father, and these are the words that he shared 15 years ago when Mary and I were married. But what’s more meaningful than these words, is that my mother and father practiced them every day with the love they shared for each other and for my brother and me. Lord knows we didn’t always make it easy for them, but they never showed a sign that there was a limit to the love they’d share, and while it’s not likely that all of us will be able to make it back here in 25 years to celebrate their 75th, I’m confident that the love they share will still live on with many that have had the pleasure to know my parents.
Then it was Mark’s turn.
Hello. I would like to ask all of you to please do me a favor, and that is to remember that this Saturday, July 25th, 2015, was the night that my brother, Andrew Lingenfelter, opened for me. Thank you, Andrew, for warming up the crowd….In his summation to the recent Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality for all persons, Justice Kennedy wrote the following words: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.” My parents’ love for each other and for my brother and me is unconditional. And believe me, Andrew and I have tested that theory.
My parents embody these high ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. And they do it in a way that seems so effortless and easy. And that’s probably the thing I respect them for the most: that it never seems like work. Oh, I’m sure it is, but it never appears that way….My parents’ love for each other and for my brother and me is unconditional. And believe me, Andrew and I have tested that theory. But at the end of the day, the phone calls with my father still end with, “It was good hearing your voice.” And the phone calls and emails and now text messages from my mother always end with, “I love you.” …Mom and Dad, I think that the people here tonight would attest that not only did you both become “something greater than you once were,” but having you both in our lives makes us all greater than we once were. And for that I thank you.
Here are some images to go with their words…
The evening was drawing to a close…
… but nobody made a dash for the door. When the guests are in no hurry to leave, you can be sure the party has been a success. Instead of calling it a night and heading for home, they remain in the room, still in party mode. This is a prime time for capturing some informal photos, and here are a few I captured as people lingered, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and enjoying a few extra words with their hosts.
Only one essential activity remained…to capture a few family photos. It isn’t often you have the opportunity to gather a significant number of your family members together in one room. To my photographer’s mind, it is essential to “carpe diem”, and grab those rare family photos. On this special night we captured two pictures of the entire family:
… also a picture of Joe and Ann together and one with Andrew and Mark:
Happy Anniversary, Joe and Ann.
You’re looking really great for such an old married couple!
Carolyn & Bob (an even older married couple)