TRAVERSE CITY — Art Walton married a schoolgirl named Edwardine in 1950, after setting his cap for her and finally meeting her at an outdoor movie in Kingsley. He was 19, she was 16.
“He kept showing up wherever I was,” said Edwardine Walton, whose goal was reach the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary in 2000.
Elsie Benson married a young man named Robert in 1958, after meeting him at the Michigan State University union grill in East Lansing. Both were 20.
“When I walked out the door I said to my girlfriend, who was also my roommate, ‘Lorraine, that’s the man I’m going to marry,’” said Benson, who wore her sister’s Chantilly lace wedding gown at the ceremony.
The friends are among 12 couples who celebrated their wedding anniversaries Thursday at the Traverse City Golf & Country Club. All are neighbors at the Crown Golf Club, where “qualified” couples join in marking their anniversaries jointly every year. Together they represent more than 667 years of marriage.
The joint celebration grew from a 2008 Christmas-in-July party the Bensons threw for their neighbors. At the last minute, the couple found themselves celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary when their children turned the party into a surprise golden anniversary celebration in their honor.
Now, regardless of their actual anniversary date, they and neighboring couples who have been married 50 years or more meet at a restaurant one night a year to celebrate their common achievement.
“We have neighbors who haven’t been married 50 years. They keep saying they’re going to crash, but we tell them there’s a stipulation: you have to be married for 50 years, so you have to hang on for a few more years,” said Benson, whose real anniversary is Aug. 23.
The 286-acre residential golf community is unusually close, with men’s and women’s golf leagues, a Labor Day potluck, ladies’ luncheons and Saturday morning coffee klatches called “Cup and a Buck.”