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Monday, April 14, 2014

Street Class: A Wedding Reception 50 Years in the Making

In today's world, it's common to see relationships come and go. This is not the case for Bill and Judy Stephenson. The pair recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. This anniversary was particularly special for Bill and Judy. Surrounded by friends and family, the pair finally had their long awaited wedding celebration. 

When Bill was 18 and Judy was 16, the pair met one fateful Sunday. "My friend and I - I have to be honest - we skipped youth church. I had a car, and we were just driving around having a good time. All of a sudden, this corvette started following us, and it had two boys in it. I kept saying to my friend, 'If my dad knew that boys were following us, I would be grounded until I was 65,'" said Judy. She tried to outrace the Corvette near Cincinnati Gardens, but the car soon caught up to them. They pulled into a Frisch's parking lot, and the two boys jumped into Judy's back seat. "I thought he was exceptionally cute. He had on an overcoat," recalled Judy. Bill and his friend asked for the girls' numbers, and soon the two were inseparable. "He called, and we went out that Friday night, and that Saturday night, and every Friday and Saturday since then," said Judy. 

The pair dated for four years before tying the knot on January 9, 1960. However, Bill and Judy didn't have a typical wedding. "In fact, you could call it eloped," said Judy. They crossed the river into Kentucky, and were married at the Justice of Peace in Newport. In 1960, Judy was studying at University of Cincinnati and part of a sorority. Her sorority meetings were always held on Tuesday nights, and she used this as an opportunity to sneak over to Kentucky with Bill to get married. Her parents thought she was at the meeting, and her sorority sisters believed she was missing the meeting due to illness. "It was a little bit different than the way most people do it, but it worked for us," said Judy. The newlyweds didn't have a reception or a honeymoon getaway. 

Judy and Bill chose to marry on January 9th because it was a significant day for the couple. "Our first date was January 8, 1960. Our second date was the next day, a Saturday, and after we went to the movies, he kissed me. That was the first time he kissed me, and that was on January 9th," said Judy. 

Both Ohio natives, Bill and Judy eventually found their way to Ft. Thomas. Bill, a salesman, credits his job for bringing the Stephenson family to the bluegrass state. "I had customers that were here, and one really good friend kept talking up Ft. Thomas. We started looking here and the Beechwood area, and we liked the Ft. Thomas area best," said Bill. The couple was also concerned with finding a safe place to raise their children, and a community that shared similar values. "It was the '70s, and I think that's when things started changing with kids," said Bill. The family had experienced some behavior in the Cincinnati schools that worried them, and when they visited Ft. Thomas, they felt right at home. "It was like stepping back into the '50s, where we had grown up. Kids were well mannered, intelligent. The community was different than what we had seen going on in Cincinnati, and it's really never changed here. People are respectful of the community," said Bill.

The Stephenson family liked Ft. Thomas so much that they have remained in the same Shaw Lane residence ever since their initial move to Ft. Thomas. In fact, Bill and Judy bought their home without even stepping foot inside the house. Their realtor called one night, and said she had found the perfect house. The house was vacant at the time, so they peeked in the windows before writing a bid under the streetlights of Shaw Lane. "The next morning we bought the house without even stepping into the house," said Judy.  

Many members of the Ft. Thomas community know Judy as Moyer's beloved "Mrs. S." Before moving to Ft. Thomas, she had substituted in Cincinnati schools, and decided she would try and do the same in Ft. Thomas once they became residents. One day, she went to the Board of Education to inquire about being added to the substitute list. She was then turned down because she didn't have her degree. Judy didn't let that stop her, and went back to finish her education. After obtaining her degree and student teaching at Johnson, Judy accepted the 5th grade teaching position at Moyer Elementary in 1981. She retired in 2005 after 24 years of teaching at Moyer. "I got my job at Moyer, and I'll tell you the truth, those were the best years of my life," said Judy. In addition to living and working in Ft. Thomas, Judy and Bill have fond memories of being involved in various community activities. They were involved in Boy Scouts and coaching baseball teams. "It was just a pleasant community to be a part of, and it still is today," said Bill.

After 50 years of marriage, Bill and Judy finally had the wedding celebration they deserved. The pair recently met up with friends and family at the 360 Restaurant (widely known as the Radison's revolving restaurant in Covington). Judy and Bill thought they were just meeting for a nice dinner, but quickly discovered that their  two children children, Shelley and John, had organized an overdue wedding reception. "We just thought we were going to have a dinner. We knew it was happening, but we had no idea what all she had planned," said Bill. The celebration included a wedding cake (yes, they did save the top of the cake to eat on their next anniversary), photos of the pair throughout their relationship, beautiful centerpieces and flower arrangements, speeches from friends and family, and a scrapbook filled with notes from friends and family. "I will never forget it," said Bill. "It was phenomenal." 

Bill and Judy are certainly an inspiration to couples of all ages. They were nice enough to pass along some of the relationship wisdom they have acquired of their 54 years together. "The biggest thing is never go to bed mad at each other," said Bill. Judy also wholeheartedly agrees with this statement. Additionally, Judy advises to "Learn learn to like what they like. Even if that means learning to fish." Judy took up fishing at the beginning of their relationship in order to spend more time with Bill, and participate in an activity with him that she knew made him happy. They often would go fishing together and have picnics, which they referred to as "fishnics." Another piece of advice from Judy is to "learn each others' differences and accept them." It's clear that their relationship tips last the test of time - or 54 years to be exact. 

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