Bessie and Ralph Vaters achieved a very special milestone on July 21 — their 65th wedding anniversary.
The couple celebrated by paying a visit to the newly reopened Gateway Casino Innisfil, fielding numerous congratulatory phone calls from family and friends, and opening the door to find a surprise party on their front lawn.
It was friend Karon Peacock who organized the celebration, sneaking into the front yard of the Vaters’ Alcona home to set up tables, chairs, balloons and a cake, and inviting friends from the congregation of Lefroy United Church to drop by.
All the guests were masked and practised social distancing when Bessie and Ralph were called outside.
“Holy jeez, what’s going on here?” demanded Ralph, as the couple were presented with gifts and cards.
“It’s a huge surprise,” said Bessie.
The couple first met in Scarborough. Ralph, who was born in Cape Breton, was working in a paper mill. Bessie, born in Toronto, worked at Lilycup.
They were married in the Summerhill Church on Yonge Street in 1956.
So many things have changed since then, noted Bessie.
“The church is not even there,” she said.
The couple went on to have three sons – Brian, Barry and Blain – and now have three grandchildren: Ryan, Katie and Nicole.
While raising their family, they both returned to school – Ralph to study electrical, Bessie to train for lab work and a job at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Both enjoy their hobbies. Ralph played fastball in a church league for decades, and now focuses on his woodworking; Bessie makes pottery and quilts – and both like to travel, camp, and visit the casino.
“So few people ever find out how it feels to married 65 years, to have all those memories and stories, to have someone who knows you so well and has been through so many changes with you,” said Sonja Free, minister at Lefroy United, reading the card sent by the congregation at Lefroy United. “May God’s arms of love surround your love for each other.”
So, what’s the secret to staying married for 65 years?
“Fighting all the time,” joked Ralph.
“Perseverance,” said Bessie.
It was obvious that a sense of humour plays a huge part in a marriage lasting six and a half decades.
Asked how their day at the casino went, Bessie said, “I won a little bit, but I spent more.”
And Ralph summed it all up: “The next 65 years are going to be hard.”